Roscommon 0-17 Cork 1-11: Roscommon promoted, Cork safe. Well, as good as. Cork dropping to Division 3 can only materialise if Meath draw against Louth next weekend and Down overcome Tipp by at least 13 points. Those are two sizeable ifs.
Irrespective, that Cork weren’t able to guarantee their own safety says plenty about their up and down spring, more down than up considering they wobbled when promotion came back into view, finished with back-to-back defeats and lost three of their four home fixtures.
Not surprisingly, manager Ronan McCarthy took a different view. His opinion is that Cork are “in a good place” ahead of summer.
The Cork boss expanded: “In most games, we have been competitive. The second half against Louth and Cavan was poor. Other than that, we had a go. Today, we had a real go. What you want is for the players to give it everything they have. There is no question today that they gave every ounce they had to try and win the game.”
That wasn’t exactly the case during the opening 16 minutes as Roscommon, with the aid of a notable wind, burst into a 0-7 to 0-2 lead. Diarmuid Murtagh, 19-year-old Ciaran Lennon (0-2), Donie Smith and Ciaran Murtagh landed five unanswered points to establish said five-point gap, with both of Cork’s early scores arriving via the placed ball.
Colm O’Neill was swallowed up by four yellow shirts before being pulled for over-carrying, while Mark Collins had a kick at goal blocked by Fergal Lennon.
Roscommon’s hunger was more insatiable and their advantage could have been greater but for a fine Ryan Price save to deny Conor Devaney two minutes in.
And yet for all their early dominance, the visitors to Hyde Park put a significant dent in Roscommon’s lead on 20 minutes. Cillian O’Hanlon’s high ball in on top of Peter Kelleher - one of the few occasions where the full-forward was properly utilised - was fielded by the Kilmichael man. He turned toward goal and, despite two defenders dragging out of him, slipped the ball past Colm Lavin.
Cork had a second goal chance later in the half but Ian Maguire was smothered just as he went to pull the trigger. As it was, two Colm O’Neill frees and one from the industrious John O’Rourke had McCarthy’s charges level, 1-7 to 0-10, at the break.
Cork went back into their shell upon the change of ends. Lennon and Conor Daly, the latter at the end of a well-worked move, both split the posts to provide Kevin McStay’s side with a buffer for when their opponents decided to ratchet up the intensity.
Matthew Taylor, with a real quality point from distance, sub Michael Hurley and Mark Collins’ second edged Cork in front for the first time on 55 minutes, 1-10 to 0-12.
Crucially, though, they were unable to hold this position and added just one more point thereafter. Mind you, it wasn’t for the want of chances. Both Colm O’Neill and Mark Collins were off target in the closing stages, while Cathal Vaughan was too casual in possession with Cork having plenty of bodies inside the opposition 45-metre line.
“We had a free which could have pushed us two ahead, but we never got away from them,” McCarthy continued.
“We showed real courage throughout the game, played high tempo and caused them trouble up front. Defensively, we were probably a bit open for the first 20 minutes. After that, we settled. There were some magnificent performances in the backline from Kevin Crowley, Kevin Flahive and Jamie O’Sullivan.
“It was our best performance of the league. We would come away from the game very positive and optimistic.”
As for the winners, they’ll take immense satisfaction from how quickly they’ve managed to secure a return ticket to Division 1. The strength of their bench was telling, with Niall Daly, Cathal Cregg and Enda Smith reinvigorating their attack.
Cregg was one of two Roscommon players sent to the line in second-half stoppages. But most impressive was their response when Cork snuck in front with a quarter of an hour remaining. Diarmuid Murtagh (0-2, one free), Daly and Cregg rose four white flags in as many minutes and they were never likely to be caught thereafter.
With the average age of the squad being 24, the future again looks bright for Roscommon football.
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Scorers for Roscommon:
D Murtagh (0-5, 0-3 frees); C Murtagh (0-2 frees), D Smith, C Lennon (0-3 each); C Daly, N Daly, C Cregg (0-1 each).
Scorers for Cork:
C O’Neill (0-5, 0-3 frees); C O’Neill (0-3); P Kelleher (1-0); M Taylor, M Hurley, J O’Rourke (0-1 each).
C Lavin; D Murray, F Lennon, P Domican; C Daly, U Harney, B Stack; T O’Rourke, C Compton; C Murtagh, N Kilroy, C Devaney; D Smith, C Lennon, D Murtagh.
N Daly for Murray (44 mins); E Smith for D Smith (47); C Cregg for O’Rourke (53); S McDermott for Devaney (67); F Cregg for Lennon (68); I Kilbride for C Daly (70).
R Price; K Crowley, J O’Sullivan, K Flahive; M Taylor, S Wilson, T Clancy; I Maguire, C O’Hanlon; R O’Toole, M Collins, J O’Rourke; C O’Neill, P Kelleher, S Sherlock.
M Hurley for Sherlock (48 mins); D Quinn for T Clancy (51); P Clancy for Taylor (58); D O’Connor for Kelleher (59); C Vaughan for Maguire (61, inj); D O’Callaghan for O’Toole (65).
P Hughes (Armagh).
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