Five minutes later and with the clock now reading 67 minutes, the errors continued to stack up — Kerry sub Brendan O’Sullivan cheaply gave away possession when coming out of defence after Roscommon goalkeeper Darren O’Malley’s 45’ had dropped short. O’Sullivan’s handpass was telegraphed and Enda Smith kicked his third point from a tight angle to move the visitors 0-14 to 1-9 clear.
With the finish line fast approaching, Smith’s point provided his Roscommon colleagues with that final ounce of belief to see out the job.
Referee Fergal Kelly didn’t help their cause with his eight minutes of additional time, but on the sole occasion when the home outfit appeared within striking distance of a second green flag, Roscommon corner-back Sean McDermott threw his body in the way of Killian Young’s drive. The resulting ’45 was kicked wide by David Moran; the final nail in the Kerry coffin.
Conor Cox flung over a close-range free seven minutes into extra-time to reduce the gap to the minimum but no closer would they come.
Kelly’s long whistle sounded thereafter, the Roscommon players receiving a standing ovation from the travelling contingent who made up a sizeable proportion of the 4,507 crowd.
Their cheers continued to ring out around Fitzgerald Stadium half an hour later as each Roscommon player was clapped on the back as they made their way from the dressing-room onto the team bus.
This wasn’t just an upset, this was a character-building result for Kevin McStay and Fergal O’Donnell’s charges in the rarefied air of Division 1. Not since 2001 had Roscommon marked Kerry’s card, never had a Roscommon team travelled south for a league fixture and come away with maximum points.
All the more impressive given the win arrived against the backdrop of an opening 10 minutes when Roscommon looked completely out of their depth at the league’s top table. Johnny Buckley and a pair of Barry John Keane frees pushed Kerry three to the good as the westerners floundered with error after error. They were turned over on seven occasions inside the opening eight minutes. And had Donnchadh Walsh not hit the post with a gilt-edge goal chance on 16 minutes after an excellent Darran O’Sullivan run, who knows if last year’s Division 2 champions would have survived.
The underdogs had, by this juncture, put two points on the board and after Walsh’s skewed shot came back down off the post, Roscommon swept down the field where Cathal Cregg kicked his second to tie matters at 0-3 apiece.
With the nominal corner-forward proving massively influential as a third midfielder, Roscommon quickly put behind them their early calamities and proceeded to kick a further five unanswered points to carve out an 0-8 to 0-3 lead by the 25th minute – Ciaran Murtagh, Conor Devanney, Fintan Cregg (two frees) and Cian Connolly on target.
On an afternoon when sweeping wind and rain made decent football almost unattainable, the quality of the Roscommon kicking was other-worldly as Connolly and the two Creggs landed massive scores.
A Niall McInerney foul on Stephen O’Brien enabled Barry John Keane bring an end to Kerry’s 20-minute barren spell and Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s men were back in business when O’Brien staved off two defenders before rolling the ball past O’Malley for a fine individual goal on 31 minutes.
Kerry led 1-6 to 0-8 at the break and two more from the boot of Keane either side of an Enda Smith effort had them two in front on 42 minutes. Here was the time to plant doubt in the collective mind-set of the opposition. Instead, Kerry kept their opponents above water with a series of poor wides – Donnchadh Walsh, Keane and O’Brien among the guilty parties.
Stephen O’Brien, in response to a Devanney white flag, re-established Kerry’s two point cushion on 48 minutes. It would prove their last score until Cox’s 77th-minute free. Their gradual decline provided Roscommon with the scent of blood and with Niall Daly, Enda Smith and sub Cathal Shine dictating matters in the middle third, Cathal Cregg (0-2) and Murtagh (free) drilled three between the posts to swing the pendulum back in their favour (0-13 to 1-9).
Cathal Cregg was sent to the line on a black card on 59 minutes but Roscommon refused to wobble. And neither could Kerry capitalise – Darran O’Sullivan’s scoreable free on 64 minutes dropped short, while Tommy Walsh’s follow-up rolled dead in the mud in front of O’Malley’s goal.
There followed Smith’s clincher to condemn Kerry to back-to-back league defeats on the opening two weekends for the third time in Fitzgerald’s tenure.
C Cregg (0-4); E Smith (0-3); C Murtagh (0-1 free), F Cregg (0-2 frees), C Devanney (0-2 each); C Connolly (0-1).
BJ Keane (0-5, 0-4 frees); S O’Brien (1-1); J Buckley (0-2); C Cox (0-1 free), T Walsh (0-1 each).
B Kelly; B Ó Beaglaoich, M Griffin, S Enright; P Murphy, A O’Mahony, K Young; D Moran, J Buckley; J Lyne, D O’Sullivan, D Walsh; BJ Keane, T Walsh, S O’Brien.
T O’Sullivan for Lyne (12 mins, inj), A Fitzgerald for D Walsh (49), C Cox for Keane (57), F Fitzgerald for Enright (58), Barry O’Sullivan for Buckley (52, inj), Brendan O’Sullivan for T Walsh (68).
D O’Malley; N McInerney, N Collins, S McDermott; N Daly, D Murray, R Stack; E Smith, I Kilbride; F Cregg, C Devanney, C Daly; C Connolly, C Cregg, C Murtagh.
C Shine for Kilbride (54 mins), S Purcell for C Daly (57), R Daly for C Cregg (59, bc), C McHugh for Connolly (63).
F Kelly (Longford).