Saturday 16 December 2017

Cregg has Rossies on semi-final track

Donegal 0-17 Roscommon1-19

Donegal captain Michael Murphy shows his annoyance at being hauled to the ground by his opponent Conor Daly at O’Donnell Park in Letterkenny yesterday Photo: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
Donegal captain Michael Murphy shows his annoyance at being hauled to the ground by his opponent Conor Daly at O’Donnell Park in Letterkenny yesterday Photo: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
Referee Padraig Hughes issues a black card to Conor Daly, Roscommon, for draging down Michael Murphy Photo: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
Martin McElhinney, Donegal, in action against Niall Daly, Roscommon Photo: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

Chris McNulty

Let there be no doubting it now: Roscommon belong in Division 1. A fourth win in a row has them looking towards the League semi-finals.

This weekend two years ago, Roscommon were playing Offaly in Division 3, but yesterday's six-point win over Donegal keeps them on track for a place in Division 1's knockout phase.

Cathal Cregg's goal in the 59th minute was the big score but it was a day when Roscommon shouldn't have been reliant on the Western Gaels man's magnificent strike.

How Roscommon were only five in front after an utterly dominant opening half was anyone's guess, and there was a real possibility that things were creeping away from them when Donegal narrowed the gap to two points.

However, a red card for Odhrán Mac Niallais took the sting from Donegal, who join Kerry, Cork and Down on the list of scalps on Roscommon's sword.

This, said Kevin McStay, their joint manager "was the best of them".

"Today we started looking like a Division 1 team who deserves on merit to be here," McStay said.

"We were dreaming about beating Donegal up in Donegal and now we've done it. Coming into the game, and I'll be dead on honest, we'd have been very realistic that we could have got a scotching today if we were a little bit off. We just were very up for it and tore into it.

"When we beat Kerry we weren't 100pc sure where they were, but I think we know Donegal were trying to get points there today.

"Look at the players they used; the players that started and that came on. Now we know that we can play a brand of football that can survive in this division."

Roscommon signalled their intent from early and the Donegal full-back line, missing Neil McGee, looked vulnerable throughout.

Home goalkeeper Peter Boyle saved from Cian Connolly and Senan Kilbride while Niall Daly fired wastefully wide as he bore down on goal.

Roscommon were six up after 22 minutes and might well have been out of sight by the time the shell-shocked hosts mustered a response.

Remarkably, frees by Michael Murphy and Patrick McBrearty kept Donegal's hope alive at the break, when Roscommon led 0-11 to 0-6.

With Murphy and Christy Toye leading the charge, Donegal roared back, but hope was extinguished when Cregg wonderfully finished to the net from 20 metres. "A lethargic display against a hungry team," was how Rory Gallagher described Donegal's effort.

Their cause wasn't helped when Mac Niallais was yellow carded twice in a minute, but Cregg's goal paved the way for the Rossies.

Scorers - Donegal: M Murphy 0-7 (4f), P McBrearty 0-6f, R McHugh, O Mac Niallais, E McHugh, C Toye 0-1 each. Roscommon: C Murtagh 0-6 (5f), C Cregg 1-2, F Cregg 0-5 (3f), N Daly 0-3, C Daly, C Devaney, E Smith 0-1 each.
Donegal - P Boyle 7; E Doherty 6, E McGee 5, P McGrath 6; E Gallagher 6, R McHugh 7, E McHugh 6; R Kavanagh 6, N Gallagher 6; A Thompson 5, M McElhinney 7, O Mac Niallais 6; P McBrearty 7, M Murphy 8, M O'Reilly 5. Subs: M McHugh 6 for Thompson (19), K Lacey 6 for McGee (32), C Toye 7 for N.Gallagher (h-t), S McBrearty 6 for McElhinney (50), N Gallagher 6 for E.Gallagher (66).
Roscommon - G Claffey 7; N McInerney 6, N Collins 6, S McDermottn 7; R Stack 6, S Purcell 7, D Murray 6; F Cregg 8, N Daly 8; C Daly 6, C Murtagh 7, C Devaney 7; C Connolly 7, S Kilbride 7, C Cregg 8. Subs: Niall Kilroy 6 for C.Daly (black card, 35), E Smith 6 for Connolly (52), C Compton 6 for N.Daly (56), J McManus 6 for Stack (66).
Ref - P Hughes (Armagh).

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