ROSCOMMON 0-15 LEITRIM 1-7 HIS barnstorming displays have made him a cult figure amongst their fans and once again Fergal O'Donnell came to Roscommon's rescue at Carrick-on-Shannon yesterday.
By half-time last year's beaten Connacht finalists were struggling badly and underdogs Leitrim looked like pulling off the first big shock of the summer by winning this Connacht SFC tie.
They couldn't seem to catch a clean ball anywhere on the park, their midfield was under pressure, and their goal keeper had been forced to pull off two great saves.
And Leitrim had the temperity to pull level with an equalising goal just before half-time.
But never fear, help, as always, was on hand from the bench in the towering figure of Garda O'Donnell.
In he came at centre forward to replace Derek Duggan (obviously weakened by a stomach bug) and suddenly Roscommon looked a different team.
O`Donnell's height gave them an attacking axis. He is a ball winner and a battering ram rolled into one but yesterday he showed yet again that he has also got the vision and touch to make killer passes.
ALL THAT MATTERS
No sooner had he arrived than Conor Connelly pointed, set Lorcan Dowd up for the first of his two and another from Frankie Dolan, their fourth without reply in nine minutes, to give them a lead from which they never looked back.
Manager Gay Sheeran's relieved face and post match assessment ``We're playing football in June, thats all that matters to us'' shows just how tight every championship game has become.
Joe Reynolds only replaced Peter McGinnity as Leitrim manager six weeks ago. That his team put together such a cohesive first half performance and refused to fold right up to the end was a remarkable achievement.
Leitrim footballers, who staged a bloodless coup against their previous manager in the new year, certainly reclaimed their creditability in front of this 6,000 crowd.
Seamus Dillon was a late call-up, while wing back Colin Regan started at centre forward, and Adrian Charles at corner forward. Both had their markers in their pockets by half-time, when they were level 1-3 to 0-6.
They'd seven wides to Roscommon four by then and always looked likelier to goal. In the 20th minute Derek Thompson was forced to make a brilliant point blank save off Ciaran Murray and minutes later Charles had a punched effort off the woodwork.
The goal finally came after thirty three minutes, when Roscommon's Denis Gavin gave away a silly free, Aiden Rooney lobbed it into the square and Chris Carroll volleyed it home after two defenders dropped it between them on the line.
Leitrim certainly deserved to be level. Jason Ward was dominating midfield and the tactical switch of Seamus Quinn to replace Derek Kelleher on Lorcan Dowd was a brilliant move as the Gortlettragh man gave a rousing display.
Roscommon's problems, on top of a tendancy to overplay the short ball in defence, was their inability to catch clean ball and sending in loose high balls to their small forwards.
O'Donnell's arrival changed that but there were other factors. Rossa O'Callaghan switched back to the corner to mark Charles with huge effect and likewise full back Damien Donlon began to dominate an obviously hampered Colin McGlynn (carrying a hamstring).
The bottom line was that Roscommon did not panic. After the break their backs steadied. Their forwards got much better ball while Leitrim, in contrast, lost their nerve and began shooting wildly.
When Damien Donlon found Lorcan Dowd free inside with a great long ball after 50 minutes, you could see the Leitrim heads dropping, even before he passed it on to their best midfielder Stephen Lohan for a five point (0-12 to1-4) lead.
Leitrim's tenacity was admirable and manager Reynolds was rightly proud of them afterwards.
Jason Ward got up to fist a side line free from Charles into the side netting after 60 minutes and all three of their subs Fintan McBrien, Gene Bohan, and Pat Farrell got on the score sheet.
But ultimately they hadn't the confidence or experience to match Roscommon, for whom Nigel Dineen also proved an excellent substitute after 65 minutes, scoring twice, and with his first touch.
But the visitors were certainly given a timely fright yesterday.
Derry sink Wicklow and get Down to business
DERRY 1-14 WICKLOW 0-13
DELIGHTED Derry triumphed in this Church and General Hurling League Division 2 final at Navan yesterday.
This result guarantees Division One hurling for an Ulster team in the year 2000 as Derry now play Down in the play-off for the final place in the top flight.
Derry laid the foundations for victory in the first half. Full forward Geoffrey McGonagle gave a `Man of the Match' display by scoring 1-8 of his side's total.
McGonagle's goal in the 15th minute helped Derry to a 1-9 to 0-5 half-time lead.
Wicklow staged a good fightback in the third quarter with a string of fine points from Don Hyland, Danny Curran and John Keogh to leave only a single point between the sides 1-10 to 0-12 after 48 minutes.
However Derry were not to be denied and McGonagle continued to pop over the points from frees for a fully deserved win.
MAN OF THE MATCH G McGonagle.
SCORERS Derry: G McGonagle 1-8 (0-4f) Gary Biggs 0-2, O Collins, D Kearney, P McEldowney, R McCluskey 0-1 each. Wicklow: D Hyland 0-4, J O'Neill 0-3 (2fs) T McGrath 0-2 (fs) J Keogh 0-2, D Curran 0-2.
DERRY K Stevenson; E McKeever, D McCluskey, D Kearney; B Ward, D Cassidy, N Mullan; C Murray, O Collins; P McEldowney, Gregory Biggs, R McCluskey; M Conway, G McGonagle, Gary Biggs. Subs: J Young for Kearney, J O'Dwyer for Gary Biggs.
WICKLOW M Neary; M A O'Neill, T Byrne, D Moran; M J O'Neill, T McGrath, G Bermingham; C O'Toole, G Murray; J O'Neill, D Curran, J Keogh; J Moran, D Hyland, S Coady. Subs: L Byrne for G Murray, S O'Loughlin for J Moran.
Yellow Cards: D Hyland (Wicklow) and M Conway (Derry).
REF E Morris (Dublin).