The Super 8 dream has turned into a bit of a nightmare after this seven point loss against Donegal ended Roscommon’s interest in this year’s championship. It was a vastly improved performance from Kevin McStay’s men on this occasion, but the home side never looked like winning the game against a Donegal team for whom Michael Murphy was outstanding.
It’s not going to get easier either. Roscommon must go to Croke Park to face All-Ireland champions Dublin on Sunday week with nothing at stake, and manager Kevin McStay is in trouble after an incident with linesmen Niall Cullen before half-time and he could be facing a suspension.
With the thrashing by Tyrone in mind, Roscommon withdrew a couple more players into defence in an effort to stymie the Donegal attacking threat, and while it worked well at times, when Roscommon got possession there was little or no support for the one or two attackers inside and the ball came back again just as quickly.
But Roscommon had no answer to the power play of Donegal and Murphy in particular. The big Glenswilly man has been of the best footballers in the country over the past decade and he showed his class once again at Dr. Hyde Park on Saturday. He scored nine points from play and frees and his link-up play and leadership throughout was a pleasure to behold.
Odhran Mac Niallais was also superb. He kicked four sensational points from play and was unlucky to hit the butt of the post with a goal chance in the 59th minute. The experience and know-how of Frank McGlynn, Leo McLoone, Ciaran Thompson and Ryan McHugh were also major factors in what was a comfortable win for Donegal.
For Roscommon, Ciaráin Murtagh was once again our best player. He is a superb attacker with a great instinct for taking the right option. Diarmuid Murtagh played well too although he was starved of possession for long periods. Brian Stack started well but he ran out of steam and John McManus was very solid throughout and he put in another impressive display. Donie Smith also kicked a couple of nice points when introduced as a sub late on.
On the down side, Roscommon’s kick out strategy did not work and we lost far too many of our own restarts. In fairness to the management they attempted to clog up the middle with bodies in an attempt to prevent another big score being conceded but it meant that there was little or no support for the attackers who remained inside.
The reality is that we have a good team with some very good players, but not enough of them. We seem to be too good for Division 2 but not good enough for Division 1. The debate about our playing style must be had and if the players, the management and the supporters are happy to see 12, 13 and 14 players behind the ball to try to achieve success then so be it. But as Kevin McStay said last week, if you lose playing that way the criticism would be savage.
The gap that exists between the teams at the very top and teams a little further down like Roscommon is huge. Tyrone scored 4-24 against Roscommon but they had to give second best to Dublin last weekend. No 4-24 there! Roscommon will now have to prepare for another season in Division 1 in the spring and it will be very interesting to see how that goes in light of this pretty dismal Super 8 campaign.
I have the greatest respect for the players and the management for the efforts they put in. They wanted to do well in this campaign more than anyone but it was not to be and we just came up short. Hopefully we can learn and move on. But to reach the very top in Gaelic football is a monumental task that is beyond many counties, whether Roscommon is one of those counties is up for debate.
Roscommon must now face the prospect of lining out in a ‘dead rubber’ in Croke Park on Sunday week. Even worse is the fact that Mayo will play Kildare in the All-Ireland U-20 final against Kildare as the curtain raiser. Thousands of Mayo supporters in Croke Park to witness Roscommon crashing out of the championship is not an appetising prospect. That, plus the suspension for our manager is not the way we thought it would be when we were coming home from Portlaoise a few weeks ago.
Teams and Scorers
Donegal: Shaun Patton; Paddy McGrath, Paul Brennan, Stephen McMenamin; Eamonn Doherty, Frank McGlynn, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Hugh McFadden, Michael Murphy (0-9, 3 frees, 1 ‘45); Ciaran Thompson (0-2, 1 free), Michael Langan (0-1), Leo McLoone (0-1); Odhran Mac Niallais (0-4), Jamie Brennan, (0-1) Ryan McHugh (0-1) Subs: Neil McGee for Gallagher (18), Niall O’Donnell for J Brennan (53), Anthony Thompson for McGlynn (56), Daire O Baoill for P Brennan (62), Mark McHugh for C Thompson (62), Martin Reilly (0-1) for Langan (68).
Roscommon: Colm Lavin; David Murray, Niall McInerney, John McManus; Fintan Cregg, Sean McDermott, Conor Devaney (c); Tadgh O’Rourke, Cathal Compton (0-1); Ciaráin Murtagh (0-5, 3 frees), Niall Kilroy, Enda Smith (0-1); Diarmuid Murtagh (0-2), Brian Stack (0-2), Cathal Cregg. Subs: Ciarán Lennon (0-2) for Compton (half-time), Donal Smith for C Cregg (45), Finbar Cregg for McDermott (48), Padraig Kelly for Stack (59), Ian Kilbride for F Cregg (62), Shane Killoran for Kilroy (68).
Referee: Ciaran Branagan (Down).