Cunningham takes aim at ‘trigger-happy’ GAA

Battling Rossies fail to slow Dublin machine

It was a frustrated Anthony Cunningham who spoke to the media at the full-time whistle of last Sunday’s Allianz National Football League Division One defeat to Dublin.

The Roscommon manager was pleased enough with his team’s showing in the nine-point loss, but did take exception to the implementation of the new rules by Tipperary referee, Derek O’Mahoney, on an afternoon which saw the All-Ireland champions awarded three penalties.

Cunningham said the rule regarding goal-scoring opportunities within the 20-metre line was “unfair to teams”.

“I’m not going to give out about the referee, but the people who make the rules are the ones I can comment on,” he said.

“The rules committee in the GAA are trigger-happy and they seem to be changing the rules every year for the sake of it. I didn’t think there was any need in the game for this new rule. The rule is that if you have players back to cover it doesn’t apply and we had players back in both incidents today. The rules committee does not have any top class referees on it and then they go and make these decisions. It’s messing around with the game,” he said.

Away from the controversy, Roscommon’s hopes of a fairytale return to action were dashed by a clinical display from the six-in-a-row All-Ireland champions, who notched just two wides throughout the entire 70 minutes, and never looked like losing.

“Some aspects of our play were really good and some other aspects we need to learn from,” Cunningham said.

“Dublin are a great side and we can learn plenty from them. We asked our lads for a huge effort and we got that. We need to improve and I think the graph is going the right way.

“I thought we were excellent in the third quarter. We played well at times throughout and remember that Dublin had been together up to December and they have a very strong panel. But I can take plenty of positives out of today. We just can’t sit on it though and we have to learn from our mistakes. We missed a great goal chance early on and maybe a second one and if you don’t take those you will be punished by the likes of Dublin,” he said.

While there may have been a case for Dublin’s first penalty and Brian Stack’s resulting black card in the 18th minute, the spot-kick awarded in the 39th minute and the sin-binning of Feargal Lennon looked dubious.

To add to Roscommon’s frustration, Dublin were awarded another penalty in injury-time for a foot-block from Niall Daly though the Pearses man was at least two metres from Brian Fenton when he struck for goal.

Despite Cunningham’s frustration, however, it has to be said that Dublin were always in the ascendancy. With Dean Rock not featuring, the main scoring fell to Cormac Costello and he didn’t disappoint with a fantastic personal performance and 1-13 into the bargain.

Roscommon started well and went toe to toe with their illustrious opponents in the opening ten minutes, with Donie Smith and Ciaráin Murtagh kicking fine points.

On ten minutes, Roscommon should have scored what would have been a great team goal. A move involving Colm Lavin, Enda Smith, Ciaráin Murtagh and Cathal Cregg finished with the inrushing Diarmuid Murtagh fisting the ball against the upright with the goal at his mercy.

Sparked into life, the Dubs upped the ante after that and Costello sent Lavin the wrong way with his 18th minute penalty, which was awarded after Stack was adjudged to have dragged Paddy Small to the ground. Daylight was beginning to appear on the scoreboard and by half-time it was Dublin 1-12 Roscommon 0-9.

Roscommon’s cause was not helped by a long kick-out strategy, which saw midfield possession being gobbled up by Brian Fenton, James McCarthy and Tom Lahiff.

The hosts enjoyed their best spell after half-time with Ciaráin Murtagh, Donie Smith, David Murray, Niall Daly and Enda Smith doing well. At the 44th minute mark the gap was just four points but in truth Dublin never looked in trouble.

The Dubs’ second penalty came in the 39th minute when Feargal Lennon fouled Dara Mullin. But the ‘foul’ was close to the end line and players and management alike were aghast when referee O’Mahoney pointed to the spot and sent the Clann na nGael man to the sin bin. Costello hit the penalty well but Colm Lavin made a great save, pushing the ball on to a post.

Dublin kicked some great scores late on with Ciarán Kilkenny on target with three outstanding efforts from play. In injury-time, Costello lofted his third penalty over the bar after a harsh foul given against Niall Daly.

The nine-point deficit was harsh on the home side and there were plenty of positives for Roscommon to take out of the match as they prepare for a vital clash with Galway on Sunday. The kick-out strategy will have to be looked at, although there will be very few teams with players of the ability of Brian Fenton and James McCarthy to deal with in that regard.

The defence was well marshalled by David Murray, Feargal Lennon and Niall Daly while Eddie Nolan and Shane Killoran deserve another chance at midfield.

Ciaráin Murtagh was Roscommon’s best player on the day and Enda and Donie Smith also did well up front.

This Sunday’s clash in Pearse Stadium will offer a far more accurate barometer of where the team is at this early stage of the season. With Kerry on the way to Dr. Hyde Park in two weeks’ time, a win would be a massive morale booster.