NFL round-up: Roscommon dispatch Donegal to continue stellar form; Cork beat Monaghan
HAIL the conquering heroes of Roscommon who continued their dream season by beating Donegal in Letterkenny.
The win guarantees the Connacht side a place in Division 1 next season and having now beaten Kerry, Cork and Donegal away from home they are on course to reach the League semi-final just a couple of seasons after playing in Division 3.
Better still for the side managed jointly by Kevin McStay and Fergal O'Donnell they now could decide the fate of neighbours Mayo as the two Connacht finals have yet to meet this spring.
Even though Roscommon lost two of their most influential players Enda Smith and Senan Kilbride before the start – they failed to recover from knocks they picked up against Monaghan – the Connacht side scored the first four points.
They continued to dominate the game against a lack lustre home side and deserving led 0-11 to 0-6 at the break. There was no respite for the home side after the break as Roscommon increased their advantage to seven points.
Finally Rory Gallagher's side got some traction as Michael Murphy took charge and they reduced the margin to four points (0-14; 0-10) as the visitors wobbled. The home side were not on a roll and a Paddy McBreaty point left two between the teams with 15 minutes to go, though they had Odhran MacNiallais dismissed.
But in their moment of crisis Roscommon responded magnificently with a goal from Cathal Cregg which virtually assured them of the spoils and they comfortably held their nerve to condemn Donegal to their second consecutive defeat and their first on home soil in league or championship in two years.
Kerry too are back in the hunt for a place in the semi-finals after their win over Mayo.
Kerr scored the first two points in Castlebar but Mayo hit the next four as the visitors' chief marksman Bryan Sheehan missed two frees. Even though Johnny Buckley was very influential it was Mayo who kept the scoreboard registering in the second quarter as they stretched their lead to four points (0-7; 0-3).
The visitors' only score came from a Sheehan free but deep in injury time Mayo paid the price for not policing Buckley when he careered through the centre and blasted past Rob Hennelly in the Mayo goal to narrow the gap to a point.
Kerry wrapped up their first away of the campaign in the third quarter when they hit 1-4 without reply. Their second goal from Donnchadh Walsh came after a bad error from Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly and just to compound Mayo's difficulties his accuracy from long distance frees then went awry.
It matters little that Kerry lost Kieran Donaghy – two yellow cards – and Peter Crowley (black card) in the final quarter as they controlled the tempo of the game. Mayo's frustrations surfaced near the end when Diarmuid O'Connor was sent off on a second yellow.
Kerry are now hunt down a place in the final while Mayo are locked in a battle with Cork, Monaghan and possible Down to avoid relegation.
Seeking their second win in the competition Cork made a dream start against Monaghan at Pairc Ui Rinn racing into a 1-5 early lead with Colm O'Neill hitting the goal.
The former All Star continued to torment the Monaghan defence scoring 1-4 of their 1-8 total as they continued to dominate the exchanges with Conor McManus hitting two of Monaghan's first three points.
With McManus becoming increasingly influential the visitors got back into the contest when the All Star set up a goal for colleague Conor McCarthy, though Cork were still in command at the break leading by six points (1-12; 1-6) the the home side maintained their second half dominance to condemn Monaghan to their third successive defeat this season.
Meath's Mickey Newman and Tyrone's Ronan O'Neill exchanged early goals in Navan but the Division 2 leaders Tyrone led by four points at the break (1-10; 1-6) and they outscored the home side 7-5 in the second half to assure themselves of a quick return to the top flight.
The other two games in Division 2 ended in unlikely draws which did no favours to the four teams involved, Derry, Laois, Galway and Armagh.
There was a long delay in Portlaoise due to an injury to Laois midfielder Kieran Lillis but there was no shortage of entertainment as visitors Derry hit five goals but conceded 22 points. The point secured by the visitors keeps alive their slim promotion chances whereas Laois are still mired in a relegation dogfight.
Meanwhile, there was a dramatic finish at the Athletic Ground where 14 man Armagh who once lead by eight points conceded a goal four minutes into injury time. A draw keeps Galway promotion chances alive through they are now level with second placed Cavan. Armagh remain rooted at the bottom of the table.
The key match in this division is likely to be the last round encounter between Cavan and Galway.
The form book was torn to shreds in Division 3 with three surprise results. Leaders Kildare lost their one hundred percent performance when they went down by a point at home to Sligo, managed by former Kildare player Niall Carew. It was the first away win Sligo achieved under Carew but the two points eases their relegation worries.
Second and third placed Clare and Tipperary were also beaten. The Premier County lost to Longford who are now back in the hunt for promotion as are Offaly who seen off the challenge of Clare at O'Connor Park.
There were no surprises in Division 4 as the three front runners for promotion Antrim, Wexford and Louth all triumphed.
Allianz FL Division 1
Cork 1-20 Monaghan 1-13
Mayo 0-00 Kerry 0-00
Roscommon 1-19; Donegal 0-17
Allianz FL Division 2
Tyrone 1-17; Meath 1-11
Laois 1-22; Derry 5-10
Armagh 1-15 Galway 1-15
Allianz FL Division 3
Longford 1-17; Tipperary 1-11
Sligo 2-15; Kildare 2-14
Offaly 0-15; Clare 1-11
Allianz FL Division 4
Leitrim 1-16; London 1-11
Louth 2-17; Carlow 1-7
Antrim 1-16; Waterford 0-6
Wexford 4-23; Wicklow 3-14