Shine puts the gloss on triumph
CONNACHT SFC SEMI-FINAL
THE faces of dejection told the story as the Leitrim team filed slowly out of their dressing-room at Hyde Park.
They had come to Roscommon fired with resolve and with a fair degree of confidence that they could heap more woe on the shoulders of Fergal O'Donnell and his side after their relegation from Division 3 of the league.
Of course they had suffered a grievous blow with the death of county stalwart Philly McGuinness in a tragic football accident last April, but in fairness to Leitrim, they were not using that as an excuse for failure to deliver.
Private emotions remained just that among the management and players.
After a minute's silence to honour McGuinness, it was down to the serious business once referee Joe McQuillan threw in the ball. And Leitrim really threw down the gauntlet to the Rossies in that first half. They were positive with the ball, they moved it quickly and mixed the long and short game impressively. The problem for them was some missed chances and a big hunk of Gaeldom called Donie Shine.
Shine started at full-forward, but spent much of the first half withdrawn from that space in front of goal, leaving it open for attacks by fast moving corner-forwards Ger Heneghan and John Rogers, with number 11 Paul Garvey eager to go into the full-forward slot.
It was a good idea but the quick-tackling and eager Leitrim backs held pretty firm. Shine didn't get on the score sheet from play in the first half, but his six points from frees plus one by Heneghan kept Roscommon in touch at half time.
Meanwhile, Leitrim's chief scorer was another marksman from frees -- left half-forward Michael Foley -- who got four from placed balls and one from play as his contribution to their 0-8 to 0-7 lead at the interval.
Roscommon looked nervous in the first half, but once the second half began, they were a side transformed.
Their half-backs, midfield and half-forwards upped the pace and contested fiercely for every ball around the centre field area. It was a blitzkrieg, and it rocked Leitrim.
Once Cathal Cregg slammed over a point after 39 minutes to level the scores at 0-8 each, to be quickly followed by a well-taken score by Karol Mannion a minute later, the warning signs were flashing for the visitors.
Roscommon were sucking the oxygen out of the spaces into which Leitrim had poured in the first half, and then came the 44th minute match-turning moment.
Mannion launched a high ball deep into Leitrim territory. It eluded covering defender John McKeon and there was Shine grabbing possession and firing the ball into the Leitrim net.
That was the magic moment, and Roscommon's Heneghan was glad it came for his team.
"Full credit to Leitrim for the year they have had so far. The amount of respect we have for them is unreal," Heneghan said.
"But it was point for point in the first half so it did look like whoever got the goal was going to push on from there and Donie took his chance well."
Such was the intensity of the contest over the next 10 minutes or so, that neither side got any further scores until David Casey underlined his man-of-the-match display with a crucial point to give Roscommon a five-point lead.
Leitrim gave their all, including bringing on Declan Maxwell as "a last throw of the dice," according to selector Martin McGowan.
"Declan Maxwell, to be fair to him, had an operation on his ankle in February and he was on crutches up until four or five weeks ago. He's back in training two or three weeks, so it was last throw of the dice. We were throwing caution to the wind," said McGowan.
Leitrim will reflect on this game and identify their failure to capitalise on scoring chances as a key factor.
Roscommon's full-back line of Sean McDermott, Peter Domican and Stephen Ormsby held out well, particularly against some astute long balls flighted into their area of influence, but Leitrim's scoring stats tell the tale.
Of their 0-11 total, eight came from Foley, seven of those frees, with one each from the two James Glancys (one of St Mary's club and the other Glencar/Manorhamilton), and David O'Connor.
They also failed to score from play in the entire second half, so those stats won't make for happy reading by Leitrim boss Mickey Moran.
The winners also have work to do in that respect. Donie Shine's only score from play for Roscommon was that goal, vital as it was, so their manager O'Donnell can hope Shine gets more assistance in the scoring stakes in the Connacht final next month.
O'Donnell's overall assessment was: "We just about deserved to get over the line in the end. The level we are at I think Tyrone and Kerry are safe enough, but we are happy to be where we are."
Scorers -- Roscommon: D Shine 1-7 (0-7f); C Cregg 0-2; K Mannion, D Casey, J Rogers, G Heneghan 0-1 each. Leitrim: M Foley 0-8 (0-7f); D O'Connor, J Glancy (St Mary's), J Glancy (Glencar/Manorhamilton) 0-1 each.
Roscommon -- G Claffey 7; S McDermott 7, P Domican 7, S Ormsby7; S Purcell 7, C Dineen 7, D Casey 8; M Finneran 7, K Mannion 7; D Keenan 7, P Garvey 7, C Cregg 8; J Rogers 7, D Shine 8, G Heneghan 7. Subs: D O'Gara 6 for P Garvey (45); K Higgins 6 for J Rogers (68);
Leitrim -- E Lyons 7; D Beck 6, J McKeon 6, D Reynolds 6; J Glancy 6, S Foley 6, W McKeon 6; T Beirne 6, S Canning 6; C Clarke 6, D O'Connor 6, M Foley 8; R Cox 6, J Glancy 6, R Mulvey 6. Subs: D Reynolds 6 for D Beck (19); K Conlon 6 for R Cox (47); G Reynolds 6 for J Glancy (St Mary's) 48; B Prior 6 for S Foley (56); D Maxwell 5 for K Conlon 59
Ref -- J McQuillan (Cavan).