Allianz NFL Division One
The statistics will show that All-Ireland champions Dublin rolled into Dr. Hyde Park last Sunday and won by five points, but the story of the match will reveal that a very game Roscommon side showed scant regard for the reputation of the Metropolitans particularly in the first half of what was a very competitive and enjoyable game. In the end, the Dubs just had too much ring-craft and know-how and they closed out the win in a second half that saw Roscommon tire noticeably.
It was entirely appropriate that on the day when the last link to Roscommon’s All-Ireland wins in 1943 and 1944, Liam Gilmartin passed away, that the two teams closest to his heart battled it out in front of a big crowd at Dr. Hyde Park. While Roscommon suffered another defeat and are now deep in relegation trouble, Anthony Cunningham’s men were back to the style that had won them many admirers in their opening three league games. They never dropped the head particularly in a thrilling first half and they can be well pleased with their display overall.
When Con O’Callaghan crashed home Dublin’s first goal on 18 minutes to give them a five point lead, it looked ominous for the Rossies, but with Davy Murray and Niall Daly outstanding in defence, there was a defiance about the home side which meant that the Dubs were never comfortable.
In the preview last week, I pointed out that the Dublin full-back line were vulnerable under the high ball and that was underlined once again when Cathal Cregg fired home a great goal in the 29th minute after a shot from Donie Smith dropped short.
Indeed, Cregg and Conor Cox were outstanding in the Roscommon attack and points from Cox, Ronan Daly and Enda Smith saw the sides go in level at half-time at 1-9 apiece. Cathal Cregg turned in his most impressive half of football in a Roscommon senior jersey in that opening half. The Western Gaels man was sensational and covered acres of ground. It was such a pity he had to go off injured midway through the second period.
When Roscommon scored the opening two points of the second half the big home following dared to dream, but Dublin had enough at that stage and they set about dominating possession like only they can.
They pinned Roscommon back, and Anthony Cunningham’s men were finding it hard to get out of their own half. But some of the defending was heroic as the Dubs probed looking for openings. Roscommon kick-outs were now going astray and Dublin were in control around the middle third.
When Dublin’s second goal game in the 50th minute it was of the very fortunate variety as Dean Rock’s effort just about crossed the line after a scramble in the Roscommon penalty area. But with the game being played almost exclusively inside the Roscommon 45-metre line it was inevitable that Dublin were going to get scores, fortunate or otherwise.
Once Dublin got a foothold they simply owned the ball and closed out the win in typical fashion. Roscommon tired after their huge effort in the first half and in the end the stronger team won the match. The fact that a lot of Roscommon’s second half kick-outs went astray didn’t help their cause either.
It must also be said that the referee Padraig O’Sullivan from Kerry had a very poor game and a lot of the big decisions in the game went against Roscommon, which infuriated players and fans alike. However, the best team won the match on the balance of play.
Apart from Cathal Cregg and Conor Cox, Davy Murray had an outstanding game and Cormac Costello, who had been the Dubs ‘superstar’ in their opening four games was kept at bay all through by the Pádraig Pearses man. Niall Daly, Enda Smith and Ciaran Lennon also did very well on a tough day for football.
It was great to see Sean Mullooly back on the field of play and with John McManus back on the panel and Diarmuid Murtagh and Brian Stack to come back soon there is the nucleus of a very strong panel there for the championship this summer.
However, this is the Division One, and Roscommon will now have an uphill struggle to maintain their status. The game against Galway in Salthill on March 16th is now absolutely huge. If Roscommon can bring last Sunday’s form into that match they will have a great chance of a win and survival. But for now, Roscommon fans will reflect on a great day out at Dr. Hyde Park against the All-Ireland champions, albeit a losing one. It was a marvellous occasion. Division One is the only place to be playing football at this time of the year. To stay there will be tough for Roscommon but where there is life, there is hope.
Dublin: Stephen Cluxton; Jonny Cooper, David Byrne, Andrew McGowan; Jack McCaffrey, Cian O’Sullivan, Cian O’Connor (0-1); Brian Fenton, Darren Gavin (0-1); Niall Scully (0-2), Con O’Callaghan (1-1), Colm Basquel (0-1); Paddy Andrews (0-3, 1 free), Dean Rock (1-5, 4 frees, 1 ‘45), Cormac Costello.
Subs: Robert McDaid for McCaffrey (10), Paul Mannion for Costello (45), Brian Howard for McGowan (52), Paul Flynn for Basquel (52).
Roscommon: Colm Lavin (0-1, ‘45); David Murray (0-1), Conor Daly, Gary Patterson; Conor Devaney, Niall Daly, Ronan Daly (0-1); Tadgh O’Rourke, Shane Killoran; Niall Kilroy (0-1), Donie Smith (0-1), Enda Smith (0-1); Ciaran Lennon (0-1 free), Conor Cox (0-4, 1 free), Cathal Cregg (1-0).
Subs: Sean Mullooly for Kilroy (52), Colin Compton for E Smith (52), Aengus Lyons (0-1) for Cregg (57), Conor Hussey for Killoran (59), Hubert Darcy for D Smith (64).
Referee: Pádraig O’Sullivan (Kerry)