Roscommon rampant in second half farewell to Hyde Park sod

Sligo unable to deal with Rossies’ fitness as a repeat of last summer’s upset is avoided

Roscommon 4-16 Sligo 2-13

Roscommon staged a dramatic second-half comeback to overhaul Sligo in a thrilling, topsy-turvy Connacht football semi-final at Hyde Park that was a throwback to football from the pre-blanket defence era.

Sligo looked set to shock the Rossies for the second successive year when they went in leading by eight points at half-time. That first-half was a replica of last year’s match between the counties as the Sligo full-forward-line wreaked havoc.

However a number of factors ensured this year's match had a different finale. Sligo lost the influential Adrian Marren to a black card just before the break and then Senan Kilbride gave the home team a lifeline when he pounced for a goal 20 seconds into the second-half.

Backed by the strong wind Roscommon poured forward while the strength of their bench proved crucial, with Neil Collins and the Smith brothers making notable contributions.

Roscommon joint-manager Kevin McStay said there wasn’t any panic in the home dressing-room at half-time. “We felt the half-time scoreline was harsh, every mistake was ruthlessly punished. We went into groups and Fergal (O’Donnell) had a few strong words. Neil Collins coming on was the turning-point. The second-half performance was so important to us. We were either going to take a big step back or a giant leap forward and we did the latter,” he said.

Sligo manager Niall Carew said Sligo were only three points behind going into the final minutes when full-forward Pat Hughes hit the post. "We were always going to struggle after losing Charlie Harrison and Adrian Marren, we can't replace players of that calibre. Then you look at the Roscommon bench, they were able to bring in Neil Collins and Enda Smith. I was worried at half-time and then they got the goal just after half-time," he said.

Yet, at half-time Sligo looked set to reach their second successive Connacht final with Marren and the superb Hughes rampant. Although the Rossies edged into an early 0-3 to 0-1 lead, Sligo began to get on top at midfield and opened up large gaps in the home defence.

Just like last year, Hughes converted a first-half penalty. Referee Joe McQuillan awarded the kick after Seán Mullooly bundled into the full-forward in the 21st minute. After both Cathal Cregg and Donie Shine were denied goals by Aidan Devaney Sligo stretched the lead to five. The loss of Marren was quickly offset by a goal with the last kick of the half from Leaving Certificate student Kyle Cawley.

Just when Roscommon were rocking, they got the perfect boost 20 seconds into the second-half when Senan Kilbride fisted Niall Daly’s high delivery to the net.

Mark Breheny replied from a free but the visitors didn’t score again for 12 minutes as Roscommon whittled the lead down to two. A sweeping move involving Fintan Cregg and Cathal Cregg resulted in Ciaráin Murtagh slamming the equalising goal to the net after 49 minutes.

Murtagh nudged the Rossies ahead in the 55th minute and one minute later the centre-forward drove a penalty to the net following a foul on Senan Kilbride. Breheny (two) and Hughes kept Sligo in touch with points while Donie Smith’s low shot for a goal for Roscommon came off the post. With play continuing to be remarkably open, Enda Smith sealed victory. Although the chance seemed to have gone following an overhit pass Smith weaved his way inside the Sligo defence and drilled a powerful shot beyond Devaney.

Roscommon will be away to either Mayo or Galway in the Connacht final on 10th July while Sligo will re-enter the championship in the second-round of the All-Ireland qualifiers.

ROSCOMMON: G Claffey (0-1, 45); S McDermott, S Mullooly, N McInerney; J McManus (0-1), S Purcell , D Murray; N Daly, D Keenan (0-3); F Cregg (0-1, free), C Murtagh (2-2, 1-0 pen, 1f); C Devaney (0-3); S Kilbride (1-0), C Cregg , D Shine (0-2). Subs: N Collins for Purcell (39), E Smith (1-1) for C Cregg (50), D Smith (0-2) for Shine (58), C Compton for Kilbride (58), J McDermott for Keenan (70) N Kilroy for F Cregg (70).

SLIGO: A Devaney; D Maye, K McDonnell, C Harrison; Keelan Cawley, E Flanagan, B Egan; N Murphy (0-2), A McIntyre ; N Ewing , M Breheny (0-3, 2f), N Gaughan ; A Marren (1-3, 1-0 pen), P Hughes (0-5), Kyle Cawley (1-0). Subs: L Henry for Harrison (22), C Breheny for Marren (bc) (34), B Egan for Kyle Cawley (59), C Henry for Gaughan (63), J Kelly for Maye (bc) (70).

REFEREE: J McQuillan, Cavan