Allianz National Football League, Division One: Roscommon 0-21 Donegal 0-9
Brighter evenings have arrived, but gloomy times these remain for Donegal as they slipped meekly out of Division One – failing to show any fight on the field after a week of conflict off it.
They trailed by five at half-time and managed just two points after the break, with the second of those only arriving in injury-time. Donegal had resigned themselves to their fate long before the final whistle and hobbled away from Dr Hyde Park with a cloud of uncertainty overhead.
Aidan O’Rourke and Paddy Bradley, who were part of Paddy Carr’s backroom setup, were in charge on an interim basis for this game. Carr stepped down on Wednesday, after the players expressed dissatisfaction in his management, and O’Rourke says no decision has been made on he will remain at the helm beyond this one outing.
“It’s hard to know where your head would be at,” said O’Rourke. “Look, I undertook to coach the team this year, working with Paddy at the outset and there was a backroom team built around it, that dynamic has changed this week and there are a lot of moving parts in all of that.
“To be straight, I don’t know where my head would be at at the minute, I didn’t focus on anything bar trying to get this game played and try to get a performance out of them, which didn’t happen.
“It has been sort of a tumultuous environment for the last number of weeks, or whatever. This week was really about just keep moving them forward because it was quite a sort of chaotic and emotionally tough week for everybody, Paddy most of all.
“When Paddy asked us to take the boys as far as today, it was difficult to do that. But ultimately we were asked to do a job with the Donegal senior team and to not finish the league out would have been really difficult and Paddy, in particular, felt that should be done in terms of the commitment that was given at the start of the year.”
Roscommon, for their part, retained their Division One status with a businesslike performance in front of 4,219 spectators at a sunny Dr Hyde Park – but results elsewhere determined it would not be enough for Davy Burke’s side to make the league final.
Still, they can take plenty of positives from the league – and despite a blip midway through they finished the campaign with a comprehensive victory. The lack of conviction from their opponents certainly made the task easier here, nevertheless 20 of Roscommon’s 21 points came from play and they had 11 different scorers.
Ben O’Carroll was superb in the first half, causing the Donegal defence all sorts of problems and clipping over three points. Luckily for the visitors he was hauled ashore at half-time as a precaution with a slight niggle.
Eoin McCormack drilled holes with penetrating runs while Enda Smith, Ciaráin Murtagh and Diarmuid Murtagh kept the scoreboard ticking over.
Brian Stack dealt well with Hugh McFadden’s threat at the back, while they also got scores from their bench with Cian McKeon and Cian Connolly hitting the target during a second half that was one-way traffic.
Roscommon led 0-12 to 0-7 at half-time and put the game beyond Donegal by scoring the first three points after the resumption. Donegal’s first score of the second half only arrived in the 54th minute, from Ciaran Thompson.
Roscommon’s Connacht Championship begins in two weeks when they face Mayo in a provincial quarter-final at Castlebar. Before all of that, Mayo will face Galway in the league final at Croke Park next weekend.
“We’ll be in Croke Park watching them play, we’ll hope it goes to extra time,” smiles Burke, but there was no disguising his genuine satisfaction at finishing the league with a victory.
“We needed to get back winning, we lost three on the bounce, so we had to get back winning no matter how. It wasn’t the best game of all time, but we had to get back winning.
“Those games can go either way, you can just as easily come out the wrong side of a poor game so we are glad to come out the right way, we needed the confidence and we needed to kick nice scores and we got 21 of them.”
If the summer is starting to stretch out before Roscommon now, it is unclear where Donegal go from here. They lacked spirit and fight and belief. Given the midweek fallout from seeking a change of management, a more robust response would have been expected.
“To be fair to the players, it was a difficult week for them in particular and of course for Paddy,” added O’Rourke. “And maybe there was a sense in the second half that there was a lot of emotional energy burnt and there wasn’t maybe a lot left.”
Brighter evenings, but gloomy times for Donegal.
Roscommon: Conor Carroll; Conor Hussey, Brian Stack (0-1), David Murray; Niall Daly (0-1), Eoin McCormack, Keith Doyle (0-2); Tadhg O’Rourke (0-1), Dylan Ruane; Ciaráin Murtagh (0-3), Niall Kilroy, Enda Smith (0-3); Diarmuid Murtagh (0-3, one free), Conor Cox (0-1), Ben O’Carroll (0-3). Subs: Ruaidhrí Fallon for O’Rourke (12 mins); Donie Smith for O’Carroll (ht); Richard Hughes for Daly (42 mins); Cian McKeon (0-2) for Kilroy (42 mins); Cian Connolly (0-1) for Cox (61 mins).
Donegal: Shaun Patton; Mark Curran, Brendan McCole, Caolan Ward; Eoghan Ban Gallagher (0-1), Caolan McGonagle (0-1), John Ross Molloy; Michael Langan (0-1 free), Jason McGee; Marty O’Reilly, Ciaran Thompson (0-2), Conor O’Donnell (0-1); Johnny McGroddy, Hugh McFadden (0-1), Jamie Brennan (0-1). Subs: Kieran Tobin for O’Reilly (ht); Jeaic McKelvey (0-1) for Langan (ht); Keelan Dunleavy for McGroddy (42 mins); Joel Bradley Walsh for McGee (67 mins); Brian O’Donnell for Gallagher (72 mins).
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)