Clare saved their most disappointing performance of this year’s Division Two campaign as they hardly raised a gallop on their visit to a wet and windy Dr. Hyde Park.
From the highs of humbling Kildare seven days earlier, this reversal represented a reality check for Colm Collins’ men who only managed four points over the 70 minutes, with three of them coming in second-half injury time.
The game was there for Clare at the break as Roscommon, with Storm Ciara at their backs, could only establish a six-point lead. The home side had kept their visitors scoreless, but their forwards struggled for meaningful traction against a well-organised Clare defence.
But the reigning Connacht champions, led by Brian Stack, Enda Smith, David Murray, and Cathal Cregg, were more assured after the break, and substitute Noel Gately’s goal deep into injury time was ample reward for a good afternoon at the office.
Clare’s cause wasn’t helped by the dismissal of midfielder Ciarán Russell, who had just returned to the fray from a black card, in injury time.
Roscommon had lost Niall Daly for two yellow cards in quick succession after just 23 minutes. Conor Daly was also shown a black card in the game’s dying embers.
Ironically Clare had started well, owning possession in the early stages although the strength of the breeze dictated that they weren’t able to test the Roscommon defence, especially close to goal.
The home side got the scoreboard moving with their first two attacks. Richard Hughes and David Murray set up marauding full-back Brian Stack for the opening score before Cathal Cregg used the wind effectively to split the posts from 40 metres.
A foul on Hubert Darcy presented Cian McKeon with the opportunity to open his account from a free in the 10th minute and the Boyle player duly obliged.
A rare Clare foray into the Roscommon full-back line resulted in a huge moment when Roscommon goalkeeper Colm Lavin did brilliantly to intercept a pass from Russell that was destined for the unmarked Keelan Sexton in the 15th minute.
A Clare goal at that stage would have hauled them back into contention but Colm Collins would have been happy with the way his team were frustrating the Roscommon forwards, denying them the space to build up a potential match-winning tally.
Ciarán Lennon, McKeon (a free), and Cregg added points to Roscommon’s tally before the break but a 0-6 to 0-0 half-time lead looked precarious from their perspective.
Yet, Roscommon’s game management was excellent in the second half. Eddie Nolan, introduced at the break, helped the superb Enda Smith gain a foothold around the middle, and suddenly Roscommon were in charge of the possession stakes.
A foul on Lennon resulted in McKeon’s third free of the afternoon after 39 minutes — the first score of any description against the elements.
David Tubridy finally opened Clare’s account from a long-range free, but they still struggled to gain any foothold in the contest.
Their remaining three points came in second-half injury time through Tubridy and Eoin Cleary frees, and a fisted effort from substitute Jack Morrissey.
Enda Smith pointed on the run with three minutes remaining before Gately bundled the ball into the empty net, after Lennon had been denied, to confirm his side’s victory.
Finally, after a stuttering start, Roscommon’s league campaign is up and running.
Scorers for Roscommon: C. McKeon 0-3 (3f), N. Gately 1-0, C. Cregg 0-2, B. Stack, E. Smith, C. Lennon 0-1 each.
Scorers for Clare: D. Tubridy 0-2 (2f), E. Cleary (1f), J. Morrissey 0-1 each
ROSCOMMON: C. Lavin; D. Murray, B. Stack, M. Richardson; N. Daly, C. Daly, R. Hughes; T. O’Rourke, E. Smith; N. Kilroy, C. McKeon, H. Darcy; D. Smith, C. Lennon, C. Cregg.
Subs: N. Gately for D. Smith (35), E. Nolan for O’Rourke (h-t), F. Cregg for C. Cregg (62), C. Hussey for Hughes (69).
CLARE: S. Ryan; G. Kelly, C. Brennan, K. Harnett; D. Ryan, P. Lillis, C. O’Dea; C. Russell, C. O’Connor; S. Collins, D. Tubridy, D. Coughlan; G. O’Brien, E. Cleary, K. Sexton.
Subs: J. Morrissey for O’Brien (49), A. Sweeney for Ryan (55), D. Masterson for O’Connor (61), E. McMahon for Sexton (65).
Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).