Roscommon make all the right moves

 

Roscommon 2-12 Leitrim 0-6:ANOTHER BLEAK chapter in the unbearable lightness of being Leitrim. They converged on Carrick-on-Shannon in considerable numbers, armed it seemed with both hope and confidence, and in the end all they really got for their efforts was a good drenching.

That’s the danger of a team like Leitrim taking a so-called scalp early in the summer; whatever buzz they created by beating Sligo three weeks ago was quickly lost in the blustery rain as Roscommon outplayed, outclassed and easily outscored them – and with that declared their obvious intention of keeping both hands on their Connacht title.

There was plenty to suggest Roscommon will be nicely tuned for that provincial showdown with Mayo or Galway at Hyde Park on July 17th – and their manager Fergal O’Donnell has five weeks to iron out whatever rough edges he might have spotted. There aren’t many. As a contest it was sadly one-sided, as Roscommon did all the things Leitrim couldn’t. They created a constant and effective scoring threat, they won buckets of ball at midfield, and they marked tightly in defence. Leitrim never really got a look in and, worse still, a large part of their downfall was their own fault.

Everyone among the 13,567 attendance knew if Donie Shine was given a half-decent shot at goal he would most likely score, and Leitrim effectively handed him that chance. With just over 20 minutes played, and Leitrim seemingly surviving playing into the strong wind, Robert Lowe gave the ball away inside his own half. With that Kevin Higgins passed off to Shine – whose fetch-and-turn ended with a thundering shot into the net. Cathal McGrann got the slightest touch, and so did the post too, but there was no stopping it.

Even at that stage it felt like the defining score, and so it proved.

Leitrim had won the toss, but elected to play into the strong wind, expecting conditions to deteriorate further in the first half. Instead conditions marginally improved, and with that ended whatever hopes Leitrim had of clawing back the eight-point deficit on Roscommon at half-time.

In the end Roscommon were more than worthy of their 12-point victory: all six forwards scored from play, Shine and Conor Devaney both claiming 1-1, with Devaney’s goal coming just four minutes from time. Senan Kilbride was impressive in both play and with the placed ball, while Kevin Higgins and Cathal Cregg increasingly impacted around the half forward line as the game progressed.

Karol Mannion and Michael Finneran lorded midfield, with flashes of some old-school fetching – although this dominance was heightened by Leitrim’s deficiencies. Daniel Lowe started well but then came off injured at the start of the second half, and his partner Tomas Beirne was having what manager Mickey Moran simply described as an “off day”.

Leitrim’s limitations were soon apparent. Emlyn Mulligan had no obvious target to play the ball into. Mulligan claimed their opening score on five minutes, and they didn’t score again until 18 minutes later, when Conor Beirne slotted over a free. That was about the extent of their scoring threat in the first half.

There was no let up in Roscommon’s commanding position in the second half. Backboned by seven of the successful All-Ireland minor team of 2006, their work rate and team ethic was a constant, and they could have had two goals early in the second half – from Kilbride and Higgins – were it not for two fine stops from McCrann.

Leitrim couldn’t click on the day. Ronan Gallagher moved to midfield after Tomas Beirne and Lowe made their exit, and helped win a little more possession, and Wayne McKeon did his best to halt the run of the Roscommon half forwards. Substitute Brian McDonald made a decent impact too – and three points in succession from Mulligan, Gallagher and Conor Beirne briefly gave the home crowd something to cheer about. Some 10 minutes from time McDonald was unlucky not to land Leitrim a consolation goal.

Match referee Pat McEnaney called time on exactly 70 minutes. By then we’d all seen enough.

ROSCOMMON: 1 G Claffey; 2 S McDermott, 4 N Carty, 17 S Ormsby; 6 D Keenan, 3 P Domican, 7 D Ward; 8 M Finneran, 9 K Mannion (0-1); 10 S O’Grady (0-1), 11 K Higgins (0-2), 12 C Cregg (0-1); 13 C Devaney (1-1), 14 S Kilbride (0-5, two frees), 15 D Shine (1-1). Subs: 26 S Purcell for Ward (52 mins), 24 E Kenny for Mannion (58 mins), 20 G Heneghan for Devaney (67 mins), 5 I Kilbride for O’Grady (70 mins). Yellow cards: K Mannion (49 mins).

LEITRIM: 1 C McCrann; 2 D Reynolds, 3 R Gallagher (0-1), 4 P Maguire; 5 B Prior, 6 G Reynolds, 7 W McKeon; 8 T Beirne, 9 D Lowe; 10 P Brennan, 11 E Mulligan (0-2), 12 R Lowe; 13 A Croal (0-1), 14 C Beirne (0-2, frees), 15 J Glancy. Subs: 20 D Sweeney for D Lowe (36 mins, inj), 21 B McDonald for Brennan (43 mins), 18 J McKeon for T Beirne (46 mins), 24 C Clarke for Lowe 64 mins. Yellow cards: E Mulligan (55 mins).

Referee: Pat McEnaney (Monaghan)