All-Ireland SFC Super 8s (Round 3): Roscommon 4-9 Cork 3-9
Roscommon produced a second-half goal blitz at Pairc Ui Rinn last Sunday to end their Super 8s Group Two campaign on a high.
Following earlier defeats to Tyrone and Dublin, Anthony Cunningham’s side were already out of contention for a semi-final spot. The Leesiders had suffered a similar fate, but the county had received a much-needed boost in the form of the previous day’s stunning All-Ireland U-20 success at the expense of a fancied Dublin side.
However, the Rossies were in no mood to prolong their celebrations and triumphed in a Super 8s encounter at the sixth time of asking. While it was effectively a ‘dead rubber’ affair for both teams, the Connacht champions finally shook off a significant and long-standing hoodoo.
In their ten previous All-Ireland quarter-final matches, the primrose and blue had failed to register a single win. 2017’s thrilling draw with Mayo was surrounded by nine defeats, so the value of Sunday’s victory cannot be overstated.
Roscommon looked set for further heartache when a fired-up Cork stormed into a 1-2 to no score lead inside the opening three minutes of the contest. After he expertly broke the deadlock with a tricky free, Luke Connolly intercepted Darren O’Malley’s subsequent short kick-out. He passed inside to full-forward Mark Collins, who rattled the net with a powerful right-footed effort. Another Connolly free supplemented this strike as the Rebels sought to establish a firm foothold amidst torrential rain.
The early signs were ominous for Roscommon, though they eventually settled into a more familiar stride. Conor Cox had 0-24 to his name in five championship appearances prior to this game and he found the target either side of an Enda Smith point.
Even though James Loughrey was keeping close tabs on the Listowel Emmett’s man in open play, his placed-ball accuracy played a key part in Roscommon’s early revival. He traded frees with Connolly to leave them two points in arrears at the end of the opening quarter.
Cox had an ideal opportunity to narrow the gap to a single point on the stroke of 20 minutes, only to drop his shot into the arms of Cork netminder Micheál Martin – son of the Fianna Fáil leader of the same name.
Cork duly punished this miss at the opposite end, adding points through Kevin O’Driscoll and Ruairi Deane to offer themselves a commanding buffer once more.
Nevertheless, determined to make the most of their final competitive outing for 2019, Roscommon restored parity just shy of the half-hour mark.
After Cox recorded his fourth free of the half, Cathal Cregg released the raiding Brian Stack for a clinical three-point finish. Their elation was short-lived though, as the imposing Connolly punched home Eoghan McSweeney’s cross-field delivery off Cork’s resulting attack.
This was a setback for the visitors so soon after Stack’s intervention, but they enjoyed a productive end to the opening period. Shane Killoran kicked over at the end of a memorable run and Cox brought his personal haul to five points from close-range.
A flashpoint in stoppage-time led to black cards for Cork’s Paul Kerrigan and Roscommon’s Niall Daly – they were respectively replaced by John O’Rourke and Colin Compton on the restart. While staring into a slender deficit at the break (2-5 to 1-7), the Rossies swiftly levelled matters courtesy of Andrew Glennon’s free.
They then went a full 14 minutes without a score and, in that time, Collins added a brace of frees to give Cork some breathing space. In comparison to the lively first half, the game was struggling to catch fire in the third quarter.
That all changed on 52 minutes, however, when Roscommon hit the front for the very first time. At the tail end of a patient move, Glennon’s telling pass put Stack in the clear for his second goal of the contest.
In the aftermath of the St. Brigid’s attacker’s latest major, there was a skirmish featuring several players from both sides. Following extensive consultation, referee Noel Mooney issued six yellow cards – evenly spread out on either side.
There was a three-minute delay before the play resumed, but this did little to halt the Rossies’ march. The industrious Enda Smith continued to drive forward and got the goal his performance deserved with a smooth strike into the right-corner of the net.
To Cork’s credit, they delivered an immediate response – Loughrey ghosting into the far square for his second goal in as many games. The willingness to go for the jugular at both ends of the field was evident throughout and it came as no surprise when goal number seven arrived in the final minute of normal time.
A sweeping move initiated by O’Malley saw the ball arrive into the hands of Killoran and his composed finish pushed Roscommon to within touching distance of a fourth championship win of the campaign.
Substitutes Stephen Sherlock and John O’Rourke raised white flags in injury-time to keep Cork in the frame, but it was a Roscommon replacement – Donie Smith – who clinched the spoils for his side with a point on the break.
This meant that Roscommon claimed third spot in the group and while Tyrone and Dublin progress to this weekend’s last four, the Connacht champions will be eager to build on this positive display when the action gets back underway in 2020.
Roscommon: Darren O’Malley; David Murray, Conor Daly, Gary Patterson; Niall Daly, Ronan Daly, Conor Hussey; Tadhg O’Rourke, Shane Killoran (1-1); Brian Stack (2-0), Cathal Cregg, Niall Kilroy; Andrew Glennon (0-1, 1 free), Conor Cox (0-5, 5 frees), Enda Smith (1-1).
Subs used: Colin Compton for Niall Daly (half-time, black card), Angus Lyons for Hussey, Fintan Cregg for C Cregg (both 44), Donie Smith (0-1) for Kilroy (55), Diarmuid Murtagh for Glennon (57), Hubert Darcy for Compton (72, black card).
Cork: Micheál Martin; Thomas Clancy, James Loughrey (1-0), Kevin Flahive; Stephen Cronin, Sean White, Mattie Taylor; Ian Maguire, Killian O’Hanlon; Kevin O’Driscoll (0-1), Ruairi Deane (0-1), Eoghan McSweeney; Paul Kerrigan, Mark Collins (1-2, 0-2 frees), Luke Connolly (1-3, 0-3 frees).
Subs used: John O’Rourke (0-1) for Kerrigan (black card), Michael Hurley for McSweeney (both half-time), Brian Hurley for Collins (57), Cian Kiely for Cronin (59), Ronan O’Toole for Clancy (63), Stephen Sherlock (0-1) for Connolly (70).
Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan)