Connacht SFC Quarter-Final
Most observers, this writer included, were of the opinion that Leitrim would provide far more of a test for Roscommon in the championship this year following their good run and promotion in the National Football League but if anything this match was even more one-sided than the clashes between the two over the past few years as Roscommon swept Terry Hyland’s men aside with a very impressive display of powerful attacking football.
The difference between the sides in terms of conditioning and strength was obvious from the first whistle. Roscommon players were strong in the tackle, won most of the 50/50 balls and once they got their eye in, attacked with purpose and were clinical for the most part.
Three well-taken goals in the first half were key, and in fact, by half-time it could easily have been six for the home side as Diarmuid Murtagh, Ultan Harney and Shane Killoran missed gilt-edged chances. Leitrim were not able to cope with the direct running of Killoran, Harney, Hubert Darcy, Niall Daly and Niall Kilroy. It meant that Killoran, Conor Cox and Diarmuid Murtagh prospered inside.
Of course no one will be getting carried away as Roscommon now turn their attention towards MacHale Park on Saturday week. The challenge coming from Mayo will be several levels above what we saw in Dr. Hyde Park last Sunday but there are a number of positive signs from Roscommon.
The strength and conditioning work being carried out by Noel Flynn is certainly bearing fruit. Roscommon are looking much sharper and stronger this year and they will need every bit of that improvement for Saturday week.
I was impressed with Tadhg O’Rourke and Shane Killoran in the engine room, but Aidan O’Shea and Matthew Ruane will provide a much stiffer test on Saturday week. Hubert Darcy can be well pleased with his debut and Conor Cox and Diarmuid Murtagh are two excellent inside forwards. Ultan Harney looked back to his best and in defence Davy Murray, Niall Daly and Ronan Daly did well.
For a very disappointing Leitrim outfit Shane Moran was the only player who could say he beat his man on the day. The big Fenagh man was sited at full-forward and he caused lots of trouble for the Roscommon defence but he was almost a lone light in the darkness for a well-beaten Leitrim team.
Roscommon kicked some bad wides (11 in all), particularly in the opening ten minutes and while it might be seen as nit-picking to be complaining after a 14 point win, Roscommon will have to take most of the chances they get against Mayo or it will be another long journey home from Castlebar.
But I am encouraged by what I saw in Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday. Roscommon will travel to Castlebar with a chance, albeit an outside one but it’s a chance nevertheless.
For Leitrim this was a massive disappointment. Even a cliché like ‘back to the drawing board’ seems inappropriate in the circumstances. It was another heavy defeat for them and most of the second half was played in almost total silence. It was like a training session as Roscommon pulled further and further ahead.
MacHale Park will be a different kettle of fish altogether.
Roscommon: Darren O’Malley (0-1, ’45); Conor Daly, Seán Mullooly, David Murray; Niall Daly, Conor Hussey, Ronan Daly; Shane Killoran (2-0), Tadhg O’Rourke; Hubert Darcy, Cathal Cregg, Niall Kilroy (1-1); Diarmuid Murtagh (0-3, 2 frees), Conor Cox (0-5, 2 frees), Ultan Harney.
Subs: Fintan Cregg (0-2, 1 free) for O’Rourke (37), Colin Compton (0-2, 1 free) for C Cregg (46), Conor Devaney for Darcy (48), Andrew Glennon (0-2, 1 free) for Murtagh (53, b/c), Cathal Heneghan (0-1) for Cox (61), Brian Stack for R Daly (64), Caoileann Fitzmaurice for Killoran (69, blood).
Leitrim: Cathal McCrann; Michael McWeeney, Paddy Maguire, Conor Reynolds; Domhnaill Flynn (0-4, all frees), Seán McWeeney, Shane Quinn (0-1); Mark Plunkett, Fergal McTague; Raymond Mulvey (0-1), Ryan O’Rourke (0-5, all frees), Pearce Dolan (0-1); Evan Sweeney, Shane Moran, Gary Plunkett.
Subs: Dean McGovern for McTague (21), Jack Heslin for Sweeney (39), Aidan Flynn for Dolan 43), Emlyn Mulligan for G Plunkett (45), Nicholas McWeeney for Flynn (70), Oisín Madden for S McWeeney (70).
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)