Cunningham embraces positive points

After gallant defeat to Kerry, spirits lifted for Armagh showdown

Allianz National Football League Division One South (Round 3):

Kerry 2-15 Roscommon 1-12

It was a much happier Anthony Cunningham that faced the media following Sunday’s spirited defeat to Kerry at Dr. Hyde Park as he looked to the positives now emerging ahead of a busy few weeks for his charges.

“Any day you play Kerry you learn plenty but in a lot of the play today we matched them and had them on the back foot. We were disappointed with the last quarter, you can’t dress it up any other way,” he said at the full-time whistle.

“In any game you need to play for 70 to 80 minutes…but the bench is so important. When you play teams like Kerry you have to take most of the chances when you get them and we have to improve in that regard”.

Behind the six-point losing margin was a gutsy display from the home side who never looked overawed by their highly-rated opponents.

Following the insipid display against Galway in Salthill, this was just what was needed from the Rossies ahead of the relegation play-off against Armagh on Sunday week and the Connacht showdown with the Tribesmen on July 4th.

Cunningham said the recent league defeat in Galway spurred his players on ahead of Kerry’s visit.

  “Last Sunday (week) was poor and the lads had to take that on the chin. It wasn’t acceptable, but that’s team sport and you have to be honest. The lads were honest during the week and trained hard, but just because we played well today doesn’t give us any right to think we will do the same in two weeks’ time,” he said.

“That (performance against Kerry) will give confidence to the players and when we are back training on Wednesday night we will be working on a lot of the positive points from today. We really want to stay in Division One and it will be a savage battle against Armagh now”.

Indeed, there were improvements across the pitch last Sunday, particularly in defence against a much-vaunted Kerry attack containing the likes of the Clifford brothers, Stephen O’Brien and Paul Geaney. There were impressive performances from Brian Stack and David Murray, and Richard Hughes had a superb game in the half-back line, while Conor Hussey was effective all through.

Kerry’s Diarmuid O’Connor was the deserved man of the match but Roscommon’s midfield performed admirably. Up front, Ciaráin Murtagh was outstanding once again with Shane Killoran not far behind in what was an entertaining game.

After 21 minutes the sides were level at 0-5 each and there were some quality scores to be seen from both teams including strikes from Conor Cox and Ciaráin Murtagh from the home side and Paudie Clifford and Paul Geaney for The Kingdom.

The previously subdued David Clifford started to come into the game in the second quarter, and he kicked two points (one free) to help his side into a 0-10 to 0-7 lead at half-time. Roscommon could well have been on level terms but a number of bad misses proved costly.

The hosts played their best football in the third quarter. They took the game to Kerry and the scores began to flow. Ciaráin Murtagh kicked three super points, Diarmuid Murtagh added two, and Enda Smith was on target with a mark, and by the 50th minute it was 0-12 each.

  Then, just before the second water break, Kerry’s Tadhg Morley was given a straight red card by referee Joe McQuillan for a tackle on Ciaráin Murtagh just 30 seconds after he’d come on as a substitute. The red card was the right decision but it seemed to rally the Kerrymen.

In the 51st minute a searing run from Paudie Clifford ended with his brother David fisting home a Kerry goal, and points from O’Connor and the goalscorer saw the margin out to six by the 65th minute (1-15 to 0-12).

But all credit to Roscommon, they stuck to their guns and in the final minute of normal time Peter Gillooly’s superb pass found Conor Devaney and the Kilbride man finished with aplomb for a great goal.

  Then in the dying embers of the game, Enda Smith received his marching orders following a second yellow card, and just before the final whistle Kerry sub Joe O’Connor finished off a flowing move for Kerry’s second goal of the game. It gave them a six-point winning margin that was harsh on Roscommon given the effort that they had put into the game.

Next on the list is an eminently winnable game against Armagh on Sunday week at the Athletic Grounds in the quest to remain in Division One, and of course on the horizon is the Connacht semi-final against Galway in Dr. Hyde Park on July 4th.

Last Sunday’s display was much better in terms of effort, intensity, determination in the tackle, the right tactics and the will to win. There is plenty of work to do but there are plenty of positives to work on too.