Roscommon crash down to earth after amazing Fermanagh comeback
All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers Round 3: Fermanagh 1-14 Roscommon 0-16
In over 25 years of covering Roscommon championship games for the newspapers and radio, I cannot remember a more devastating defeat than this one.
Roscommon were not playing that well but were still cruising to a comfortable win. Even after Fermanagh scored what was a very, very soft penalty, Roscommon came back and scored two nice points to restore order.
I’m looking at my match notes: 64 minutes gone, Roscommon 0-16 Fermanagh 1-8. What happened after that almost defies description.
Fermanagh found a momentum that was nowhere evident before that point. Suddenly Roscommon couldn’t get their hands on the ball. The ball was flying over the Roscommon crossbar from almost every possible angle. The lead was down to four, three, two. The game was slipping into injury-time. Sean Quigley hammered a ’45 over in the 71st minute. The roars of the home crowd grew ever louder. A disputed line ball, and then Tomas Corrigan arrowed an incredible kick between the posts.
If The Gooch or Diarmuid Connolly did it there would be TV replays on every sports bulletin for the next six months. The sides were level. Roscommon players were shell-shocked. They could see their championship hopes slipping away and they were unable to do anything about it.
Sean Quigley had a poor enough game by his standards but he was the hero, taking a pass in the 73rd minute and arrowing over the winning point. The final whistle sounded shortly after that. Disbelief all round.
Fermanagh could not believe they had won it and Roscommon could not believe they had lost it. It was a stunning end to the game.
So, what happened? How did Roscommon lose it?
Taking off Enda Smith and Ultan Harney certainly didn’t help. Both players are very well capable of winning their own ball and when we needed someone to get their hands on the ball and carry it up the field in the final 10 minutes, they were off the field. It was also very strange to see Ronan Stack, who is a defender, playing in attack – and it was an even bigger surprise to see Niall Carty come on in attack after he had played the last two years as our full-back.
The loss of players like Senan Kilbride, Mark Healy, Conor Daly, Donal Ward and Cathal Shine was no help but there were some serious mistakes made on the line which certainly contributed to this defeat. But it wasn’t that Roscommon were playing so bad. They just completely lost their way in the final nine minutes of play.
Neil Collins, Seanie McDermott, Ian Kilbride, Enda Smith Donie Shine, Ultan Harney and Cathal Cregg in particular were fantastic on the day and they took the fight to Fermanagh. The home side looked poor, especially in the first half. Even the Fermanagh supporters could not believe that they had actually won the match when it was all over. It was like something out of a Roy of the Rovers comic book – and The Rossies were the villains.
After a fantastic FBD League and National League campaign this has been another poor championship for Roscommon. In fact our championship record in recent years has been very bad indeed and Roscommon fans will not need reminding that the team have not beaten Galway or Mayo in the championship since 2001.
It is nice to be looking ahead to playing in Division One of the National Football League, but the disastrous defeats that we have suffered in the championship this year to Sligo and Fermanagh will be a huge blow to the confidence of the players.
John Evans and his management team have three years behind them now and they have many achievements to point to, and there is no doubt that the Kerryman is one of the most passionate football men that I have ever met.
However all sides will have to sit down now and see if further progress can be made under the current regime.
There is no doubt that we have a big panel of young and talented players but as every year slips by the chances of progress in the championship lessens and it is time now for a calm and constructive debate about where we are and where we want to go.
The championship is where it is at, and the facts are that Roscommon have made very little progress in the premier competition over the past five years or so. The challenges are going to increase too.
Next February, March and April the team will be playing the top seven teams in the country in the league and the last thing we need are more demoralising defeats. Our championship record is not good enough and last Sunday’s incredible defeat is further adding to the pain.
We have to start planning for 2016 and beyond in the next few weeks. Roscommon is a mighty football county. There was a huge crowd of supporters there to support the team last Sunday. People here are desperate for success.
Next Sunday 23,000 people will pack into Dr Hyde Park for the Connacht Senior Football Final between Sligo and Mayo. The best of luck to both sides but Roscommon fans, players and management know that we should be preparing to travel to McHale Park to take on Mayo.
It has been another disastrous championship summer for Roscommon.