Murtagh leads the way as Rossies recover to overwhelm brave Sligo
Roscommon 4-16 Sligo 2-13
Roscommon don't do things simply. They can go from one extreme to the other and you are never sure where they will end up.
At half-time yesterday, they trailed a Sligo side two divisions below them by 2-8 to 0-6. Eight points. There was a wind but that wasn't the only reason.
It was more a case that Roscommon laboured with the ball in possession, often perhaps trying too hard to find the optimum person in a position to score.
Sligo let it rip, driving the ball long and hoping to bring key guys like Pat Hughes and Adrian Marren into position. They thrived and who knows what might have happened had Marren not picked up a black card for checking David Murray just before the break.
That, coupled with the loss through injury of former All-Star defender Charlie Harrison, were to prove big blows to a Sligo side who knew there would be a response from the Rossies.
"We were eight points up but I suppose after losing Charlie Harrison and Adrian Marren in the first half it was always going to be difficult," admitted Sligo manager Niall Carew.
"Obviously losing Charlie Harrison, defensively we were kind of going to struggle then because we don't have anyone with that experience.
"Overall we were in a great position but the half-time whistle came too early for us.
"Adrian was playing well. He was a handful, they were struggling with him. And when you lose a player like that, up front, your marksman, they're the kind of players who keep you ticking over, get a point or two and keep those pockets of energy going. But Roscommon blitzed us in the second half and I have to commend them for that."
Marren, who also scored a penalty as part of a 1-7 haul in last year's shock semi-final win over Roscommon, had posted 1-3 by the time he got the yellow card.
But if Roscommon breathed a sigh of relief when he was dismissed it was nothing on the sense of relief which greeted Senan Kilbride's fisted goal just 30 seconds after the restart.
They turned around with Sligo in a commanding 2-8 to 0-6 lead, with Marren slotting home a 21st-minute penalty after the impressive Pat Hughes was fouled.
Their use of direct ball yielded another goal just before the break when Leaving Cert student Kyle Cawley finished a rebound after Murray had done well to scramble his initial effort off the line.
Sligo made both of their goal chances count, while at the other end Roscommon missed a host of gilt-edged chances with Cathal Cregg blazing a glorious opportunity wide, while Donie Shine saw his effort expertly saved by Aidan Devaney.
But once Kilbride fisted to the net after the restart, Roscommon opened their shoulders and grew in confidence. A second-half scoreline of 4-10 to 0-5 can't be argued with, but joint manager Kevin McStay said they were very worried at the break.
"The goal before half-time really put us in a deep hole. At half-time we knew the wind was decent but we weren't playing well enough to break up eight points," he said.
"We were very worried. Eight points down in a Championship match would normally mean curtains but we didn't feel we were eight points an inferior team. Four or five maybe.
"But if we could keep going until the last minute, get a little bit more composure, we felt we are a scoring team.
"When we get moving we do accumulate fairly quickly and to score 4-10 in the second half and keep Sligo to five is maybe a bit flattering on us but a decent turnover by our fellas as well."
He said Kilbride's goal directly after the break was a huge score. They turned the screw afterwards, with Fintan and Cathal Cregg combing to send their captain Ciaran Murtagh through for a fine goal to level the match at 2-10 apiece after 50 minutes.
Murtagh then stepped forward to slot home a penalty after Kilbride had been fouled and while they continued to miss goal chances, Enda Smith fired home their fourth in the closing stages of an entertaining match.
They can look forward to their first Connacht final in five years, but McStay stressed this is a team that is still finding its way.
"There's only five of last year's team that started against Sligo started today. The people of Roscommon just have to be patient and let these fellas get themselves grounded at this level of football."
Scorers - Roscommon: C Murtagh 2-2 (1f, 1-0 pen), D Smith 1-1, S Kilbride 1-0, D Keenan 0-3, F Cregg 0-1 (1f), C Devaney 0-3, D Shine 0-2, E Smith 0-2, G Claffey 0-1 (1 '45), J McManus 0-1. Sligo: A Marren 1-3 (1-0 pen), P Hughes 0-5, Kyle
Cawley 1-0, M Breheny 0-3 (0-3f), N Murphy 0-2.
Roscommon - G Claffey 7; S McDermott 6, S Mullooly 6, N McInerney 7; S Purcell 7, J McManus 6, D Murray 6; N Daly 7, D Shine 7; F Cregg 7, C Murtagh 9, C Devaney 8; S Kilbride 7, C Cregg 6, D Keenan 8. Subs: N Collins 7 for Purcell (40), E Smith 7 for C Cregg (50), D Smith 7 for Kilbride (59), C Compton 7 for Shine (59), N Kilroy 6 for F Cregg (69), J McDermott 6 for Keenan (70).
Sligo - A Devaney 8; D Maye 6, K McDonnell 7, E Flanagan 7; Keelan Cawley 7, A McIntyre 6, Brendan Egan 6; N Murphy 7, N Gaughan 6; N Ewing 6, M Breheny 7, C Harrison 6; A Marren 7, P Hughes 8, Kyle Cawley 6. Subs: L Henry 6 for Harrison (23), C Breheny 6 for Marren (35, black), Brian Egan 6 for Kyle Cawley (59), C Henry 6 for Gaughan (63), J Kelly 6 for Maye (74, black)
Ref - Joe McQuillan (Cavan).