‘Water under the bridge’ as Rossies advance

Ladies overcome goal controversy to beat Down

Lidl Ladies NFL Division Three North

Roscommon 5-15 Down 3-12

By her own admission, Roscommon manager Diane O’Hora was “much happier” after watching her charges see off a gutsy Down display at sunny Kiltoom last Sunday afternoon.

Indeed, she had every right to be proud of her players as they showed enough steel to overcome both the Mourne County and a truly bizarre setback just after the first-half water break which saw Down’s Natasha Ferris walk the ball into an empty goal.

Referee Ciaran Groome certainly wasn’t waiting around when he blew the whistle to restart the match, and neither were the Ulsterwomen. Aisling Burns took a quick kickout as the hosts took one last swig on their water bottles and Down were off and running unopposed towards the Roscommon goal.

The home side could have been forgiven for expecting the Offaly whistler to put a stop to the visitors’ cheeky raid, but before Helena Cummins and her defenders could get back to mind the house, Ferris had made off with a green flag.

That moment could have had an impact on the final result as Down cut Roscommon’s lead to three points after two Aisling Hanly goals had put the hosts in firm control.

“You’d have to be really proud of them for holding themselves in the utmost responsible fashion,” O’Hora said of her “inspirational” players afterwards.

“It was hard to figure out what happened there, I had never seen it before. Sometimes you say to your team that if you’re not ten points better than the opposition then you may as well throw your hat at it. We’re in Division Three and at this level you just don’t know what, in terms of officiating, you might get. You have to hand it to the players; they really held themselves well,” she added.

  Rather than feel sorry for themselves, O’Hora’s side regained control and had almost restored their six-point lead by the half-time break, leading 2-7 to 1-5.

The third quarter was end-to-end as Jenny Higgins and half-time substitute Rachel Fitzmaurice provided forward momentum for the Rossies and Aoife Keown pulled the strings for Down.

In fact, it was a controversial Keown goal which dragged the visitors back to within a point. Her high, looping ball went all the way to the net as Jessica Foy made a nuisance of herself suspiciously close to the small square.

Nevertheless, Roscommon weren’t for turning and a Higgins’ point was followed by goals from the impressive Laura Fleming and Rebecca Finan as the hosts took a seven-point lead into the second water break of the afternoon.

While they were quicker out of the blocks this time around, Roscommon struggled to keep up the momentum and an Orla Swail point and Meghan Doherty’s smart goal reduced the gap to three heading into the closing stages.

Just when it looked like the hosts may have run out of answers, up stepped sub Rachel Fitzmaurice to shimmy her way through the Down rearguard before slamming an unstoppable shot past Burns.

It was then very much ‘water break under the bridge’ as late points from Finan and Fleming sealed Roscommon’s semi-final place against Kildare, Longford or Laois.

“I’m satisfied to a point but there’s loads of things we need to work on. We certainly need to work on our communication and how we defend. When the ball is turned over, we need to be a bit quicker,” said O’Hora, who refused to look beyond the final league game against Sligo on Sunday next.

“Sligo are a completely different animal this year to what they have been in the last few years. They’ve new management, they’re highly organised, and there’s incredible strength in depth in their panel as well. It’s going to be a really tough obstacle for us so we just have to get on with and get rested this week and see what we can do”.

Roscommon: H Cummins; R Wynne, S Kenny, M Kelly; S Wynne, S McVeigh, R Brady; C Conway, L Fleming (1-6, 0-4 frees); N McHugh (0-2), R. Finan (1-3, 0-1 free), E Irwin; A Hanly (2-1), J Higgins (0-3), M McHugh. Subs used: R Fitzmaurice (1-0) for Conway (half-time), J Cregg for Brady (half-time), S Glennon for E Irwin (60 mins).

Down: A Burns; C Cunningham, C Byrne, K White; O Duffy, M Doherty (1-1), O Lavery; A Keown (1-2), C Fitzpatrick; N Scullion, J Foy (0-2, 0-2 frees), M Kavanagh (0-1); A Laverty (0-1), N Ferris (1-1), S Dougherty. Subs used: O Kelly for Fitzpatrick (26 mins), E Martin for Cunningham (30 mins), A Cull (0-2, 1 free) for Ferris (30 mins), L Duffy (0-1) for Kavanagh (half-time), O Swail (0-1) for Dougherty (41 mins), N McKibbin for Laverty (46 mins), A Magee for Scullion (50 mins), K McCay for Doherty (60 mins), E Fitzpatrick for White (60 mins).

Referee: C. Groome (Offaly).