Roscommon 1-11 Sligo 1-08
Without ever hitting the high notes that one might expect from a team that competed in an All-Ireland Under-17 FC final three years ago, Roscommon did enough to secure their place in this year's Connacht Under-20 decider when they held off a late Sligo surge in Markievicz Park this afternoon.
Storm Dennis may have rendered a lot of venues unplayable today, including those in both Carrick-on-Shannon and Mohill that were down to host the other semi-final between Galway and Leitrim, but the new playing surface at the home of Sligo GAA was in excellent condition, and the weather couldn’t really be blamed for the fact that this game never seemed to catch fire.
Roscommon did produce some decent football in the opening quarter, building up a lead they were able to defend for the remainder of the game.
Sligo manager Dessie Sloyan gambled by putting his key man, former Australian Rules player Red Óg Murphy, into the full-forward position at the start of the game.
This backfired as his one shot on goal was blocked by Dylan Gaughan, while Roscommon had the aid of the wind so the bulk of the play took place in front of the Sligo goal.
Ciarán Lawless struck two excellent 45s to get them off the mark, and that was followed up by a tap in goal for corner forward Adam McDermott, as easy a finish as the Castlerea man will ever get in his career after he pounced on a catastrophic kick out from Daniel Lyons.
McDermott earned another free that was tapped over the bar by Peter Gillooly and when Paul Carey followed up with a nice score on the run, all was going to plan for Liam Tully’s side.
Yet suddenly, inexplicably, the visiting side seemed to lose a step of vim and vigour, and Sligo were able to creep back into the tie.
Red Óg Murphy was pushed back out to midfield where he was far more influential, while they also started to get to grips with the Roscommon half-forward line, particularly the danger men that were Paul Carey and Paul McManus.
Alan Reilly got the home side off the mark with a point in the 19th minute and while Roscommon added the next two scores, a mistake on the right side of their defence in first half injury time led to an overlap and a goal chance.
This in turn resulted in a desperate tackle by Pearse Frost on Joe Keaney that conceded a penalty, and Murphy duly slotted home the spot kick.
That left Sligo just five points adrift at the break, 1-6 to 1-1, a far less daunting lead than had been the case up to that point.
Conor Murray cut the gap even further with a point from the first attack of the second half, but for the next twenty minutes Roscommon simply contained their opponents, moving six points clear and holding it at that.
The full-back line of Pearse Frost, Colin Walsh and Dylan Gaughan (until his injury) kept things tight and it was only the closing stages that Sligo found another gear, inspired by two points in 50 seconds from Murray and Gavin Duffy.
Two frees from Murphy and a mark from Duffy reduced the gap to a goal after the first of six minutes of injury time, but that was to be as good as it got as Roscommon held the ball for the majority of the remaining overtime, ensuring that goalkeeper Michael O’Donnell didn’t have a save to make and their passage to the provincial final was secured.
Roscommon: Michael O'Donnell; Pearse Frost, Colin Walsh, Dylan Gaughan; Cian Murray (0-01), Niall Higgins, Paul McGrath; Keith Doyle (0-01), Ciaran Lawless (0-02, 45’s); Rúairí Fallon, Paul McManus, Paul Carey (0-02, 0-01 free); Adam McDermott (1-01, 0-01 free), Darragh Walsh (0-01), Peter Gillooly (0-02, frees).
Subs: Robbie Dolan for Murray (HT), Andrew Lyons (0-01, mark) for McDermott (39), John Martin for Gaughan (43), Dylan Sumner for Doyle (51), Ciarán Sugrue for Gillooly (59).
Sligo: Daniel Lyons; Kevin O'Hara, Evan Lyons, Jack Lavin; Sean Carroll, Cian Surlis, Eoghan Sweeney; Joe Keaney, Gavin Gorman; Shane Deignan, Eoghan Smith (0-01), Conor Murray (0-02); Barry Cafferky, Red Óg Murphy (1-02, 1-00 penalty, 0-02 frees), Alan Reilly (0-01).
Subs: James Carroll for Cafferky (30), Gavin Duffy (0-02, 0-01 mark) for Reilly (43), Oisín McCann for O'Hara (45), Niall Murphy for Carroll (54).
Referee: Tadhg Murphy (Galway)