LIKE A DAYTIME TV soap opera, this afternoon’s contest between Roscommon and Derry was far more about drama than style or production values, as these two sides played out a draw that leaves both of them no further on and no further back in the race for promotion from Division Two of the Allianz League.
Any contest where the referee’s card count is 50% higher than either team’s total number of scores can be described as fractious and niggly, though it would be a stretch to say that the fare at Dr. Hyde Park was downright confrontational.
Every foul in Roscommon today seemed to have a purpose, and consequently the story of the game can be measured by key decisions from referee Seán Lonergan. The Tipperary official got a lot more right than wrong on a very difficult day for any man with a whistle, but his black card for Cian McKeon early in the second half, his failure to allow advantage when Cathal Heneghan was fouled but had broken the tackle and was one on one with Odhrán Lynch, and his second yellow for Shaner McGuigan had a huge bearing on the contest.
Just one of Lonergan’s 18 cards were shown in the first half, when Roscommon’s 0-8 to 0-4 wind-assisted lead seemed like nothing more than a stage setter. Shane McGuigan kicked Derry off with two good early points but the Rossies took over from there.
Donie Smith, Conor Cox, Eddie Nolan, Enda Smith and Niall Daly all kicked excellent points from distance while at the other end of the field, Brian Stack was very strong in his man on man battle with McGuigan, and Roscommon were able to bottle up the relatively small scoring area.
It was after half time that things really got going.
Sublime early points from Cathal Heneghan and Cian McKeon after half-time changed the complexion of the game considerably as it gave the Rossies a much bigger lead to defend and also demonstrated their potency when playing into the breeze, and while Pádraig McGrogan got Derry off the mark immediately afterwards, it was only when McKeon was black carded for his role in a melee at midfield that Derry really took over.
Even so, when Conor Cox kicked the free that was awarded for the last-ditch foul on Heneghan, Roscommon led by 0-11 to 0-5 and looked dominant.
Paul Cassidy and McGuigan fired two points in quick succession to both reduce the gap and shift the momentum of the contest, but after that it was a case of wearing down the home side with constant, relentless pressure. The card count mounted, the free count mounted, Roscommon failed to test the keeper with another couple of half-goal chances, and when a superb sidestep and finish from Brendan Rogers drew the sides level with over ten minutes of normal time to play, it looked like there was only going to be one winner.
Sure enough the Oak Leaf men took the lead through another McGuigan free, with Niall Daly getting a second yellow card for the foul, but Roscommon produced one last sustained attack and it fell to Keith Doyle to be their unlikely hero, as their 2021 U-20 midfielder kicked his first ever senior point for the county from 30 metres out to tie up the game.
The final act was entirely in keeping with everything that went on before as Brian Stack was black-carded and Shane McGuigan received a second yellow for an altercation.
With McGuigan off the field, it fell to midfielder Emmet Bradley to take on the last scoring chance of the match, a 45 metre free that he pushed narrowly wide of the posts.
Scorers for Roscommon: Donie Smith 0-4 (0-2f), Conor Cox 0-2 (0-1f), Enda Smith, Niall Daly, Eddie Nolan, Cathal Heneghan, Cian McKeon, Keith Doyle 0-1 each.
Scorers for Derry: Shane McGuigan 0-8 (0-5f), Benny Heron, Paul Cassidy, Pádraig McGrogan, Brendan Rogers 0-1 each.
1 Colm Lavin (Éire Óg)
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4. Eoin McCormack (St. Dominic’s), 3. Brian Stack (St. Brigid’s), 2. David Murray (Pádraig Pearses)
5. Richard Hughes (Roscommon Gaels), 6. Niall Daly (Pádraig Pearses), 7. Ronan Daly (Pádraig Pearses)
8. Ultan Harney (Clann na nGael), 9. Eddie Nolan (St. Brigid’s)
10. Ciaráin Murtagh (St. Faithleach’s), 11. Enda Smith (Boyle), 12. Niall Kilroy (Fuerty)
13. Cian McKeon (Boyle), 14. Donie Smith (Boyle), 15. Conor Cox (Éire Óg)
Cathal Heneghan (Michael Glaveys) for Murtagh (half-time)
Diarmuid Murtagh (St. Faithleach’s) for Kilroy (53)
Keith Doyle (St. Dominic’s) for McKeon (58)
Andrew Glennon (Michael Glaveys) for Cox (66)
Ciarán Sugrue (St. Brigid’s) for D Smith (69).
1. Odhrán Lynch (Magherafelt)
4. Conor McCluskey (Magherafelt), 3. Brendan Rogers (Slaughtneil), 2. Christopher McKaigue (Slaughtneil)
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12. Gareth McKinless (Ballinderry), 6. Pádraig McGrogan (Newbridge), 7. Conor Doherty (Newbridge)
8. Conor Glass (Glen), 9. Emmett Bradley (Glen)
10. Paul Cassidy (Bellaghy), 11. Oisín McWilliams (Swatragh), 5. Ethan Doherty (Glen)
13. Benny Heron (Ballinascreen), 14. Shane McGuigan (Slaughtneil), 15. Niall Loughlin (Greenlough)
Ciarán McFaul (Glen) for Doherty (44)
Niall Toner (Lavey) for Heron (46)
Lachlan Murray (Desertmartin) for Loughlin (49)
Ben McCarron (Steelstown) for McWilliams (70+1).
Referee: Seán Lonergan (Tipperary).
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