Monaghan show grit to hit Roscommon late in Kiltoom
Malachy O’Rourke: ‘We’d a number of experienced players out there, we didn’t panic’
Conor McManus of Monaghan celebrates scoring a goal late on in Kiltoom. Photograph: Andrew Paton/Inpho
Monaghan 2-10 Roscommon 1-9
The squeeze in division one comes straight away. Roscommon discovered that as they tried to play their way a gale-force afternoon in Kiltoom as well as the gnarliest pressing game in Ulster. “There’s no easy games in it,” said Malachy O’Rourke after watching his team overturn a 0-2 to 1-5 half time deficit with a display suffused with the very qualities which have defined the Farney men since he arrived there. True grit. Bone-crunching challenges. Smartness all over the field. And top-of-the-range silk up-front.
A sentimentalist could argue that Roscommon deserved more from a day that marked their re-introduction to division one after a thirteen year absence. Kevin McStay, their manager with Fergal O’Donnell, was quicker to point to the 31 turnovers they committed as they lost their grasp on the lead. But the home team did many good things here and the most dismal of western days was coloured by a terrific individual display by Fintan Cregg. Ciaran Murtagh looked on course to be having a similar afternoon until he was black carded in the 33rd minute for a needless drag-down on a Monaghan defender as he broke clear with possession. Murtagh had already posted 1-2, the goal coming from a coolly dispatched penalty, when he left the field. Roscommon had a rare chance to increase their goal tally four minutes after half time, when Fintan Cregg burst onto Emmet Smith’s terrific ball but his shot grazed Rory Beggan’s crossbar. That score would have cancelled out Dermot Malone’s 38th minute goal for the visitors, a score which spelt the beginning of the end for Roscommon. Lurking in around the penalty area, Malone was perfectly placed to grab a long ball which skidded off a Monaghan fist. After that, Monaghan pushed forward and closed off all avenues on the Roscommon kick-out.
“I thought in the first half we controlled the play for a right bit of it. There is no doubt that we might be a bit behind Roscommon in terms of fitness. But we had a number of experienced players out there and we didn’t panic,” said O’Rourke.
And as the wind rattled the glass panes where the radio men sat and rain spat, Monaghan implemented a controlled, vice like grip on the division one new-bies. They pushed right up, Fintan Kelly and Dessie Mone directing traffic while Colin Walshe, notionally playing corner back, spent the second half tearing along the wing and forcing many of the home team turnovers. Thomas Kerr struck two gorgeous points into the free and Rory Beggan stepped up to punish two long range chances. Daniel McKenna shone on his introduction, crafting two very tidy points. Slowly, remorselessly, Monaghan reeled the home team in and the buoyant home supporters began to check their watches more frequently. It was 1-8 apiece after 63 minutes when Neil McAdam chipped a point and although Cregg finished a spirited Roscommon break with a brave 68th minute free to revive local optimism, the momentum was with Monaghan. Malone immediately equalised and when Darren O’Malley’s restart deflected off a Roscommon player into Conor McManus’s hands, that was that. The net billowed. A small chorus of Monaghan cheers was whipped away towards the Shannon.
“Errors at this level are just a killer, that’s the big thing,” said McStay.
“In division two or three you could drop that ball and you might get away with it. They surprised me how energetic they were. They were well-organised too. They were a little bit intimidating and they have been around Division 1 for a while. They have that bit of grizzle about them, haven’t they? Our lads were just…we couldn’t fault the effort but we have to learn fast. At the same time, we showed we could compete.”
A visit to Kerry awaits Roscommon next week. The air gets thin quickly. Monaghan are the team to which all division one aspirants should aspire. Since crashing in from as division two and one champions, O’Rourke’s men have proven themselves. This was about as ‘league’ as football gets and Monaghan made the right decisions as the day degenerated into a minor tempest.
“Well look: we have earned the right to be in the division because we have won division three, won division two and we have got to the semi-final of division one so we have earned the right,” said O’Rourke.
“This was a big test today and we are delighted to come through it. The rest will be the same. Look it, you have to be on our game every day. If not, you will get beat. There is a very thin line between being involved in the bottom and on the top.”
The truth of that has been explicitly showcased after the first weekend. The sorting has begun.
Roscommon: 1 D O’Malley; 2 S McDermott, 3 N Collins, 4 N McInerney; 5 D Murray, 6 N Daly, 7 R Stack; 11 E Smith (0-1), 9 I Kilbride; 10 F Cregg (0-5 2 frees), 12 C Murtagh (1-2, 2 frees, pen), 20 C Devanney; 22 M Kilroy, 14 S Kilbride (0-1), 15 C Cregg.
Substitutes: 19 C Connolly for 12 C Murtagh (32 mins black card), 26 U Harney for S Kilbride (52 mins), R Daly for N Kilroy (66 mins), C Shine for C Devanney (67 mins).
Monaghan: 1 R Beggan (0-2, 1 free, 50); 2 C Walshe, 3 D Wylie, 4 R Wylie; 5 D Mone, 6 F Kelly, 22 S Carey; 7 K O’Connell, 8 N McAdam (0-1); 10 K Duffy, 9 D Hughes, 12 O Duffy; 14 T Kerr (0-2), 15 C McManus (1-2, 2 frees), 11 D Malone (1-1).
Subsitutes:18 C Boyle for R Wyle (28 mins black card), 25 D McKenna (0-2) for S Carey (52 mins), 26 B McGinn for O Duffy (58 mins).
Referee: C Lane (Cork).