Roscommon placed one foot in Division 1 with tonight's top of table victory over second tier title challengers Armagh.
Played at the Athletic Grounds in an almost empty stadium, two second half goals in as many minutes from the Rossies did the damage and they finished worthy winners.
Anthony Cunningham’s men dictated much of the second half tempo and they used their greater experience to manage the game over the line, whereas Armagh looked to be holding the aces up their sleeve early on but lost their shape when it mattered.
Roscommon seemed to be enjoying the lion's share of possession, but it was the Orchard side that proved more clinical in the opening half. The Rossies squandered eight early scoring chances with seven first-half wides whereas Armagh only kicked one first-half wide.
There didn’t seem to be too many problems of having no competitive games since March. BVoth teams looked physically stronger and it was clear to see much of the Covid months were spent in home gyms.
Rian O’Neill’s converted free opened the scoring on six minutes and his Crossmaglen club-mate Callum Cumiskey doubled the lead after Aidan Forker delivered the perfect pass to allow him to claim a forward mark.
Armagh were set up defensive early on and they did a great job shutting Roscommon out and it took the Connacht men 14 minutes to break their duck with Cian McKeon grabbing that honour.
Two Oisin O’Neill points in three minutes gave Armagh a 0-04 to 0-01 lead as they started to exert some pressure up top. Players like Jamie Clarke, Stefan Campbell and Rory Grugan had been disciplined in defence but gradually showed their teeth in attack.
Young Conor Turbitt extended Armagh’s lead before Roscommon hit back with McKeon striking his second point and Conor Cox steered over his free.
And on 34 minutes Enda Smith was fouled has he powered through for goal and he made no mistake from the resultant penalty to give the Rossies the lead for the first time.
However, their time in front was short-lived as Armagh rallied with Rory Grugan scoring twice either side of Rian O’Neill’s curling beauty, to give the Orchard side a 0-08 to 1-03 lead at the break.
Points from Grugan and Rian O’Neill had Armagh pulling away but Roscommon ripped that script up with two goals in as many minutes.
Smith coolly converted his second penalty on 43 minutes and two minutes later Conor Daly had bagged Roscommon’s third goal after Conor Cox’s wonderful driving run.
Roscommon’s tails were up, and Cox and McKeown followed up with points, while Rian O’Neill replied (free) for Armagh as the Rossies led by three at the second water-break (0-11 to 3-05).
The Rossies managed the game brilliantly in the last quarter as they held a goal-chasing Armagh at arm’s length with points from Ciaran Lennon and the impressive Conor Cox wrapping up victory.
Armagh: Blaine Hughes; Ryan Kennedy, Aidan Forker, Paddy Burns; Conor O’Neill, James Morgan, Callum Cumiskey (0-01); Niall Grimley, Oisin O’Neill (0-04, 0-01f, 0-01m); Conor Turbitt (0-01), Stefan Campbell, Mark Shields; Rory Grugan (0-03, 0-02fs), Rian O’Neill (0-05, 0-03fs) Jamie Clarke (0-01).
Subs used: Aaron McKay for Kennedy (ht), Jarly Og Burns for Turbitt (46mins), Paul Hughes for O’Neill (54mins), Joe McElroy for Campbell (58mins), Jemar Hall for Cumiskey (62mins).
Roscommon: Colm Lavin, David Murray, Conor Daly (1-00), Sean Mullooly, Ronan Daly (0-02), Brian Stack, Niall Daly, Cathal Compton, Tadgh O’Rourke, Niall Kilroy, Enda Smith (2-00, 2-00 pens) Cian McKeon (0-03, 0-01f), Ciaran Lennon (0-01), Conor Cox (0-04, 0-03fs), Cathal Cregg.
Subs used: Conor Devaney for Cregg (43mins), Ciaran Murtagh for Kilroy (43mins), Conor Hussey for C Daly (50mins), Shane Killoran for O’Rourke (59mins), Eddie Nolan for Compton (62mins).
Referee: D Gough (Meath).