Roscommon and Armagh served up the game of the season so far in O’Moore Park, Portlaoise this afternoon as the two goals from Enda Smith saw the Connacht finalists book their place in the Super 8s competition.
It was a blistering, fast-paced encounter with little fouling, instead plenty of skill and wonderful finishing were on display. Armagh enjoyed the better of the opening spell of the game, despite the Rossies had an early goal chance from Cathal Cregg denied.Kieran McGeeney’s side gave an exhibition of shooting with seven scores from seven shots in the first 15 minutes. Aidan Forker and Andrew Murnin were particularly impressive with the latter causing the Roscommon defence a myriad of problems.
Roscommon were never far behind with Ciaráin Murtagh keeping the scoreboard ticking over while Cathal Cregg constantly disrupted the Armagh full-back line. They’re break came when they turned over the ball after a sloppy pass in the Armagh half-forward line and Niall Kilroy instigated a wonderful passing display that resulted in Enda Smith burying the ball in Blaine Hughes’ goal. Armagh responded immediately, again through Andew Murnin but the Rossies pushed on with renewed energy through the two Murtaghs and they found themselves one point up at half-time.
Armagh began the second half as Roscommon did the first, Rory Grugan sprinted in on goal but had to settle with his shot blazing over the bar. Cathal Cregg sent two more scores flying over as Roscommon settled into their rhythm once more. A hugely pivotal moment in the match came as Armagh were awarded a penalty after Niall McInerney foot-blocked in the square. Rory Grugan stepped up to take the penalty that would have left just one point between the sides but Colm Lavin produced a magnificent save to deny him with the follow-up bending wide.
They got their third goal chance just minutes later when Mark Shields plucked the ball from the air and turned on goal, beat two tacklers and this time, Lavin was beaten. Roscommon began to throw off the shackles and run directly at the Armagh defence which led to two frees, neither of which Murtagh could convert. Donie Smith, together with Diarmuid Murtagh extended their lead however as they stretched into a four point advantage with 10 minutes to go. They had a chance to kill off the game when Cathal Cregg fought his through on goal but kicked just wide.
Just as in their game against Clare, Armagh refused to lie down and punished Roscommon for their poor decision making in their half-back line, twice turning over possession with Niall Grimley pointing on both occasions. The Orchard county smelled blood and pushed up on the Rossies defence with substitute, Gavin McPartland making it a one point game.
With the game ticking into the final minutes, Grimley and Cathal Compton traded points before Armagh’s Patrick Burns let a golden goal opportunity slip away. Murtagh calmed the storm with a well timed point before Fintan Cregg added another. A minute after Murtagh missed a goal chance, Smith once again buried the ball past Blaine Hughes to seal the victory and the place in the Super 8s.
Roscommon: Colm Lavin; David Murray, Niall McInerney, Seán McDermott; John McManus, Peter Domican, Conor Devaney (0-1); Niall Kilroy, Tadgh O’Rourke; Ciaráin Murtagh (0-6, 2f), Cathal Cregg (0-4), Enda Smith (2-1); Donie Smith (0-2), Ultan Harney, Diarmuid Murtagh (0-6, 3f)
Substitutions: Cathal Compton (0-1) for Smith (51) Finbarr Cregg for Ciaráin Murtagh (53) Cathay Compton for Donie Smith (55) Conor Daly for McDermott (59) Fintan Cregg (0-1) for Kilroy (63).
Armagh: Blaine Hughes; Patrick Burns, Connaire Mackin, Gregory McCabe; Mark Shields (1-0), Brendan Donaghy, Aidan Forker (0-2); Charlie Vernon, Connaire Mackin; Rory Grugan (0-6, 2f), Jemar Hall (0-2), Niall Grimley (0-3, 1f); Ryan McShane, Andrew Murnin (0-5), Stephen Sheridan.
Substitutions: Joe McElroy for McCabe (33) Ross McQuillan for Sheridan (43) Niall Rowland for Donaghy (48). Gavin McPartland (0-1) for Grimley (52).