Brian Barry reports from Croke Park as Roscommon were crowned Allianz Football League Division 2 champions, after beating Cavan 4-16 to 4-12.
Cavan and Roscommon descended on Croke Park this afternoon, both eager to finish their Allianz League campaigns on a high. After winning promotion to Division 1 for 2019, the sides were aiming to head into summer with silverware under the belt.
It was a pulsating tie from start to finish. Roscommon dominated proceedings for the majority of the first half, but crucially the Connacht champions were unable to deal with Cavan’s running counter-attacks.
Conor Bradley and Dara McVeety bagged similar goals with piercing runs through the Rossies’ defence, and the latter could have had another green flag earlier in the game were he not dragged down in the large square. However, Martin O’Reilly stepped up and buried it past James Featherston.
Reilly’s spot-kick gave Mattie McGleenan’s outfit a 2-01 to 0-1 lead, but from there Roscommon took control, scoring eight points in succession as Donie Smith, Conor Devaney and Diarmuid Murtagh caused havoc.
McVeety’s green flag did bring Cavan back into it, as Roscommon led 0-12 to 3-02 at the break.
After the break, Cavan started the brighter, scoring three of the first four points. However, when Conor Devaney stole in behind the Cavan rearguard, he drew the goalkeeper and hand-passed to Niall Kilroy who duly palmed the ball into the empty net to put Roscommon 1-13 to 3-05 ahead.
Moments later, David Murray raised the Rossies’ second green flag, and suddenly Kevin McStay’s charges were five points to the good.
Enda Smith’s introduction gave the Connacht outfit yet another lift, and the Boyle man had an immediate impact, bursting forward to score a point with his first possession of the game. Cavan’s defence, impressive in the first half, was beginning to crumble.
However, there was life in the Breffni yet, as Enda Flanagan volleyed the ball into the goal, to bring the gap to just two.
Some last-gasp Roscommon defending prevented Stephen Murray from scoring Cavan’s fifth goal minutes later, before Seánie Johnston sent the ball over the bar from the right to level the tie with 10 minutes remaining.
That was as good as it got for Cavan. The introduction of Cathal Cregg was telling, as he bagged two goals to give the Rossies a commanding lead.
As the clock ticked on, there was a sense that the Ulster outfit needed another goal to mount the comeback, but when Conor Madden smashed the ball straight at Featherston from 14 yards, it looked like time was up. Gearóid McKiernan and Seánie Johnston pointed frees to close the gap to three, but Cregg added an insurance point as Roscommon won 4-16 to 4-12.
Roscommon: Cathal Cregg 2-01, Niall Kilroy 1-01, Diarmuid Murtagh 0-04 (0-02 frees), Donie Smith 0-03, Conor Devaney 0-03, David Murray 1-00, Ian Kilbride 0-01, Niall McInerney 0-01, Enda Smith 0-01.
Cavan: Dara McVeety 1-03, Seán Johnston 0-04 (0-02 frees), Enda Flanagan 1-00, Martin Reilly 1-00 (1-00 penalty), Conor Bradley 1-00, Raymond Galligan 0-01 (0-01 ’45), Pádraig Faulkner 0-01, Ciarán Brady 0-01, Gearóid McKiernan 0-01 (0-01 free), Caoimhín O’Reilly 0-01 (0-01 free).
1. James Featherston
2. David Murray
3. Peter Domican
4. Fergal Lennon
5. Conor Daly
6. Ultan Harney
7. Brian Stack
8. Tadhg O’Rourke
9. Cathal Compton
10. Ciaráin Murtagh
11. Niall Kilroy
12. Conor Devaney
13. Donie Smith
14. Ciarán Lennon
15. Diarmuid Murtagh
Niall McInerney for Conor Daly (half-time)
Enda Smith for Tadhg O’Rourke (48th minute)
Cathal Cregg for Ciarán Lennon (51st minute)
Tadhg O’Rourke for Cathal Compton (53rd minute – black card)
Niall Daly for Brian Stack (62nd minute)
Ian Kilbride for Fergal Lennon (67th minute)
1. Raymond Galligan
2. Jason McLoughlin
3. Pádraig Faulkner
4. Enda Flanagan
5. Martin Reilly
6. Ciarán Brady
7. Oisín Kiernan
8. Gearóid McKiernan
9. Killian Clarke
10. Dara McVeety
11. Bryan Magee
12. Cian Mackey
13. Caoimhín O’Reilly
14. Adrian Cole
15. Conor Bradley
Niall Murray for Bryan Magee (29th minute)
Niall Clerkin for Jason McLoughlin (half-time)
Seánie Johnston for Caoimhín O’Reilly (half-time)
Stephen Murray for Enda Flanagan (51st minute)
Conor Madden for Conor Bradley (51st minute)
Conor Moynagh for Dara McVeety (63rd minute)