Roscommon boss Kevin McStay digs heels in over Hyde Park for final

Leitrim 0-10 Roscommon 0-24
A venue row is looming in Connacht as Roscommon prepare to retain the provincial title for the first time since 1991.

They are entitled to home advantage if Galway win Sunday’s semi-final — a Sligo victory will see it go to a neutral venue — but the Connacht Council have indicated that Hyde Park, with capacity restricted to 18,000 and work still needed to be carried out at the venue, is unsuitable for the decider.

Two years ago the replay against Galway, after a draw in Salthill, was played in Castlebar but Roscommon manager Kevin McStay is adamant they will not have to forfeit home advantage this time round.

He said he didn’t talk about it until they reached the Connacht final but he said on Saturday night that the venue should not be an issue if they are to play Galway for a third year in a row.

“We are in the Connacht final, we have the home venue. It will be played in the Hyde. I have no doubt it will. We’ll certainly be turning up in the Hyde, I hope someone else is there to meet us on the day and we’d be very, very absolute about that.”

The Connacht Council, noting that recent provincial deciders have attracted crowds in the region of 22,000, will wait until after Sunday’s semi-final between Galway and Sligo before declaring a final venue, but McStay is having none of it.

“Whether that’s a difficult position for the Connacht Council or the GAA at a national level, that doesn’t bother me. I’m the manager of the Roscommon senior football team and my responsibility is to the 34 players to give us the best chance of retaining our title.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is not a debate and the Roscommon senior football team will be in Hyde Park on the 17th of June.”

The Connacht final venue will not be a concern for Leitrim. Their hopes of reaching the decider for the first time since 2000 never got off the ground. 

They were lucky to get out of New York earlier this month but played far too defensively in their own backyard at Páirc Sean MacDiarmada on Saturday evening, often having two sweepers in operation.

They did not score for 40 minutes, they were level at 0-2 after nine minutes and by the time they got their third point from sub Darragh Rooney in the 49th minute, Roscommon had surged 0-13 to 0-3 clear.

“Difficult evening,” admitted Leitrim boss Benny Guckian. 

“The first half we tried to defend and obviously keep Roscommon from scoring goals. I thought we did it relatively well but some of the scores from the Roscommon forward line were exceptional and it made them very difficult to defend against. We just have to regroup focus on ourselves and plan accordingly.” 

Roscommon led by 0-9 to 0-2 at the break, having played with the wind.

Diarmuid Murtagh and his brother Ciarán did a lot of the damage, but by the end 13 different players found the range.

Indeed, when John McManus went forward to score late in the game he became the third member of the half-back to score.

Cathal Cregg came on to score four superb points from play in the second-half and it took some good saves from goalkeeper Diarmuid McKiernan and some frantic defending to prevent Roscommon from getting goals.

Scorers for Leitrim: D Moran (0-3), K Beirne (2f), D Rooney (0-2 each); S Quinn, E Mulligan (45), R O’Rourke (0-1 each).

Scorers for Roscommon: D Murtagh (0-5, 2f); C Cregg (0-4); C Murtagh (0-3, 1f); E Smith, D Smith (0-2 each); J McManus, F Cregg, B Stack, C Compton, T O’Rourke, N Kilroy, C Devaney, S Killoran (0-1 each).

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 (HT), D Rooney for Beirne (43), D Moran & O Madden for M. Plunkett & Gallagher (52), E Ward for James Rooney (68), D Flynn for A Flynn (70)

ROSCOMMON: Colm Lavin; David Murray, Peter Domican, Niall McInerney; John McManus, Fintan Cregg, Brian Stack; Cathal Compton, Tadhg O’Rourke; Enda Smith, Niall Kilroy, Conor Devaney; Dónal Smith, Diarmuid Murtagh, Ciaráin Murtagh.

Subs: C Daly & C Cregg for E. Smith & C. Murtagh (52), S Killoran & R Stack for B. Stack & Kilroy (59), F Cregg for D. Smith (61), P Kelly for Compton (66).

Referee: Joe McQuillan.


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