Monday 19 August 2019

Colm Keys: 'Rossies need another shut-out'

Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham. Photo: Sportsfile
Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

At least Roscommon can still lay claim to one record this season that Dublin no longer have rights to.

Both counties went through their respective three-game provincial championship campaigns without conceding a goal. But Luke Connolly's penalty for Cork last weekend was the first time in the 2019 championship that Stephen Cluxton found himself picking a ball out of his own net.

Having kept clean sheets against Louth (0-10), Kildare (0-11) and Meath (0-4) to claim a record ninth successive Leinster title, Connolly's second-half strike ensured Roscommon and Wicklow are now the only counties yet to concede a goal in this year's championship.

Wicklow played just two games, conceding 15 points each day against Kildare in the Leinster Championship and Leitrim in a first-round qualifier, both of which they lost. Donegal leaked two goals in the second half of their Ulster final to blemish an otherwise clean record with shut-outs against Fermanagh, Tyrone and Meath.

Roscommon have kept goals at bay from three Division 1 teams so far, conceding 0-17, 0-12 and 0-17 again to Mayo, Galway and Tyrone who they met in last Saturday's opening Super 8s game. In their opening Connacht Championship match, they conceded 0-12 to Leitrim, giving them an average concession rate of just 14.5 points per game.

Given the company that they've been keeping, that's an impressive concession rate for Roscommon who have prioritised making themselves harder to beat under Anthony Cunningham.

The expectation is that their unblemished goal concession record will go tomorrow against a team that has already plundered five goals in two of their games against Louth and Cork. But Roscommon will be encouraged by the fact that Kildare didn't concede a goal to Dublin.

Roscommon's goal prevention techniques have, however, malfunctioned badly on their last four visits to Croke Park. With remarkable symmetry, they have conceded four goals each time, dating back to the 2017 All-Ireland quarter-final replay against Mayo (4-19 to 0-9), the 2018 Allianz Division 2 league final against Cavan which they won (4-16 to 4-12), and the All-Ireland quarter-finals against Tyrone and Dublin last year when they shipped 4-24 each time. After the Tyrone defeat on the opening day of last year's Super 8s, outgoing manager Kevin McStay posed a fundamental question as to what type of game they needed to play in the future.

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"We have to see have we the type of players physically and athletically that we can change our game and the style we play. It's a question we all knew we were going to have to ask ourselves and answer somewhere down the road."

McStay passed the baton on last September and Cunningham has provided the answer, as results this summer indicate. Cunningham's faith in the Daly brothers, Niall, Conor and Ronan, and their reciprocal commitment, has been rewarded.

Unfortunately for Roscommon, a likely defeat to the All-Ireland champions will effectively end their interest in the competition after two rounds for the second successive year, unless Cork can surprise Tyrone and reverse last year's 16-point defeat in a fourth-round qualifier.

Irish Independent

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