Growing gulf is exposed by Dublin
Dublin 2-26 Roscommon 0-14
Long before the finish, with the Fat Lady hoarse from singing, you would have forgiven a Roscommon follower if he, or she, took the early exit back to Rooskey or Strokestown or wherever it was they'd come from. Dublin were vastly superior, winning by 18 points, four more than their margin of victory over Roscommon last year.
A red card issued by Barry Cassidy to Conor Daly before half-time hardly helped their cause, leaving them labouring with 14 men for the second half when already well out of Dublin's reach. But even if they had one extra player, it wouldn't have made a difference. The gulf between the teams was that pronounced, you couldn't conceive a situation in which Roscommon could win or come close to entertaining the vague notion.
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Dublin comfortably booked their place in the semi finals along with Tyrone, winners of the curtain-raiser; the two counties meet in Omagh in a fortnight to decide who has the added distinction of topping the group. Meanwhile, in Páirc Uí Rinn, Cork and Roscommon must go through the motions of playing out the last pointless group match, their prospects gone.
Dublin were on song, recalling Dean Rock who finished with 1-11, inducing 10 frees. He missed nothing from placed balls, having been chosen ahead of Cormac Costello as widely speculated. Many of the early awards were close to goal, and after he missed his first attempt from 46 metres, the referee gave him a second crack, deeming a Roscommon player to have wandered too close as he was about to shoot. He moved it forward for good measure.
But Rock looked like he could have kicked them from anywhere, his shooting impeccable, and he carried on the form he had shown when introduced in the previous two matches. Dublin went in at the break leading 1-15 to 0-7 and when Michael Darragh Macauley blasted to the net early in the second half after sub Fintan Cregg was turned over by the tireless Brian Howard, the game threatened to turn into an embarrassment.
Such was Dublin's dominance and comfort that Jim Gavin took off two of his best forwards, Ciarán Kilkenny and Paul Mannion, three minutes into the second half. Jack McCaffrey was spared any more labour nine minutes later, and there were nearly 20 minutes left to play when Con O'Callaghan, who had an outstanding match, was also called ashore.
Roscommon kept plugging away and scored six out of seven points during one stage in the second half, but the match had lost all meaning. There were so many Dublin players coming off that those left on might have had cause to be concerned. With 52 minutes gone the only mystery left in this match was who might be the sixth Dublin sub. Could it be Bernard Brogan, recalled to the panel for the first time in the championship?
But his hopes were blown when Macauley was black carded just after the hour mark, for apparent obstruction, which led to Davey Byrne being the final substitute sent in. Costello, having started throughout the championship and in serious form from the start of the League, saw no game time.
Roscommon, beaten by Tyrone last weekend, had been unable to hold the constant wave of Dublin attacks. In the first half, O'Callaghan tormented Seán Mullooly, who eventually picked up a yellow card, and the defender was almost punished when his hand pass was intercepted by Mannion only for his goal attempt to be saved by Darren O'Malley in the 29th minute.
Dublin stormed the middle of the field and surged forward at every opportunity. Conor Cox kicked two fine points off both feet, and Diarmuid Murtagh had an excellent score off his left from a tight angle. Their first score came after only 21 seconds when Colin Compton found a gaping hole in the Dublin defence but shot high and had to settle for the point.
Roscommon did create openings - another goal chance fell to Shane Killoran but he dragged his shot past the near post - but those shortcomings in Dublin's defence were camouflaged by the beauty of their attacking play.
The champions had a number of goal chances in the first half that would have left Roscommon in even more dire straits. O'Callaghan was unstoppable, powering a shot off the butt of an upright and, after breaking through a gap, another shot went high over the crossbar. Mannion's cool finishing brought him three first-half points, and there was also a goal chance for Rock when brilliantly set up by Mannion's lateral kick pass, but the Ballymun forward went for a fisted point instead.
Roscommon were level at 0-3 a piece after ten minutes, then the gap started to widen. By the 15th minute it was out to six points courtesy of Rock, who palmed to the net in a sweeping move that involved McCaffrey, Kilkenny and Niall Scully.
In a nine-minute spell they hit Roscommon for 1-4 without reply.
Roscommon carved out a third goal chance after 22 minutes when Enda Smith's strong run created an opening for Murtagh but his open-handed effort was easily saved by Cluxton with Dublin stretched. Brian Fenton was masterful in the middle of the field and Kilkenny in the thick of everything Dublin created. Roscommon's wilting cause collapsed entirely when Daly was sent off for foolishly tripping O'Callaghan a minute before the interval.
Scorers - Dublin: D Rock 1-11 (0-10fs); MD Macauley 1-0, P Mannion, P Small 0-3, C Kilkenny, C O'Callaghan, B Fenton 0-2, J McCaffrey, K McManamon, N Scully 0-1. Roscommon: C Cox 0-7 (6fs); C Hussey 0-3, C Compton, D Murtagh, N Daly, S Mullooly 0-1.
Dublin: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, P McMahon, J Cooper; J McCaffrey, J McCarthy, J Small; B Fenton, MD Macauley; N Scully, C Kilkenny, B Howard; P Mannion, C O'Callaghan, D Rock. Subs: K McManamon & P Small for Kilkenny & Mannion (38 mins), R O'Carroll & E Lowdnes for Fitzsimons & McCaffrey (47); P Andrews for O'Callaghan (52), D Byrne for Macauley (b/c 61).
Roscommon: D O'Malley; D Murray, S Mullooly, C Daly; R Daly, C Hussey, N Daly; E Smith, S Killoran; B Stack, C Cregg, N Kilroy; D Murtagh, C Cox, C Compton. Subs: F Cregg for Killoran (h-t), A Lyons for Compton (45), J McManus for C Cregg (47), A Glennon for Murtagh (52), G Patterson for Murray (60), C McKeon for Kilroy (66).
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry).
Sunday Indo Sport