Gaelic GamesMatch report

Dublin’s status as All-Ireland favourites looks shaky after patchy draw against Roscommon

Davy Burke’s side should have had their first win in Croke Park since 1980 but a scrappy John Small goal hauled the Dubs back into it

All-Ireland SFC, Round 1 - Group Three: Dublin 1-11 Roscommon 0-14

On a day when Dublin offered themselves up pretty cheaply, Roscommon got poor value for their voucher. Davy Burke’s side had to dig out a draw with two injury-time frees but they still went down the road annoyed at the chance they’d left behind them. “Roscommon haven’t won here in 43 years,” said Burke with a grimace afterwards. “I thought I’d be able to help with that but there you go.”

As it was, a skittery John Small goal from a Rossie turnover hauled Dublin into the game 11 minutes into the second half. Ben O’Carroll got caught in possession with most of the Roscommon team up ahead of him and Dublin put it through the hands, ending up with James McCarthy feeding Small to bundle into the net from a few yards out.

When Cormac Costello iced a 45 soon after, it was the first time Dublin had been level since the throw-in. Neither side led by more than two from there to the end. Both missed kickable chances as the clock ticked down. The sort of draw where the closing stages tell you neither side deserved to win.

That said, Roscommon were much the better outfit for long stretches here. Which maybe shouldn’t have been much of a surprise, considering they came into the game having played nine matches in a row against Division One teams. Dublin haven’t had a game against top-flight opposition since last July. Davy Burke’s anguished take on it afterwards told you he knew exactly what they’d left behind them.


“I’m not sure Dublin like other teams controlling the play,” he said. “I think Kildare gave everyone a little template here a few weeks ago on how to frustrate them a little bit. I thought we might be able to take that on a little bit and we did for a while. We’re just disappointed we didn’t see it out.”

To their credit, his side attacked the day. They doggedly went about their business, taking an early lead through back-to-back points from midfielder Ciarán Lennon and building from there. Though Dublin had the benefit of a strong breeze in the opening half, they lacked the sort of vim and thrust to make best use of it.

Instead, it was another ponderous, languid display from Dessie Farrell’s side. The Dubs lost Davy Byrne to injury after eight minutes and Mick Fitzsimons walked to the sin-bin on 17. Brian Fenton made a couple of atypical mental errors, Paul Mannion couldn’t get into the game. With Jack McCaffrey not in the squad, Dublin had a lot of samey-samey players and no real x-factor.

And so Roscommon took full advantage. The Murtagh brothers were exceptional, splitting the posts from play and frees. Enda Smith whipped one over on the run 20 minutes in to push them 0-5 to 0-2 clear and when Diarmuid Murtagh pushed the gap out to four son after, Dublin had gone 18 minutes without a score

Their lone silver lining was Cormac Costello, who put in one of those performances that make you wonder why he doesn’t do it all the time. A nicely-threaded Fenton pass into him on 24 minutes got the Dubs up and running again and he scored his first 45 of the day a while later. But Roscommon saw out the half with bravura points from the Murtaghs, the second a magnificent effort from Ciarán after Roscommon had held onto the ball for what seemed like the length of a Late Late Show.

“We definitely struggled in the first half, " said Farrell afterwards. “At this level a black card is always going to be a difficult proposition, particularly when you play a team like Roscommon who are a possession-based team. They like to control the tempo of the game. They get a lot of bodies back and look to hit you on the counter-attack. It can be very frustrating. We were a little bit more front-foot, a little bit more aggressive in the second half.”

True and all as that is, it was a bad Roscommon mistake that brought them back into the game. O’Carroll dawdled on the ball in exactly the wrong spot on 44 minutes and got dispossessed by Paul Mannion, leading to the Small goal. Costello was humming now, from placed ball and out in the wild. Seán Bugler slipped one over on the run.

But Roscommon are steely and experienced enough to know that this isn’t a Dublin side that stay rampant for long. Ciarán Murtagh stopped the bleeding and they could have gone ahead only for some wayward shooting from Donie Smith. As it was, they clung on for a draw.

Dublin are still All-Ireland favourites. Playing like this, that status looks exceedingly shaky.

Dublin: Stephen Cluxton; Daire Newcombe, David Byrne, Mick Fitzsimons; James McCarthy, John Small (1-0), Lee Gannon; Brian Fenton, Brian Howard; Niall Scully, Seán Bugler (0-2), Ciarán Kilkenny; Paul Mannion, Con O’Callaghan (0-2), Cormac Costello (0-7, 0-2 frees, 0-2 45s). Subs: Cian Murphy for Byrne, 8 mins; Colm Basquel for Mannion, 53 mins; Lorcan O’Dell for Scully, 60 mins; Dean Rock for Kilkenny, 63 mins; Tom Lahiff for McCarthy, 69 mins.

Roscommon: Conor Carroll; Conor Hussey, Brian Stack, David Murray; Niall Daly (0-1), Eoin McCormack, Dylan Ruane; Eddie Nolan, Ciarán Lennon (0-2); Ciaráin Murtagh (0-5, 0-2 frees), Enda Smith (0-1), Cian McKeon; Ben O’Carroll, Donie Smith (0-1, free), Diarmuid Murtagh (0-3, 0-2 frees). Subs: Keith Doyle for Lennon, 46 mins; Conor Daly for Ruane, 49 mins; Cian Connolly for O’Connor, 51 mins; Conor Cox (0-1, free) for McKeon, 63 mins; Ruaidhri Fallon for Nolan, 63 mins.

Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry, first half), Brendan Cawley (Kildare, second half).

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times