After a hugely difficult year at senior level that culminated in a fifth successive defeat last Sunday afternoon, Roscommon football supporters finally had something to cheer about tonight their under-20 side overcame Leitrim in a local derby contest that for long stretches, was far more competitive than the 18-point winning margin would suggest.
Right up until first half injury time, Leitrim were right in this game, and only a series of bad wides meant that they trailed by 0-9 to 0-6. For the last 20 minutes of the game, plus stoppage time, it was 0-4 each. In between however, was carnage.
Leitrim midfielder Gavin Reynolds was black carded for dragging down Ben O'Carroll some 20 metres out from the Leitrim goal, and while referee Liam Devenney didn’t give Roscommon a penalty, the Rossies went on to score four goals unanswered in a crazy six-minute spell either side of half time.
With the very next play after Daire Cregg chipped over the 20 metre free, one of nine points on the night for the Boyle player, Leitrim won the kickout but were turned over at midfield and Adam McDermott was able to finish the move with a good low finish.
McDermott could have had a second with the last play of the first half, as he attempted to palm Ben O'Carroll’s pass over the Leitrim goal-line. Seán Reynolds made a great recovery to dive and save, but he couldn’t hold onto possession and O’Carroll was able to force the ball over the line from close range.
Less than twenty seconds after the second half began, Roscommon had their third goal, Darragh Heneghan the scorer after good work from Ronan Garvin and Keith Doyle set up the opportunity. Remarkably, Roscommon made it four goals in succession two minutes later through James Fitzpatrick, and by the time Gavin Reynolds came back on the field, his team had conceded 4-2 in total.
Leitrim were much improved once they were back up to their full complement, and Tom Prior in particular stood out with some excellent scores, but by then Roscommon manager Liam Tully had used his bench and taken the chance to rest some of his key players, with one eye on a contest against Sligo in eight days’ time.
It was all a remarkable turnaround from the early exchanges.
Captain Paul Keaney led by example from midfield and in general, Leitrim’s physicality and power was a big factor on a wet pitch with rain alternating from light to heavy at different times.
A very sharp Roscommon attack seemed capable of kicking scores, with O’Carroll, McDermott and man of the match Cregg all very impressive in front of the posts. But despite this they struggled to shake Leitrim off, even though Leitrim were guilty of seven wides in the first half.
Roscommon’s 0-7 to 0-2 lead was cut down to 0-9 to 0-6, but it was all about to change in the 30th minute. Gavin Reynolds was robbed in possession by Cregg, and the Leitrim midfield man’s attempt to make up for his error as he chased down Ben O’Carroll prove to be a decisive turning point.
Roscommon: Conor Carroll; Connor Lohan, Colin Walsh, Dylan Gaughan; Patrick Gavin, Tomás Crean, Cian Glennon; Keith Doyle (0-01), Ronan Garvin; Darragh Heneghan (1-00), Daire Cregg (0-09, 0-05 frees), Robbie Dolan; Ben O’Carroll (1-02, 0-01 free), Adam McDermott (1-03), James Fitzpatrick (1-01).
Subs: Jason Doory for McDermott (38), Jack Lohan for Crean (38), Evan Corcoran for Heneghan (42), Enda Crawley for Garvin (45), Brian O’Hara Duggan for Glennon (51).
Leitrim: Seán Reynolds; Patrick McKenna (0-01), Eoin McLoughlin, Niall Keegan; Radek Oberwan, Jack Flynn, Tom Gilheaney; Paul Keaney (0-03, 0-02 frees), Gavin Reynolds; David O’Connell, Adam Reynolds, Colin Moran; Barry McWeeney (0-01), Tom Prior (0-03), Oisín Bohan (0-02, frees).
Subs: Shane McGloin for Gilheaney (11, blood), Matthew Earley for S Reynolds (31), Kevin Brady for O’Connell (35), Oisín Niblock for Oberwan (37), Shane McGloin for Keegan (40), Senan Harte for McWeeney (45).
Referee: Liam Devenney (Mayo)