Roscommon dreams grounded in reality

Donegal 0-17 Roscommon 1-19: Another of Kevin McStay’s dreams came through yesterday. A win in Donegal.
Roscommon dreams grounded in reality

And he would’ve slept contently after an excellent performance which added to victories on the road against Kerry and Cork.

With their travelling support enjoying these away days, whilst not getting the chance to play at Hyde Park in recent times, there might be one or two checking the flight prices to New York, where Roscommon open their Connacht championship campaign.

This victory, in Letterkenny in front of over 7,000 people yesterday, showed different facets of Roscommon’s progress - different, but equally impressive.

“We played quite well and there’s no denying it,” McStay said afterwards. “We were dreaming about beating Donegal up in Donegal and now we’ve done it.

“Coming into the game and I’ll be dead on honest, we’d have been very realistic that we could have got a scotching today if we were a little bit off.

Few teams have cut Donegal apart like Roscommon did in the first 35 minutes to post a half-time advantage of five points - 0-11 to 0-6 — with even the most die-hard of the home support admitting, in the queues for tea, their team was fortunate to be so close.

Roscommon stopped Donegal at source, whilst creating countless avenues for themselves courtesy of their runs from deep.

Niall Daly was the pick on offer with three points, although he did miss one glaring goal chance when he blazed high and wide when found on the gallop on 29 minutes by Conor Daly, who also saw a chance of goal come and go as Donegal’s Peter Boyle denied him.

Beforehand, Cian Connolly also saw Boyle save and the Roscommon forward had to be content with a point from the rebound.

Ciaran Murtagh happily knocked over five frees and at the other end, Donegal managed just one first-half point from play, through Odhrán MacNiallais, who also missed the hosts’ only chance of goal when Geoffrey Claffey got behind his belter.

“They got off to a blistering start and we never looked like pegging it back,” Donegal manager Rory Gallagher admitted.

Donegal re-emerged, no doubt, with some stern words from Gallagher warming their ears and the home team certainly improved, making much more of a contest of it.

Michael Murphy, their skipper, was instrumental in all their positive work in the second half and they gradually begin to start whittling down their arrears.

Roscommon wouldn’t be the first team who had bother handling Murphy, whose influence grew. But the Connacht side instead picked their battles. Their possession was much less in the second half than the first, although their economy when these opportunities were crafted was better in part two.

MacNiallais was sent off on 50 minutes for picking up two yellow cards in a minute. The numerical disadvantage would’ve stunted Donegal’s comeback, which by the 55th minute had seen them get back to just two behind, 0-15 to 0-13.

Gallagher’s side, though, had left themselves just too many holes to fill. Roscommon, with Fintan Cregg their stand-out player, were always a handful on their forages upfield.

Then, with just over 10 minutes to play, the fatal blow was struck when Cathal Cregg pierced a blistering shot past Boyle at an angle to give a move— that saw Senan Kilbride play the final pass— the finish it deserved. Not only had Roscommon weathered the storm but they’d built a sandcastle in it.

“We were well and truly beaten,” Gallagher added. “We were beaten by the better, hungrier team. It was too open for our liking. We responded well in the second half and we kept at it. The sending-off was a critical moment, but there was no denying that Roscommon were much sharper.”

For all the talk about McStay dreaming, he’s certainly a realist and his Roscommon team are now real players in the top flight.

“Today we started looking like a Division 1 team who deserves on merit to be here,” McStay added. “That’s my sense of it. This win - of the wins - is the best of them.

“Maybe i’m going to get a rude awakening soon or we’re going to be found out a but? But I don’t think so.”

Scorers for Donegal:

M Murphy 0-7 (4f), P McBrearty 0-6f, R McHugh, O Mac Niallais, E McHugh, C Toye 0-1 each

Scorers for Roscommon:

C Murtagh 0-6 (5f), C Cregg 1-2, F Cregg 0-5 (3f), N Daly 0-3, C Daly, C Devaney, E Smith 0-1 each

DONEGAL:

P Boyle; E Doherty, E McGee, P McGrath; E Gallagher, R McHugh, E McHugh; R Kavanagh, N Gallagher; A Thompson, M McElhinney, O Mac Niallais; P McBrearty, M Murphy, M O’Reilly.

Subs:

M McHugh for Thompson (19), K Lacey for McGee (32), C Toye for N.Gallagher (h-t), S McBrearty for McElhinney (50), N Gallagher for E.Gallagher (66)

ROSCOMMON:

G Claffey; N McInerney, N Collins, S McDermott; R Stack, S Purcell, D Murray; F Cregg, N Daly; C Daly, C Murtagh, C Devaney; C Connolly, S Kilbride, C Cregg.

Subs:

Niall Kilroy for C. Daly (black card, 35), E Smith for Connolly (52), C Compton for N.Daly (56), J McManus for Stack (66)

Referee:

P Hughes (Armagh).

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