McStay's men 'tick every box' as Murtagh leads way for Rossies
Roscommon 2-22 Armagh 1-19
They are not as physically imposing as the three teams they are about to face, but Roscommon have endearing qualities which they showed off in abundance in a memorable contest with Armagh in O'Moore Park on Saturday.
Both management teams have played open, attacking football all year because it suits the players they have and despite the huge prize at stake, they didn't take a backward step here.
It resulted in a game which registered 10 out of 10 in entertainment value, with scores of the highest quality and a few mistakes as well in sweltering conditions in Portlaoise.
Kevin McStay had challenged his players during the week to produce something special on the big day and they gave him the answer he was hoping for.
"We're not a big team, we are a footballing team, an athletic team, and it's hard to play against these big men from Armagh and Tyrone and so on, so we have to live on our wits a bit," he said.
"I'm not saying we're going to win any games in the Super 8s, but I'd say we are going to be competitive. I don't think any team will be particularly writing us off anyway.
"In fairness to the players, they set all these targets for themselves and have ticked every box they said they would do.
"What we've done is give ourselves a real good shot in the arm in terms of the match next weekend (against Tyrone)."
With Donegal and Dublin also on the horizon, Roscommon will need more of the star quality we saw from Enda Smith, Cathal Cregg and Ciaran Murtagh.
They'll also need to be more efficient, because despite Smith's two goals they butchered around four or five other good chances.
Armagh, in contrast, shot the lights out in the first-half, with Andrew Murnin and Rory Grugan on fire, and scored nine points with their first nine attacks.
Roscommon still led 1-11 to 0-12 at the break, with Smith scoring the first of his two goals after a smart through pass from Diarmuid Murtagh.
Roscommon held firm and Ciaran Murtagh matched anything that was happening down the other end, with Cathal Cregg also key.
Armagh needed to take every chance to stay with such free spirits, but missed a 45th-minute penalty when Rossies keeper Colm Lavin dived low to his right to block Grugan's shot. Mark Shields' follow-up went wide, but he made amends a couple of minutes later, beating his man to a long high ball and arrowing one into the far corner. That breathed new life into the game and brought Armagh to within two points, and they only trailed by one in the 70th minute before Smith secured the all-important second goal in stoppage-time, bursting through and applying a lethal finish.
It ended Armagh's hopes of making it to the Super 8s.
"We competed really well but we didn't take the scores when the game was in the balance, and that effected us mentally," said Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney.
"It's disappointing to get so close, but it's been a positive year. The fellas regrouped and outside of the Fermanagh game you couldn't be anything but proud of them.
"With the players to come back in and the players coming through from the U-20s, you would hope the future is bright, but nobody gives you anything. You have to work hard for it."
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