By John Fallon at Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada
Roscommon 0-23, Leitrim 0-10: Twelve Roscommon players scored from play and substitute Cathal Cregg landed four late on as Kevin McStay’s troops recorded their third championship win over Leitrim in as many seasons to reach a third Connacht final in a row.
Leitrim went 40 minutes without scoring at one point as Roscommon eased their way into a Connacht final against either Sligo or Galway.
Only a big impact from Leitrim’s substitute bench saved they from a heavier beating as Damien Moran’s three points and two from Darragh Rooney kept Benny Guckian’s side alive, but they now face a qualifier run rather than of a first Connacht final since 2000.
Playing with a strong wind at their backs the defending champions would have been thrilled to go in 0-9 to 0-2 to the good at the interval, but the home side will no doubt have been dismayed that they failed to build on a decent start at Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada.
Keith Beirne kicked the first score of the game, but after four minutes Jack Heslin was denied by a smart save on the Roscommon line, which would have give Benny Guckian’s side a significant lift.
Instead of leading by four points, Leitrim soon found themselves in arrears as Diarmuid Murtagh twice pointed for his side, and although Beirne responded with a free to level matters Leitrim failed to score again for the rest of the half and Roscommon surged clear.
Leitrim attempted to shake things up in the forward line by moving Donal Wrynn into the full-forward line, but nevertheless, the Roscommon dominance continued in the early minutes of the second-half.
Conor Devaney, Donie Smith and Niall Kilroy kicked their first points of the game, before Leitrim finally ended their shocking run when substitute Darragh Rooney pointed four minutes after his introduction. There was also an early impact from another sub Ryan O’Rourke – both players had originally been named to start but were withdrawn before the start – but his point only put 11 points between the sides.
But Roscommon too had power hitters to arrive, and Cregg landed four from play, while Shane Killoran also split the posts to secure the win.
Scorers for Roscommon: D Murtagh 0-5 (0-1f); C Cregg 0-4; C Murtagh 0-3 (0-1f); D Smith & E Smith 0-2 each; C Devaney, C Compton, N Kilroy, F Cregg, B Stack, S Killoran, J McManus & T O’Rourke 0-1 each.
Scorers for Leitrim: D Moran 0-3; K Beirne (0-1f) & D Rooney 0-2 each; R O’Rourke, E Mulligan (’45) & S Quinn 0-1 each.
Roscommon: C Lavin; D Murray, P Domican, N McInerney; J McManus, Fintan Cregg, B Stack; C Compton, T O’Rourke; E Smith, N Kilroy, C Devaney; D Smith, D Murtagh, C Murtagh.
Subs: C Daly for E Smith (52), C Cregg for C Murtagh (52), S Killoran for B Stack (59), R Stack for Kilroy (59), Finbar Cregg for D Smith (61), P Kelly for Compton (66).
Leitrim: D McKiernan; A Armstrong, P Maguire, M McWeeney; N Plunkett, S Quinn, J Rooney; M Plunkett, D McGovern; J Heslin, E Mulligan, B Gallagher; A Flynn, K Beirne, D Wrynn.
Subs: R O’Rourke for Heslin (36), D Rooney for Beirne (43), D Moran for M Plunkett (52), O Madden for C Murtagh (52), E Ward for J Rooney (68), D Flynn for A Flynn (70).
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)