Roscommon claim victory at Breffni Park

A 58th-minute goal from Colm Kelly proved crucial as Roscommon claimed a 1-13 to 0-15 victory over Sligo in today's NHL Division Three final at Breffni Park.

In what their first senior final since 1997, the Rossies triumphed despite having David Loughnane sent off for a straight red card offence in the ninth-minute.

Sligo sharpshooter Keith Raymond hit seven of his side's eight first half points, but Roscommon only trailed by the minimum at half-time thanks to free-taker Shane Sweeney.

Three Sweeney frees helped the Rossies go ahead, Kelly's goal followed and although Paul Seevers kept Sligo competitive, time ran out on the 2004 winners.

Given that twelve months ago, Roscommon were struggling to fulfil their league fixtures and Anthony Flaherty, a 47-year-old selector, was forced to line out in the starting team at one stage, today's win marks a remarkable turnaround in the county's small-ball fortunes.

Since David McConn's appointment last year, the Rossies have worked themselves into shape and proved more than a match for a Sligo side that were competing in their third Division Three final in five years.

Sligo went in front thanks to a early free from Seevers and stil led 0-4 to 0-3, midway through the first half. Roscommon were seeing plenty of ball and were unfortunate not to chalk up a goal when Sweeney kicked the sliotar wide from close range.

Raymond, who hails from Calry-St Joseph's club and also plays Under-21 football for the county, then took control, landing seven excellent points to stamp his authority all over the game.

He helped wind-backed Sligo into a four-point lead but McConn's charges never wilted with Sweeney proving an effective scorer from frees.

A trio of Sweeney frees, who brought his tally to 0-8, allied to a Tom Redmond point, sent the Rossies into a 0-11 to 0-9 lead, ten minutes into the second half.

Goal scorer Kelly, a former Sigerson Cup winner with UCC, struck a point before Raymond (0-2) and Morgan Fitzsimons bisected the Roscommon posts. With the game ebbing and flowing, it was always likely that a goal would make the difference and so it proved as the 6ft 6in Kelly took down a high ball into the danger area before turning and firing to the Sligo net.

Kelly moved his side 1-13 to 0-12 ahead with a further point and despite a late rally from the Yeats men - Michael Gilmartin, Fitzsimons and Seevers sent over a trio of unanswered points - Roscommon held on to continue their encouraging revival under McConn.

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