Murtagh to the fore as Rossies cruise into final
Roscommon 0-24 Leitrim 0-10
Reigning champions Roscommon encountered little difficulty as they qualified for their third Connacht SFC final in a row with a superb display of point scoring.
Thirteen men got on the scoresheet as Roscommon began the defence of their provincial title with an impressive display in Carrick-on-Shannon.
Their eighth win in a row over Leitrim was never in doubt as they pulled away.
Leitrim, lucky to survive in New York earlier this month, needed wind advantage and a good start to have any real chance, and while they never gave up, with three subs accounting for more than half their scores, they never threatened the champions.
Roscommon made the most of wind advantage in the opening half and some superb shooting saw them lead by 0-6 to 0-2 at the end of the opening quarter.
Leitrim did well initially, keeping extra players behind the ball and trying to carry it from deep into attack, and a second-minute point from Keith Beirne gave them hope.
Diarmuid Murtagh looked sharp from the outset for Roscommon and caused the Leitrim defence plenty of trouble, particularly when early ball was sent in from out the field.
He pointed a free and then fisted an effort to edge Roscommon in front after seven minutes, before Beirne hit back to tie the game with a free from 20 metres after nine minutes.
But Leitrim, often with two sweepers, did not score again during the opening half and bit by bit Roscommon took charge.
Fintan Cregg got them moving with a superb point from 45 metres and Diarmuid Murtagh followed with an equally excellent score from the right wing.
They pushed on from there, with Brian Stack and Ciarain Murtagh also landing excellent points to lead by four at the end of the opening quarter.
It could have got worse for Leitrim but goalkeeper Diarmuid McKieran produced a stunning save to tip an effort from Enda Smith over the crossbar 13 minutes from half-time.
Both sides kicked four wides in the opening half but Roscommon went in at the break leading by 0-9 to 0-2 with the Murtagh brothers shooting points from frees on opposite sides in the closing stages of the half.
Leitrim supporters in the crowd of 8,265 were hoping for a big start to the second half but it was Roscommon who continued to control the game.
Captain Conor Devaney went forward to increase their lead four minutes after the restart and then it took some frantic defending to deny Diarmuid Murtagh and then his brother Ciarán as Roscommon went for the kill with goal chances.
But Donie Smith and Ciaran Murtagh struck points and when Niall Kilroy found his range after 44 minutes, it meant all six starting forwards had scored for Roscommon.
Leitrim subs Darragh Rooney and Ryan O'Rourke responded but Roscommon continued to pull away with Enda Smith and his brother Donie scoring good points.
Damien Moran kicked three points from play after coming on for Leitrim - six of their ten points came from second-half subs - but they never looked like getting a goal.
Roscommon wasted a couple of good goal chances but their shooting for points was excellent.
Cathal Cregg scored four points from play after being introduced while John McManus became their 13th player to score when he surged forward in the closing minutes to wrap up an impressive win for Kevin McStay's men, who will now meet Galway or Sligo in the final.
Scorers - Roscommon: D Murtagh 0-5 (1f); C Cregg 0-4; C Murtagh 0-3 (0-1f); D Smith & E Smith 0-2 each; C Devaney, C Compton, N Kilroy, F Cregg, B Stack, S Killoran, J McManus, T O'Rourke 0-1 each. Leitrim: D Moran 0-3; K Beirne (f), D Rooney 0-2 each; R O'Rourke, E Mulligan ('45), S Quinn 0-1 each.
Roscommon: C Lavin; D Murray, P Domican, N McInerney; J McManus, Fintan Cregg, B Stack; C Compton, T O'Rourke; E Smith, N Kilroy, C Devaney; D Smith, D Murtagh, C Murtagh.
Subs: C Daly for E Smith (52), C Cregg for C Murtagh (52), S Killoran for B Stack (59), R Stack for Kilroy (59), Finbar Cregg for D Smith (61), P Kelly for Compton (66).
Leitrim: D McKiernan; A Armstrong, P Maguire, M McWeeney; N Plunkett, S Quinn, J Rooney; M Plunkett, D McGovern; J Heslin, E Mulligan, B Gallagher; A Flynn, K Beirne, D Wrynn. Subs: R O'Rourke for Heslin (36), D Rooney for Beirne (43), D Moran for M Plunkett (52), O Madden for C Murtagh (52), E Ward for J Rooney (68), D Flynn for A Flynn (70).
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).
Sunday Indo Sport