By John Fallon
Monaghan dished out a lesson in the realities of top flight football when they struck late to secure a crucial victory in this exciting encounter at Kiltoom.
Conditions were dreadful for the clash with driving wind and rain throughout, but the crowd of 2,900 — the maximum allowed at the venue — were treated to an entertaining contest.
Monaghan managed just two points in the opening half when they were playing against the elements but Malachy O’Rourke’s men never lost their composure and came good when it mattered most.
Roscommon, back in Division One for the first time in 13 years, led by 1-5 to 0-2 at the break and Senan Kilbride extended the lead less than half a minute after the restart.
Conor McManus and goalkeeper Rory Beggan got Monaghan’s only scores in the opening half as Roscommon used the wind well.
The key score of the opening half came after 27 minutes when Monaghan corner-back Ryan Wylie was black-carded after he pulled down Ciaran Murtagh, who then composed himself to shoot the resultant penalty into the right corner.
But Murtagh was also black-carded before the interval when he tripped Monaghan corner-back Colin Walshe.
Roscommon, opened up 0-04 to 0-0 at the end of the opening quarter after Murtagh kicked two frees and Fintan Cregg scored one from the right.
Their first score from play came when Enda Smith kicked an excellent from distance and Cregg got his second before the break to lead by two goals when they turned around.
The Roscommon fans must have sensed they were poised for a winning start when Senan Kilbride gave Roscommon a glorious start to the second-half inside half a minute.
Monaghan hit back after 39 minutes when Dermot Malone found the net after a delivery from the right by Neil McAdam to cut the gap to four.
Cregg hit back for Roscommon but Monaghan, despite shooting nine second-half wides, hit three in succession with Thomas Kerr getting two and McManus hitting a free to leave two between them going into the final quarter.
Cregg eased the pressure with another Roscommon point but Monaghan showed all their experience and Daniel McKenna, goalkeeper Beggan reduced the margin before McAdam leveled with an excellent point from the right seven minutes from time.
Cregg pointed a free from the right in the closing stages and that looked like it would make it a winning return to the top flight for the Rossies.
But Malone landed a superb equaliser and then McManus pounced on the kickout to blast to the net before McKenna sealed the issue with his second point of the contest.
Monaghan: C McManus 1-2 (0-2f), D Malone 1-1, T Kerr 0-2, D McKenna 0-2, R Beggan 0-2 (1f, 1 ’45), N McAdam 0-1.
Roscommon: C Murtagh 1-2 (1-0 pen, 0-2f), F Cregg 0-5 (2f), E Smith 0-1, S Kilbride 0-1.
R Beggan; C Walshe, D Wylie, R Wylie (C Boyle 28); D Mone, F Kelly, K O’Connell; N McAdam, D Hughes; K Duffy, D Malone, O Duffy (B McGinn 59); S Carey (D McKenna 52), T Kerr, C McManus.
Subs: M Keogh, J McCarron, C Boyle, M Thornton, P Keenan, R McAnespie, S Gollogly, C McCarthy, D McKenna, B McGinn, N McKeown.
D O’Malley; S McDermott, N Collins, N McInerney; D Murray, N Daly, R Stack; E Smith, I Kilbride; C Devanney (C Shine 67), N Kilroy (R Daly 63), C Murtagh (C Connolly 34); F Cregg, S Kilbride (U Harney 52), C Cregg (J McManus 69).
Subs: G Claffey, B Murtagh, C McHugh, C Connolly, C Shine, J McManus, R Daly, S Oates, T Featherston, U Harney.
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).