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Comeback Kings of Connacht

 

 

 

 

Rossies crowned after storming second half

“Most of the important things have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all”.

 

Those are the words of American writer Dale Carnegie. They apply perfectly to Roscommon’s wonderful senior football team who turned in as fine a second-half display as this observer has seen in championship football from the Primrose and Blue. It landed them the county’s 24th provincial championship and further enhanced the reputation of this group of players as a really special team who have given wonderful entertainment and excitement to their loyal fans over the past four years.

  At half-time in Pearse Stadium it looked bleak, very bleak. The Rossies had competed well for the first quarter but as the torrential rain came, Galway tightened their grip on proceedings and by half-time they led by five points and looked in total control.

  In fact, with the aid of the elements to come in the second half, many Roscommon fans were hoping that it would not be a drubbing at the hands of the Tribesmen.

  However, deep below the stands in the Roscommon dressing room, all was calm at half-time. There was no panic, no roaring or shouting, no harsh words, just a request from the management for the players to up the intensity and work rate. What happened after referee Barry Cassidy blew the whistle to start the second half will go down in Roscommon folklore as long as Gaelic football is discussed.

  Roscommon were simply a different team. They worked like tigers all over the field. They pushed the Galway men out of the way time after time. Suddenly the men in Primrose and Blue were winning kick-outs, turning over ball and laying siege to the Galway goal.

  Within just six minutes, the sides were level. What was all the fuss about? We could hardly believe our eyes. Niall Kilroy’s point in the 38th minute was followed by a brilliant goal and suddenly it was game on. A mighty run from Cathal Cregg (a player re-born this year)…and Diarmuid Murtagh knew it was a chance. He raced goalwards and pointed to where he wanted the pass. Cregg left it on a plate for him and the St. Faithleach’s man drilled it to the net low and accurate. Hard to believe it was the first goal he ever scored in inter-county championship football.

  And now heroes were emerging all over the field, Ronan and Niall Daly were like two gunslingers sent into town to root out any troublemakers. If one Daly didn’t get you, the other one did! They were tremendous.

  Davy Murray was immense. He tackled and hustled and harried a succession of Galway attackers who must have been sick of the sight of the Pearses’ man by the time the game was over. 

  Tadhg O’Rourke and Shane Killoran were winning most of the ‘dirty ball’ in the middle of the field, their performance silencing much of the criticism aimed at Roscommon’s midfield in recent months. Killoran scored an inspirational point with ten minutes to go, having burst through three Galway men. Then Tadhg O’Rourke made a spectacular catch near the end of the game just when the pressure was on. Enda Smith’s presence was also important throughout and Conor Devaney was a huge loss when he went off as he was really playing well.

  Darren O’Malley’s role in this Roscommon team often goes unmentioned: he has been cool, calm and ultra-reliable all through this campaign. A save he made in the final minute of injury-time was much harder than it looked. He’s a class golfer and he’s a class goalkeeper too!

  Then there is Conor Cox – what a find he has been this year! He kicked five mighty points last Sunday but his point after ten minutes is one that will be talked about for many a year to come. He was pushed out towards the sideline and found himself no more than three yards from the end-line. He decided to swing a left peg at it and it flew between the posts. It was an outrageous score from a seriously talented player. Tony McManus or The Gooch would have been very happy with that one, and I cannot give higher praise than that. What a player Cox is.

  Roscommon simply bullied Galway into submission…playing with intensity, huge work ethic and no little skill. The Tribesmen were a huge disappointment in that second half and their return of a paltry two points was an indication of their limp response to that Roscommon tsunami.

  This magnificent Roscommon team can now take their place as one of the best we have seen in 40 years. They have given the people of Roscommon some entertainment and pleasure. A Division Two league title, two promotions into Division One, a spectacular run in Division One that featured four away wins, two Connacht titles – beating Galway away in one and Mayo and Galway away in the other – and now two appearances in the Super 8s. It’s a magnificent record and the players and management should be very proud.

  There is more to come too. With the exception of Dublin, no team left in the championship will want to face this Roscommon team. The fact that the opening game in the Super 8s is at home is an even biggest boost.

  Last Sunday when the Roscommon crowd ran onto the pitch before the game was over, I was reminded of that famous quote from BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme from the World Cup Final in 1966. He said: “Some  people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over”, just before Geoff Hurst crashed home England’s fourth goal. “It is now,” he finished as the ball hit the net.

  Last Sunday, when the Roscommon fans were cleared, Conor Cox lofted over a 30-metre free with the outside of his boot to give the Rossies a four-point lead. It was indeed all over after that!

  Seeing the people of Roscommon flood onto the pitch in Pearse Stadium to dance and sing and celebrate with the players and seeing Enda Smith hoist the Nestor Cup into the Salthill air is something that I will remember for many, many years to come.

  A truly magnificent day to be beside the seaside.

 

 

Anthony’s birthday to remember

 

 

 

 

Roscommon manager, Anthony Cunningham celebrated his 54th birthday last Sunday in Salthill as his charges presented him with a Connacht Senior Football title to go with the Leinster Senior Hurling title he had won with Galway in 2012.

  Cunningham heaped praise on his players at the full-time whistle last Sunday.

  “The second half we showed tremendous courage, you would have to use the word courage. The players really went for it. It was looking a bit rocky there ten minutes before half-time. We dropped off and Galway punished us. They just nailed on five points. And if the wind came up that was going to work against us as well. We just asked that they worked harder (at half-time).

  “I’m delighted for the players. We’ve a good bit of improvement to do as you will probably tell me…and you’re right. But we will settle down now after a few days and focus on the Super 8s,” he said.

  Cunningham said it was an honour to manage Roscommon to their 24th provincial success and also paid tribute to his backroom team.

  “It is just an honour for me. I love being involved in team management and trying to make a contribution. I have to say, in Iain Daly and Mark Dowd I have two tremendous coaches with me and I’m lucky. They are tremendous workers; there is no end to the amount of work they do. And we set up with a lot of work in the gym as well and that might have been missing a bit (in the past)”.

  Roscommon were forced to recover from a five-point deficit at the break and the manager believes composure was missing in the first half.

  “Winning the breaking ball was poor in the first half, we had a lot of turnovers against us as well. Conditions were tough but we needed to settle down and show more composure. We had a chat about it at half-time and got to the pitch of the game and competed a lot more for kick-outs. We put a lot more pressure on Galway. I think we forced it in the last ten minutes of the first half. (We needed) to get back to our gameplan and stick with it and look to attack up front.

  “The Mayo match was a great confidence boost and when we were in trouble there today they went back to that reservoir and said: ‘We have done this before. We haven’t conceded a goal yet’. We were rocked by Galway there before half-time; they are a top class team.

  “Our lads were a credit and right through (the team) the Daly brothers, Conor Hussey, Shane Killoran at midfield, Tadhg (O’Rourke) there with a great catch at the end too. So the middle third was vital and (in the second half) we used the ball more intelligently up front. Diarmuid (Murtagh) slipped a goal which really put us in the driving seat. I’m so delighted for everyone and especially the loyal Roscommon fans,” he concluded.

 

Seamus Duke on sport - June 21st

 

 

 

One of our best ever Connacht victories!

Having attended more Connacht senior finals than I would ever be prepared to admit, last Sunday’s win in Salthill was one of our best ever. I expected Roscommon to win the game, but at half-time it looked like it was not going to be our day. Anyone who tells you that they still believed Roscommon would win at half-time is telling you a lie!

  The reason why I didn’t think we would win at that stage is because Galway had become masters at shutting down a game and strangling the life out of the opposition over the past three years. But in fairness to Roscommon, they didn’t panic, got the goal at the crucial time and they upped the intensity all over the field. It was a majestic performance from Anthony Cunningham’s men and one of our best ever Connacht final wins.

  Galway fans will be very unhappy with the performance of their team in the second half. A lot of their players simply didn’t want to know when Roscommon turned up the heat. All-Ireland contenders? Not this Galway team. I fear that Kevin Walsh will be out of a job if they are beaten in the qualifiers. They will have to go back to the traditional style of Galway football but that’s their problem!

  For Roscommon, they now face into the Super 8s with confidence. To have the first game at home is a huge boost. We could be meeting anyone in that game. I just hope that it’s not Mayo. I’d prefer not to have to play them again. With the exception of Dublin, Roscommon will be confident against any other team left in the competition.

  To have three championship games left is fantastic, and a further learning process for our young team who will only improve with these experiences.

  Just a few observations about off-field matters concerning the Connacht final, the attendance of 17,639 would have fit comfortably into Dr. Hyde Park (if the game was fixed there) but alas, it has been banned from holding Connacht finals!

  The most incredible thing is that regardless of who Roscommon play in the opening round of the Super 8s, the game will be held at Dr. Hyde Park, even if it’s Mayo. Try and figure that one out! 

  Remember too that 2020 won’t be long coming around, and if Roscommon are playing Mayo or Galway, it will be a ’home’ venue. More controversy around the corner unless the planned works are carried out soon.

  At the end of the game last Sunday thousands of Roscommon fans ran onto the field thinking the game was over. It was all a bit of a laugh and joke afterwards and no harm was done at all. Two observations about that, however; it would never have happened in Dr. Hyde Park because on a big match day there are about 300 stewards working and there would have been no pitch invasion. And if such an incident ever did happen at Dr. Hyde Park you can be sure that they would be banned from having any more matches for 50 years!

Hoping for a Cavan win this Sunday

I am really looking forward to seeing the Ulster final on Sunday. I have nothing whatsoever against Donegal and I admire their magnificent players like Michael Murphy, Paddy McBrearty and Ryan McHugh but I have many great friends in Cavan and they are a county very much like Roscommon. There is a huge passion for Gaelic football in Cavan and the atmosphere in the county is palpable as they prepare for their first Ulster final since 2001.

  The match in Clones is a 35,000 sell-out and Cavan people are coming from all over the world for the occasion. They will take huge inspiration from Roscommon’s win last Sunday against Galway - I’d love to see them win it!

Ladies and Minors take centre stage

This weekend it’s the turn of the Roscommon Ladies and minors to take centre stage. The minors are up against it on Friday night in Sligo. It’s a ‘win or bust’ match and it will be a very difficult game to win as this is a very talented Sligo side who have beaten Mayo and run Galway to a couple of points.

  Roscommon Ladies return to MacHale Park for their Connacht final clash with Sligo and the Yeats County will be very anxious to reverse last year’s result. Roscommon are progressing well and will be hoping that they can produce it on the day. It would be a huge boost to record another win. They are well capable of putting two titles back-to-back.

Solskjaer needs committed signings!

The summer transfer deals across the channel are underway and it would appear that Paul Pogba is set to leave Manchester United and I for one will not shed too many tears at that turn of events.

  If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is to do one positive thing while he is manager at Manchester United it would be to recruit players who really want to play for the club and have the passion required.

  Only this week there was a reminder of what the former Inter Milan President, Massimo Moratti, once said about Paul Scholes:

  “We tried really hard to sign Scholes several times. We gave Manchester United a blank cheque. We talked to him and his replies were always short and simple. ‘If you want me to play for you, then you will have to buy this club’, he said. He was one of a kind. He didn’t even have an agent. We gave up eventually”. 

  That’s the kind of commitment that Solskjaer needs from his players at Manchester United. Until that happens they have no chance of competing with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City.

A good year for Irish golfers…so far

Despite not winning the US Open title, it is proving to be a very good year for Irish golfers with the Irish, Scottish and British Opens coming up over the next few weeks.

  Rory McIlroy is now at number four in the world after his heroics in Canada. Shane Lowry is gaining a consistency that has been absent from his game and he is now up to 31 in the rankings this week. Graeme McDowell is back into the top 100 and is in good form ahead of the British Open, which is being held on his home course at Portrush. Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan are both improving too and it will be interesting to see how they do in the next few weeks.

  When you add in Leona Maguire who is improving with every passing week in the ladies game it is a very exciting time for the game in this country.

Martin Breheny’s final report from Connacht

I have been friendly with Martin Breheny for many years. Since he wrote for the Irish Press in fact, and that’s not today nor yesterday. He has been with the Irish Independent for the past two decades and while there are people who might not have agreed with his views, he is a man who loves the GAA and is not just someone who gets paid to report on it.

  Last Sunday he covered his last Connacht final after 45 years in the job and there was a small presentation to him in the press area which was made by former Roscommon manager John Tobin.

  During the year I would have occasion to chat to Martin Breheny many times and even if we disagreed he would always listen to your point of view and respect it too. He was always fair and I always found him to be very fair to Roscommon. 

  I’m sure that he will stay involved in some form or other after this year is over. Martin’s buddy and fellow Barnaderg man Michael Lyster hung up his microphone on The Sunday Game last year and now he will be stepping aside at the end of the 2019 championship. I wish him the best of luck.

 

Steep learning curve at University of Limerick

 

 

The RDYSL coaches and players were in the University of Limerick last week for the Kennedy Cup where we learned that football can be a cruel sport and that there can never be enough food for twenty fourteen-year-olds.

  I had been working with this talented group of U-14s for the last eight months after tireless manager Stephen Murphy and talented coach Andy Thubron had invited me on board.

  The work that goes on behind the scenes to prepare a team for the Kennedy Cup has to be seen to be believed and both coaching staff and players owe a debt of gratitude to Paul Green as well as parents and guardians for their support.

  The Kennedy Cup was a steep learning curve for players and coaches alike but the lads equipped themselves well despite coming home empty-handed.

 Having entered the tournament as the bottom seeds, it was always going to be a tough ask for the Roscommon & District players to qualify for the Kennedy Cup knockout stages proper, and so it proved.

  They started on Tuesday with an unfortunate 3-2 defeat at the hands of Limerick District.

  On Wednesday, the RDYSL boys went down 4-0 to North Dublin before a harsh 2-0 defeat against West Cork. Both teams were slightly flattered by the respective scorelines and RDYSL had to lift themselves for a Trophy Quarter-Final match against fierce local rivals Athlone on Thursday morning.

  Athlone were favourites for that match but the Roscommon & District lads put in a dogged performance and prevailed on penalties thanks to goalkeeper Seán Kelly’s theatrics and acrobatics and the fact that each of the RDYSL lads converted their spot kicks.

  Suddenly we found ourselves in the last four of the fourth tier competition and with a great chance of becoming the first ever RDYSL side to take home some silverware.

  Alas, the footballing Gods can be cruel, and despite playing some terrific football and dominating Friday’s semi-final from start to finish, RDYSL went down 1-0 to West Waterford East Cork. A tough defeat to take but the team can take tremendous heart from the performance.

  RDYSL’s tournament concluded with the pretty meaningless 27th/28th play-off match against Limerick Desmond, which was a damp squib as both teams struggled to lift themselves. A 1-0 defeat and 28th position out of 32 certainly doesn’t do justice to some of the football on show throughout the tournament.

  All in all, it was a very enjoyable year and while results didn’t go our way in the end, manager and coaches are very proud of this hard-working group.

 

Ladies aiming for back-to-back titles

 

 

 

TG4 Connacht IFC Final: Roscommon v Sligo on Sunday in MacHale Park at 2 pm

 

Roscommon Ladies footballers will be very anxious to put two Connacht titles back-to-back when they face old rivals Sligo in Castlebar on Sunday. Since beating them by twelve points in last year’s provincial decider, Sligo have defeated the Rossies twice in this year’s league campaign so it’s all up for grabs on Sunday.

  Roscommon team boss Michael Finneran told People Sport on Tuesday that his side are ready for the big day.

  “We are close to a full pick, thankfully. Natalie McHugh is back to full fitness and Niamh Feeney is back from suspension and Roisin Wynne is close to being fit as well and she will be togging out. We have trained hard and are looking forward to it.

  “I am expecting that Sligo will be a good bit stronger than last year. They have a lot of players back so I am expecting a really tough game. But it would be very important to win this title again. We don’t want anyone to say that last year’s win was a fluke. It would be so important for the players to put in two good championship displays back-to-back and then we can progress after that,” he said.

  Finneran said that the men’s senior team’s win over Galway in the Connacht Final last Sunday has given the entire county a boost.

  “The win for the men’s senior team last Sunday in Galway has given everyone in the county a boost. Hopefully we can add to the feel good factor this Sunday. It would be a serious achievement to retain the title and that’s the plan,” he concluded.

  The return of Natalie McHugh will strengthen the Roscommon attack and they will hoping that Rebecca Finan, Siobhan Tully and Laura Fleming can get the scores that they will need.

  There won’t be twelve points in it this year but Roscommon can drive on to win two in a row and prepare for a tilt at All-Ireland honours later in the summer.

 

Prediction: Roscommon

Victory will secure final spot for Minors

 

 

 

 

Connacht MFC Round Robin (Round Four)

Sligo v Roscommon in Markievicz Park on Friday night at 7.30 pm

 

 

Despite the fact that there are a number of permutations at play in the Connacht Minor Football Championship, the bottom line is that if they want to reach the provincial final Roscommon must beat Sligo in Friday night’s match. A draw will also suffice but it would mean another joust with the Yeats County in a semi-final.

  It will be a tall order for Emmett Durney’s men, however. Sligo have been impressive in their games to date and a big win against Leitrim last weekend followed an excellent win against Mayo in the previous round. They also ran Galway to two points.

  Roscommon have no injury worries apart from long-term victim Daire Cregg. They will be hoping that they can get the ball into the likes of Adam McDermott to get the scores they need.

  Sligo have been impressive in recent games with Lee Deignan, Eoghan Smith and Gavin Duffy very prominent. They have been playing great football in the past few matches and they could have the momentum. If the hype doesn’t get to them then Sligo will have to be the favourites but it is very hard to predict what will happen at this level and we have seen some very inconsistent results in the championship so far.

  On their best form Roscommon have every chance.

Prediction: Roscommon

Tables turned as Rossies take cup back

 

 

 

The tables were turned at Pearse Stadium, Salthill last Sunday as Roscommon recovered from a 0-10 to 0-5 half-time score to once again wrestle the JJ Nestor Cup from Galwegian hands.

  In the 2018 decider at Dr. Hyde Park, it was Roscommon who endured a post-interval collapse, having led by 1-5 to 0-5 at the break. This time around it was the Tribesmen who fell flat after the half-time cup of tea. The fact that Kevin Walsh’s men could only muster two points in a dismal second half told  its own story.

  Roscommon had started the game brightly and showed plenty of attacking intent. However, they lacked intensity at the other end of the field and Galway’s patient approach initially paid dividends.

  While Roscommon were in hot water at the break, the hill they faced could easily have been a mountain had a big call on just ten minutes gone against them. Darren O’Malley’s challenge on Johnny Heaney was deemed fair and just seconds later Conor Cox bounced off Galway defenders before testing the laws of physics with a stunning point.

  Roscommon were an entirely different animal in the second half, however. With the tempo and intensity rising several notches, Galway soon looked a spent force.

  There was still a sting in the tail late on though but Roscommon kept their heads and showed real steel in the closing stages.

  Roscommon’s own ‘Bash Brothers’, the Dalys, brought much-needed muscle and needle to proceedings but in spite of their best efforts and the tireless work of Davy Murray and Niall Kilroy among others, there were a couple of hairy moments late on: O’Malley saved down low before John Daly dragged a late half-chance across the face of goal.

  At the other end, there was further evidence of Roscommon’s new-found doggedness and street smarts. Tadhg O’Rourke took a terrific mark when his team needed it most before one of the best transfers in Gaelic football history stole the show with two more superb scores late on. Conor Cox’s one-man ‘Score of the Game’ competition was worth the admission fee alone.

  Connacht champions for the second time in three years, the stage is now set for Roscommon to lay their Super 8s’ ghosts to rest this summer. However, the fine margins at play in both Castlebar and Salthill suggest there is plenty of fine-tuning to be done ahead of big days out at the Hyde and Croke Park. On the most recent evidence, the team appears to be in the most capable hands and the players will relish the challenge.

 

Game-changers…key moments of the game

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 minutes: ‘Twisted blood’

It could have been a penalty for Galway, instead, an inspirational, mad point for Roscommon. Galway attacked with menace, and had claims for a penalty ruled out by referee Cassidy. No Roscommon defender was waiting around for an inquest; they got the ball out of there in jig-time. Niall Daly passed to Enda Smith, still inside his half. Enda has a hell of an engine, and when he runs direct, it’s often breathtaking. He made ground, before hitting a nice diagonal pass to Conor Cox. As ever, Cox was in front with great strength, holding off an opponent, taking possession of the spinning ball. Within seconds he had two men on him, and was boxed in like a dodgem car that has run out of free ‘road’, reverse the only option. What’s loveable about Cox is his willingness to take responsibility, to often shoot on sight. Now he brought it to a new level, and either because he had no other obvious option or because he is audacious beyond belief, this super new Rossie suddenly swivelled and arrowed an outrageous point over from an almost impossible angle. Some Galway players must have been thinking, ‘Okay, the Conor Cox hype is in fact bang on’. It was once memorably said that the Chelsea defender Ken Shellito was taken off “suffering from twisted blood” after being run ragged by George Best; it was a case of twisted blood just now for those two Galway men. “Look at that! Hello Roscommon! Hello Kerry!” Marty Morrissey exclaimed in commentary.

 

38 minutes: ‘A thing of beauty’

Niall Kilroy had pointed to cut Galway’s five-point half-time lead. Roscommon were playing with vigour now, back in business. A great knock-down in the middle of the field to a grateful Hubert Darcy. He threads a lovely pass to Cathal Cregg, inviting him to attack. Cregg goes off on a sumptuous solo run, and you can almost see a plot developing in his mind. Diarmuid Murtagh is gone like a greyhound ahead of Cregg. Galway are back-peddling, well aware of the danger, but struggling to cope. Cregg’s pass is perfectly timed. Over 35,000 eyes are fixed on the St. Faithleach’s man. He is cool and calm and doesn’t procrastinate. The ‘keeper is powerless as Murtagh finds a gap with a low, clever finish. Goal! A thing of beauty. To Murtagh’s right, in front of goal, Conor Cox jumps in the air and clenches his fist. Momentum changer, game on!

 

61 minutes: ‘The name’s Cregg…’

You can’t beat a team like Galway without putting everything on the line. Roscommon fought for every ball. They were heroic. In the last fifteen minutes or so, while Roscommon were well on top in general play, the pressure inevitably came on. Not that there was much structure to Galway’s ponderous play. At times, Galway men were just out of ideas, frustrated by Roscommon’s composure and phenomenal work rate. And things that usually work for Galway didn’t work, because of Roscommon’s work! Galway attacks kept floundering because of superb Roscommon marking, covering. One such example on 61 minutes. Several Galway passes, then Cathal Cregg gambles. A slightly loose pass is still bound for a waiting Galway player. But not if Cregg is alert, brave and quick enough. He pounces, controls the ball with his right foot, then shows all the required bravery to firstly go down for the ball, then carry it like a man possessed into incoming Galway tackles. It was inspirational…symbolising the might of the Roscommon performance in that second half. Cox shipped two tackles before being grounded for a free. Galway had been stopped in their tracks again, momentum denied to them. Roscommon were bossing them. Roscommon were in control. Cathal Cregg’s turnover was a classic. If he had paused and said ‘The name’s Cregg, Cathal Cregg’ in Bond mode, we’d have understood. But he kept going. Work to be done. We would not be beaten, we would become champions.

 

 

 

 

Hurlers can take heart from Royal defeat

 

 

 

 

 

Christy Ring Cup (Round 3)

Meath 0-23

Roscommon 0-19

 

The revival in the fortunes of the Roscommon senior hurling team this year was plain for all to see in Athleague last Saturday as Ciaran Comerford’s men put a highly-rated Meath side to the pin of their collective collars in this highly competitive round three game that would decide who would have home advantage for the semi-finals.

  In the end there were just four points between the teams and if Lady Luck had decided to smile on the home side they could have scored two goals in the first half. Yes, it was a defeat, but the most important aspect of this game is that the Royals will hold no fears for Roscommon if the sides meet again later in the championship. That’s a measure of where this Roscommon have risen to this year.

  It was a perfect day for a match in Athleague, warm and calm, and it was Meath who looked that little bit sharper in the opening quarter. By the 21st minute they led by 0-7 to 0-3 with Jack Regan and Barry Slevin looking dangerous in attack. Roscommon’s only points at that stage had came from Padraig Kelly and two Cathal Dolan frees.

  In the 17th minute Cillian Egan was in on goal but Shane McGann made a great save and in the 26th minute McGann was called into action again as Shane Curley’s shot was batted away by the Meath custodian in spectacular fashion.

  But Roscommon were never out of contention and by half-time the margin was just a point (0-10 to 0-9). Padraig Kelly scored a couple of super points from play while Cathal Dolan was unerring from frees as usual.

  Meath sent the very talented Damien Healy to full-forward for the second half and he caused the Roscommon defence a lot of problems with his ability to win the ball. By the 50th minute Meath led by 0-15 to 0-11 with Jack Regan top class from the placed ball. But Roscommon were playing well all over the park and the visitors could not shake off a very determined home side. Eamon Flanagan lofted over a free from all of 90 yards in the 52nd minute and the home side were always able to get vital points to stay in touch and with ten minutes to go the gap was down to two (0-17 to 0-15).

  Three points without reply in four minutes were crucial for Meath as they led by five with five minutes left. But there was another kick in Roscommon. Cillian Egan, Conor Mulry and Naos Connaughton all pointed from play and with two minutes to go the margin was just two once again.

  But Meath came with one last major effort that yielded points from Jack Regan (2) and Barry Slevin and Roscommon had run out of time to effect another comeback. However, there is plenty for the home side to be positive about after this display and the team and management now know that they are more than capable of competing at this level.

  The full-back line competed well all through and Pat Nolan in particular had a great game while Eamon Flanagan and Shane Curley did well in the half-back line. Padraig Kelly was outstanding again and is a superb leader of the attack while Cathal Dolan’s free taking was top class. For Meath, Cathal McCabe, Damien Healy, Barry Slevin and Jack Regan were outstanding.

  After the match, Roscommon manager Ciaran Comerford couldn’t help feel a little disappointed.

  “We definitely left scores out there. We had twelve wides and we missed a few frees as well. We could have got over the line there today, but we are still into a semi-final and looking forward to that.

  “We are competing well now and putting up decent scores too. If any of these teams come and beat us they will have earned it that’s for sure. The difference this year is down to the players themselves. The work they have put in this year is phenomenal. They are a tight bunch too and they are willing to do anything for each other and that’s really important.

  “After today we would not be afraid of meeting Meath again if that’s how it pans out. Over the last few years there would have been a fear of meeting Meath in Roscommon but not anymore thankfully. But the improvement in our play is down to the players and no one else,” he concluded.

 

Meath: Shane McGann; Ger Murphy, Darragh Kelly, Shane Whitty; Shane Brennan, Keith Keoghan, James Kelly; Sean Geraghty, Cathal McCabe (0-1); Damien Healy (0-2), Barry Slevin (0-5), Jack Regan (0-13, 10 frees); Callum O’Sullivan (0-1), Gavin McGowan, Alan Douglas.

Subs: Nicholas Potterton (0-1) for McGowan (h/t), James Toher for O’Sullivan (39), Colm O Mealoid for Douglas (57), Stephen Morris for Murphy (62), Jack McGowan for Toher (67).

 

Roscommon: Noel Fallon; Paul Kenny, Pat Nolan, Hugh Rooney; Alan Moore, Eamon Flanagan (0-2, 1 free, ’65), Conor Coyle; Darragh Heavey, Shane Curley; Naos Connaughton (0-1), Padraig Kelly (0-4), Peter Kelleghan (0-1); Conor Mulry (0-1), Cillian Egan (0-2), Cathal Dolan (0-7, all frees).

Subs: Gearoid Keegan for Heavey (26), Eamon Kenny (0-1) for Keenan (56), Gearoid Egan for Moore (66).

 

Referee: James Connors (Donegal)

 

 

Racing into the future


These are just some of the magnificent new  state-of-the-art facilities which have been completed at Roscommon Racecourse as an ambitious five-year plan comes to fruition at Lenabane.

  The Roscommon People was given an informal tour of the new facilities on Saturday afternoon – and we were suitably wowed by what we saw.

  The project is quite stunning, elevating the already popular racecourse on to a new level, with a range of facilities which, in a significant boost for Roscommon Races, have been enthusiastically welcomed by all stakeholders in the horseracing industry.

  While there has been development work ongoing at Roscommon Racecourse throughout recent years, this latest project is the key element of a five-year plan which was embarked upon in 2014. The project cost around €800,000 and means that Roscommon Racecourse now has facilities for jockeys and trainers which are the envy of many of the country’s racing venues.

  The beautiful new building features a weigh room, male & female jockeys’ areas, Manager’s office, First aid rooms, new press/media room, drug testing room, stewards’ room, sauna/showers, valet room, small restaurant, etc. Future development work will include the extension of the parade ring.

  The magnificent ‘finish’ is a tribute to local tradespeople and suppliers too. The Main Contractor was Biesty Construction. The board engaged the services of Albert Looby of AOL Design Ltd. and there was a huge local involvement on all aspects of the project.

  I was greeted by Racecourse Manager/Secretary Michael Finneran, Board chairperson Dick O’Brien and fellow board members. Mr. O’Brien said that the new facilities had attracted much favourable comment at the first race meeting of the season in Roscommon, held last month. Jockeys, trainers, owners and members of the press were all extremely positive about the development.

  Board director Robbie McConn gave me a first look at the new facilities, accompanied by Albert Looby of AOL Design Ltd.

  The first thing to say is that this is a very striking building, with a beautiful glass façade, and very visible wheelchair accessibility.

  Inside is a spacious reception area and off it are a number of separate areas. Approximately 75 jockeys can be catered for. There are showers and saunas adjoining, and a separate room for valets. Everything is state-of-the-art. Further down, there’s a physio area, then two medical/first aid rooms, one for jockeys, one for members of the public, should any race-goer have a mishap or a health setback. There’s a small but cosy restaurant area for jockeys, a smoking area too. There are numerous TV screens, no doubt reflecting the fact that jockeys want to keep an eye on the action. To the left is a new media centre, a drug testing room, and a Stewards’ room where contentious issues are reviewed and determinations made.

  Finally, Robbie leads us into the new Manager’s office where a nice feature is a display of framed old black and white photographs which remind us of the proud history of the Lenabane course.

  Board member George McCourt is a man who is synonymous with the Roscommon Races’ success story. George outlined how a five-year plan had been submitted to Horseracing Ireland, and has now been delivered on schedule.

  “It’s a great design and one that has been very well received, with very positive feedback from jockeys, trainers, racing officials and members of the public. We had consulted with all stakeholders to get their input into the design of the building,” George commented.

  “What the jockeys really like is the ‘flow’ of it, how well it’s planned, how everything is accessible. We now have private, separate facilities for male and female jockeys, we have a first aid room for jockeys and a separate one for members of the public.

  “90% of the funding that we received went back into the local economy, to local suppliers, and we’re delighted about that,” Mr. McCourt added.

  Before we leave, it’s important to have a quick word with the modest, relentlessly hard-working and passionate face of Roscommon Races, one Michael Finneran.

  He looked and sounded like a happy – and relieved – man.

  Admitting that it had been a stressful few months – in the ‘race’ to have the work done by start of racing season – Mr. Finneran said he was delighted with the completed project.

  “It was great to hear such positive comments about the new facilities at our recent meeting,” Michael said. Michael and all board members expressed their gratitude to Biesty Construction and AOL Design for doing such an excellent job.

  As we prepared to leave, a young man on a ride-on lawnmower was busy cutting the grass. The place was looking splendid. The horses’ stables, parade ring, bars and viewing stand were all lying empty, awaiting the sport, drama, excitement and social whirl that next week – and the season – will bring.  

 

 

 

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