Friday 19 January 2018

Shine polishes off Sligo

Donal Shine kicks the winning point during yesterday's Connacht SFC. Photo: Ray Ryan / Sportsfile
Donal Shine kicks the winning point during yesterday's Connacht SFC. Photo: Ray Ryan / Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

THEY travelled to Castlebar as 4/1 outsiders and left as Connacht champions for the first time in nine years.

In between, Roscommon proved that if attitude and intent are properly channelled they can be mighty powerful assets, irrespective of what the pre-match ratings are showing. Right from the first to the 68th minute when man-of-the-match Donie Shine fired over the clinching point, Roscommon operated at a level they hadn't visited in the championship for quite some time.

It left Sligo with more serious problems than they faced against Mayo or Galway and while it looked as if they had solved them when they shot four unanswered points to draw level in the 62nd minute, Roscommon's resolve was still intact.

They were finding it difficult to win anything like the amount of possession they had enjoyed in the first half but they kept plugging on. Shine restored the lead in the 66th minute and while Alan Costello levelled it up with an excellent point a minute later, Roscommon responded once again.

Shine's next free-kick was a pressure shot at goal from out on the left but he held his nerve and curled the ball over the bar for what proved to be the winning point. Sligo tried desperately to manufacture an equaliser in stoppage-time but just couldn't get through a tigerish Roscommon defence.

Sligo manager Kevin Walsh complained afterwards that more than two minutes should have been added on and, in fairness, he had a case. Of course, Sligo might still have been beaten because it was one of those days when -- apart from spells before half-time and just after the three-quarter mark -- they were uncharacteristically sluggish.

Sligo kicked the first point and the last two of the opening half but in between they were out-scored 10-3 by a Roscommon team that warmed quickly to the challenge.

Michael Finneran and Karol Mannion provided important momentum at midfield which, in turn, left the lively Roscommon attack with plenty of possession to take into contact against a Sligo attack which was severely stretched.

Roscommon half-forwards David Keenan, Cathal Cregg and David O'Gara -- a pre-match replacement for Paul Garvey -- were quick and inventive but it was full-forward Shine who made the biggest impact of all.

He scored six points in the first half (two from open play) and was unlucky with a few efforts, one of which bounced wide off an upright.

Sligo replaced Tony Taylor with Eugene Mullen and dropped Eamon O'Hara back to midfield, and were rewarded with increased possession. That enabled them to cut two points off Roscommon's lead just before the break, thanks to two points by Adrian Marren, one from a free.

It left Roscommon leading by 0-10 to 0-6 at half-time, an advantage which didn't reflect their superiority. Sligo supporters would have felt that with the breeze behind their men in the second half, a four-point lead was far from insurmountable.

They might also have expected Roscommon to lose momentum in the second half but it didn't happen in the third quarter, which produced two points for each side. Sligo had replaced both midfielders by the 45th minute, underlining the extent of the problem they had in winning primary possession.

That, in turn, meant that very little ball was played into their main dangerman, David Kelly. It was a frustrating afternoon for him, for as well as being starved of possession he found Seanie McDermott a busy, tight-marking opponent.


Kelly did get one big chance in the 55th minute but having wriggled clear close to the Roscommon goal, his low drive was saved brilliantly by Geoffrey Claffey. It looked like a major turning point but, in fairness to Sligo, their response was brave and efficient.

Mark Breheny, who never really got into the game, pointed a free before the excellent Alan Costello (2) and sub Sean Davey added three more to bring the sides level for the first time since early in the first half.

It looked like advantage Sligo but Roscommon steadied themselves for a final push which took them safely over the line and into the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

For a team that had been relegated to Division 4 (they lost to Sligo by seven points in their final Division 3 game) it was quite a transformation. Sligo's performance in their three games against Mayo and Galway suggested they were far more advanced as a squad but that never looked the case yesterday.

Apart from their valley period in the second half, there was a structure and a determination about everything Roscommon did which Sligo simply couldn't counteract. Claffey was solid behind a hard-working full-back line while David Casey's surges from left half-back were a constant source of problems for Sligo.

Finneran and Mannion put down an early marker at midfield while there was lots of energy in the attack which, when decorated with Shine's accuracy from frees and open play, kept the scoreboard ticking over.

Sligo's failure to match their earlier performance will inevitably raise questions about whether the favourites' tag weighed far more heavily on them than they would have anticipated. It was brand new territory for them and, frankly, they didn't seem to handle it well.

Losing individual battles is one thing but their failure to match Roscommon in the vital scraps for breaking ball was a serious setback. Sligo needed to take the initiative early on, which might have raised doubts among the Roscommon players, whose confidence had been damaged by a poor league campaign.

However, once Roscommon were allowed to assert themselves they began to believe that victory was within their grasp. Even when Sligo came back at them in the final quarter, they remained calm and worked their way through the problems.

Ultimately, it proved too much for Sligo, whose dream of completing a treble over Mayo, Galway and Roscommon was dashed in the most dramatic circumstances. Still, they could have no complaints as Roscommon's tenacity deserved reward in a very entertaining game.

Scorers -- Roscommon: D Shine 0-10 (0-6f, 0-1 '45'), D Casey, C Cregg, D Keenan, D O'Gara 0-1 each. Sligo: A Costello 0-5, A Marren 0-3 (0-1f), M Breheny 0-2 (0-2f), C McGee (0-1f), C Harrison, S Davey 0-1 each.

Roscommon-- G Claffey 8; S McDermott 8, P Domican 7, S Ormsby 7; C Dineen 6, S Purcell 7, D Casey 8; M Finneran 8, K Mannion 8; D Keenan 7, D O'Gara 6 C Cregg 7; J Rogers 6, D Shine 9, G Heneghan 6. Subs: K Higgins 6 for Rogers (61), C Garvey 6 for Casey (61), J Dunning for O'Gara (67), P Garvey for Dineen (69).

Sligo -- P Greene 7; C Harrison 7, N McGuire 5, R Donovan 7; K Cawley 6, B Philips 6, J Davey 7; T Taylor 5, S Gilmartin 5; A Costello 9, M Breheny 6, E O'Hara 6; C McGee 5, A Marren 7, D Kelly 6. Subs: E Mullen 6 for Taylor (27), K Sweeney 6 for McGee (42), S Davey 7 for Gilmartin (45), N Ewing 6 for Cawley (57), S Coen for Breheny (70).

Ref -- J White (Donegal)

Irish Independent

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