Shine adds polish to a classic ambush

 

CONNACHT SFC FINAL Roscommon 0-14 Sligo 0-13:ROSCOMMON’S NINE-year itch has proven irresistible. In 2001 they stole Mayo’s thunder in a famously tight Connacht final and now the Primrose County have repeated the trick against a hotly fancied Sligo team.

This was a brilliantly conceived ambush, made possible by the effortless free-kicking excellence of Donie Shine and the stunning level of belief and fearlessness of his team-mates.

A radio preview of this match aired on Friday evening contained a comment by Martin Carney that proved clairvoyant. “Roscommon,” the Mayo man said, “love to gatecrash the dreams of other teams.”

It was proven perfectly true here. Roscommon erased all form lines and predictions and made Sligo pay the price for coming into this match as such warm favourites. “We don’t mind if we are the Wimbledon of Connacht,” winning manager Fergal O’Donnell laughed.

But Vinny Jones never lifted the Nestor Cup. Roscommon had done so 19 times in the history of the competition and it was to that rich history they turned. S

Sligo had cleared the decks of Mayo and Sligo, with neither of the big two appearing in a final for the first time in 63 years. Roscommon may have been the underdogs here but they eclipsed Sligo for tradition.

The key players from the minor side – six were on the field by the end of the game – who won the All-Ireland four years ago now wore the cloak decorated with fables of the Roscommon of Jimmy Murray through to the recently departed Dermot Earley. No more perfect tribute could have been conceived.

Roscommon drew up a game plan and it worked perfectly. Seán Purcell was tasked with closing down Mark Breheny and did so. Seán McDermott was told to put the brakes on David Kelly: Sligo’s go-to man finished scoreless.

His one chance came in the 55th minute when he jinked inside McDermott and went to place his shot for goal but Roscommon goalkeeper Geoffrey Claffey made an exceptional stop.

There were other surprises: big Michael Finneran cleaning out the Sligo midfield and David Casey roving up field for a first-half point during a period of high Roscommon audacity. And Donie Shine underlined his big game temperament, hoofing a couple of outrageous frees and two fine points from play in his haul of ten points.

He also fired six wides but this was still a hugely impressive display of place kicking. Cathal Cregg had a huge game, initiating attack after attack along the left wing.

From the early stages, you could see Sligo’s nightmares becoming more evident.

The men in black were sluggish and diffident. They looked taken aback by the gung-ho attitude of a team that they had disposed of easily in the league. But they struggled and had fallen into a 0-10 to 0-04 hole after 35 minutes.

Two huge Shine frees, one from 54 metres, illustrated that any foul within that distance meant coughing up a point so the defence was always under pressure. The familiar cutting runs from the back never materialised, mainly because the Roscommon forwards hunted aggressively.

Kevin Walsh jump-started his team, moving Charlie Harrison out to the wing, withdrawing Brendan Phillips and making four changes with 20 minutes l to go. It worked: Sligo mounted one of their trademark rallies, dominating possession and enjoying a revival thanks to three magnificent points from Alan Costello.

When Seán Davey blasted yet another Howitzer-type kick to tie this final, the game appeared up for Roscommon. But no: having managed just two points for 30 minutes of the second half, they engineered two frees which Shine converted during a riveting last five minutes. John Dunning, one of the senior generation, won the last free which Shine coolly floated over old-style from the ground.

Afterwards, the scenes were of unconfined joyous pandemonium as Donie Shine’s teenage fan club threatened to storm the barricades of the tunnel for an hour after the match.

It is hard to shake the feeling t this could prove a devastating defeat for Sligo. Three Connacht titles in the 1900s: this was a golden chance they didn’t seize.

It threatens to destroy so much of the fortitude accumulated by the wins over Galway and Sligo and it will be a considerable feat if they manage to bounce back from this and win their qualifying game.

ROSCOMMON: 1 G Claffey; 2 S McDermott, 3 P Comican, 4 S Ormsby; 6 C Dineen, 5 S Purcell 7 D Casey (0-1); 8 M Finneran, 9 K Mannion; 10 D Keenan (0-1), 18 D O’Gara (0-1), 12 Cregg (0-1); 13 J Rogers, 14 D Shine (0-10, 6 frees, one 45), 15 G Heneghan. Subs: K Higgins for J Rogers (60 mins), C Garvey for D Casey ( 65 mins), J Dunning for D O’Gara (66 mins), P Garvey for C Dineen (68 mins).

SLIGO: 1 P Greene; 2 C Harrison (0-1), 3 N McGuire, 4 R Donovan; 5 K Cawley, 6 B Philips, 7 J Davey; 8 T Taylor, 9 S Gilmartin; 10 A Costello (0-5), 11 M Breheny (0-2 frees), 12 E O’Hara; 13 C McGee (0-1, 45), 14 A Marren (0-3, one free), 15 D Kelly. Subs: E Mullen for T Taylor (28 mins), K Sweeney for C McGee (42 mins), S Davey (0-1)for S Gilmartin (49 mins), N Ewing for P Philops (55 mins), S Coen for M Breheny (70 mins).

Referee: J White(Donegal).