Four Roads 1-19 Athleague 1-08
Four Roads are back on top of the Roscommon hurling tree for the first time since 2015 after they comprehensively outhurled 2018 champions Athleague in this afternoon's county senior final at Waldron Park, the home field of their opponents.
A fast start was always likely to be high on the agenda for pre-match favourites Four Roads, who faced the prospect of becoming the first team to lose four senior finals in succession. They certainly dealt with any nervousness or tension arising from that situation in the best possible way, with James Fitzmaurice firing in a goal after two minutes after Brendan Mulry opened up the Athleague defence.
A string of early points saw Four Roads move 1-4 to 0-01 in front by the midway point of the first half but a series of stoppages curbed their momentum and Athleague slowly worked their way back into the tie.
A handful of dead ball scores from Eamon Flanagan kept them in the game up to half time, when Four Roads went in with a 1-7 to 0-5 lead. Veteran Gary Fallon also played a key role for Athleague at centre back, repelling a number of attacks and offering a solid physical presence on the ’45.
County panellist Johnny Coyne, who hadn’t played a minute of competitive hurling all year due to a knee injury, came off the bench and fired over a point from the first attack to stretch Four Roads’ lead, while his neighbour Padráig Kelly also became increasingly involved at wing forward, splitting the posts with a couple of superb strikes.
A close-range goal from Eamon Flanagan in the 44th minute kept Athleague’s hopes alive but they were struggling to gain any traction up front, with the other starting forwards scoring just two points between them over the course of the hour.
They needed to add more scores to that however and failed to convert two glorious goal chances that followed almost immediately after Flanagan’s green flag. Roscommon player Robbie Fallon found himself in space 30 metres from goal but he fumbled when it was time to try and strike for goal, while a high ball that broke off Four Roads goalkeeper David Dowd rolled into the path of Cian Murray in the large square but the attacker failed to make contact with his attempted ground pull.
As the contest went on, Four Roads began to stretch their lead again and it turned out that Flanagan’s goal was to be Athleague’s last score of the game.
Padraig Kelly brought his total from play to five points, earning him the man of the match award, while Shane Curley and Noel Fallon also struck top quality points for the winners, who have now increased their lead on the top of the Roscommon Roll of Honour after winning their 34th senior crown, ten more than Roscommon Gaels.
Four Roads: David Dowd; Cormac Coyle, Jamie Lawlor, Martin McLoughlin; Jack Donnelly, Micheál Kelly, John Moran; Shane Curley (0-01), Conor Coyle; Cathal Dolan (0-09, 0-06 frees), Noel Fallon (0-02), Padraig Kelly (0-05); James Cunniffe (1-00), Brendan Mulry, Andrew Lawlor.
Subs used: Johnny Coyne (0-02) for A Lawlor (HT), Diarmuid Treacy for Cunniffe (51), Donal Kelly for Donnelly (57), James Fitzmaurice for Fallon (60), Mark McLoughlin for Martin McLoughin (60+2)
Athleague: David Connell; David Delaney, Alan Moore, Aaron Donnelly; Niall Connolly, Gary Fallon, Pat Nolan; Darragh Heavey, Cormac Kelly (0-01); David Flaherty, Ben McGahon (0-01), Stephen Kilcommons; Cian Murray (0-01), Robbie Fallon, Eamon Flanagan (1-05, 0-03 frees, 0-01 '65).
Subs used: Eoghan Coyle for Kilcommons (HT), Tomás Clayton for Donnelly (39), Tomás Connaughton for Murray (55), Paul Flaherty for McGahon (55)
Referee: Christy Browne