By Kevin Egan, Dr Hyde Park
Roscommon 0-7 Down 0-12
Down took a huge step towards regaining Division One status this afternoon when they travelled to Dr Hyde Park and produced an excellent first-half performance against the home side, setting themselves up to collect all two points against a Roscommon side that played nearly an hour of football with 14 men.
The early sending off of Ian Kilbride, a Ciaráin Murtagh penalty that was saved by Marc Reid and a glorious goal chance that was blasted wide of the target by Ciarán Lennon were all key moments that led to Roscommon’s first defeat in six competitive starts this season.
Certainly the Connacht champions would have been entitled to feel very positive about their prospects after they rescued a seemingly impossible position last weekend against Tipperary, firing 1-5 without reply in the last 10 minutes to win by two points.
For Down, the story was very different, as a crucial goalkeeping error cost them dearly in their clash with Cork in Newry.
Yet it was the visiting Mourne men who played all the best football in the opening half, admittedly assisted by a deceptively strong breeze blowing from the town end of the ground. A couple of early attempts failed to find the target as the first nine minutes passed by without a flag waved at either end, but a high, arcing kick from midfielder Niall Donnelly broke the deadlock and proved to be the catalyst for a period of impressive football from Eamonn Burns’ charges.
Barry O’Hagan, Ryan Johnston and Caolan Mooney were all on target from play as Down moved into a commanding 0-6 to 0-0 lead, while Roscommon’s hopes were dealt a further blow when midfielder Ian Kilbride received two yellow cards in the space of four minutes, the second for an off-the-ball altercation with Donnelly.
Down’s style of play was ideally suited to taking on a depleted opponent as they moved the ball well with a series of intermediate range foot passes, stretching the play and using the full width and length of the new Hyde Park field, which is identical in dimensions to Croke Park. Six different scorers from play in the opening half further illustrated the range of scoring threats they possessed all across the field.
Roscommon enjoyed plenty of possession in the opening half but struggled to make an impact up front, though some good bursts forward by Brian Stack and Diarmuid Murtagh helped them to pick off three points in five minutes to narrow the gap.
Down re-asserted themselves however and restored their advantage, taking a 0-9 to 0-3 lead into the dressing room.
The introduction of Ciaráin Murtagh paid immediate dividends for Roscommon as the St. Faithleach’s man drove at the Down defence and earned a free which was converted by his brother Diarmuid, while a second dead ball strike cut the gap further with the next attack.
The first of two glorious chances fell Roscommon’s way after 45 minutes when Caolan Mooney was deemed to have tripped Enda Smith on the edge of the large square and referee Sean Hurson stretched his arms out to award a penalty. Ciaráin Murtagh’s low shot was well placed but lacked power, and Down keeper Marc Reid was able to dive down and make a crucial low save, parrying the ball out for a ’45.
Donie Smith struck the resultant ’45 straight over the posts to maintain Roscommon’s momentum and when the same player pounced on a loose ball to split the uprights after 54 minutes, the home crowd were giddy in their excitement, anticipating yet another late comeback. Ciarán Lennon could have put them in front when he pounced on a breaking ball that rolled kindly for him inside the Down square, but his first time shot off the ground sailed high and wide of the target.
Those misses proved critical as Down dominated the final quarter. Brendan McArdle and Niall McParland were superb along the spine of the defence, Ryan Johnston picked up some crucial breaks in the middle third and points from Darren O’Hagan, Darragh O’Hanlon and Niall Madine wrapped up a crucial win for Down, setting them up nicely for a home tie against Clare in two weeks.
Scorers for Roscommon: Cian McKeon (0-2f), Diarmuid Murtagh (0-2f) and Donie Smith (0-1 ’45) 0-2 each, Conor Devaney 0-1.
Scorers for Down: Donal O’Hare 0-3 (0-2f), Niall Donnelly, Caolan Mooney, Ryan Johnston, Colm Flanagan, Anthony Doherty (’45), Darren O’Hagan, Darragh O’Hanlon (f), Barry O’Hagan, Niall Madine 0-1 each
ROSCOMMON: James Featherston; David Murray, John McManus, Niall McInerney; Niall Daly, Fergal Lennon, Brian Stack; Enda Smith, Ian Kilbride; Finbar Cregg, Niall Kilroy, Conor Devaney; Diarmuid Murtagh, Ciaran Lennon, Cian McKeon.
Subs: Ciaráin Murtagh for Cregg (HT), Donie Smith for McKeon (47), Conor Daly for F Lennon (57), Hubert Darcy for Kilroy (60), Sean McDermott for Stack (62), Ultan Harney for E Smith (69).
DOWN: Marc Reid; Anthony Doherty, Brendan McArdle, Colm Flanagan; Darren O’Hagan, Niall McParland, Caolan Mooney; Conor Poland, Niall Donnelly; Shay Millar, Conor Maginn, Ryan Johnston; Barry O’Hagan, Donal O’Hare, Aaron Morgan.
Subs: David McKibbin for Poland (57), Darragh O’Hanlon for B O’Hagan (57), Niall Madine for O’Hare (63 – bc), Keith Quinn for McArdle (68)
Ref: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)