By Mike Fitzpatrick
Roscommon 0-12, Tyrone 1-12
Relegation is a word no sports person likes to associate himself with. It’s one of those stigmatic terms that when mentioned brings a tone of embarrassment, sympathy, even humiliation into a conversation. In fact, bronchial pneumonia and the Bubonic Plague are often more welcome to a sporting conversation than a relegation issue. But discuss it we must.
For at Gaelic Park on Sunday two senior football sides met, aware that the outcome of the tie would mean a certain drop in divisions for the losers. Originally, this was a three-team dogfight for survival, but Cavan escaped a couple of weeks back, defeating today’s eventual victors, Tyrone, to ensure their stay in the top flight.
Straight from the beginning, Tyrone threw themselves at Roscommon, with an on form Seamus O’Hanlon snatching this first point from play in the sixth minute, and kicking two frees over the bar to give Tyrone a nice 3-point cushion. Shane Devlin followed this early O’Hanlon flurry with one of his own to continue the Derry rampage and Roscommon were clearly on the rails, defending desperately against the oncoming Tyrone attack of Emmet Woods, Paddy Redmond and Shane and Duke Devlin. Sean Barrett hit three consecutive points for Roscommon to bring his side back into the fray and in the process adding a little respectability to Roscommon’s score. Barrett was unlucky not to hit another, striking the ball against the right goalpost from a difficult angle, though the attending figure of Mark Daly did cause some obstruction.
O’Hanlon continued his assault on the Roscommon defense, lobbing the ball toward the goal only for Dave Sims, the Roscommon goalkeeper, to drop the ball, almost providing Tyrone with a gift goal. Donie Farrell and Kevin Johnson hit points over for Roscommon to level the scores and up the pace, forcing any Tyrone notions of an easy victory out of people’s minds.
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Though Roscommon bravely fought back after every Tyrone score, it often seemed to be nothing more than a damage limitation exercise. Tyrone were the side in control, going ahead frequently and creating margins of 1, 2 and 3 points on occasions. Shane Devlin hit two points over the bar to give Tyrone yet another edge, only to see the lead diminished when Maher and Barrett replied with a point to level the tie again. The mid- to later stages of the game proved more ferocious, with each side moving forward, and scoring points.
Leo Shiel, Barrett and Maher nabbed points for Roscommon to put their side ahead, after Paddy Redmond and Ray O’Hanlon had hit scores for Tyrone. An ugly melee broke out resulting in the sending off of Tyrone’s Paddy Redmond, though it could certainly be argued that more players were lucky to stay on the pitch.
Shane Devlin hit back for Tyrone’s equalizer, and with just minutes remaining, both sides had ugly visions of Div. 2 football bumping into their minds, O’Hanlon scored for Tyrone. Barrett hit one more for Roscommon, but it was Tyrone’s day.
The 14-man team were saved by O’Hanlon’s opportunist strike at goal, and will continue to play Div. 1 football next season. Roscommon must drop down a division and play versus what they may conceive as lesser side, but what with their thoroughly disappointing form this year, it may not be a straight return back to Div. 1 next year.
Roscommon: Dave Sims, Ollie Hoare, Ken Deacon, Andy Connellan, Eoghan McGrath, Leo Shiel (0-1), David Kelly, Ian Smith, Greg McGovern (0-1), Sean Barret (0-6), Aidan Smith, Donie Farrell (0-1), Richie Maher (0-2), Kevin Johnson (0-1) Stephen Bogue. Subs Kevin O’Brien, Kevin Flaherty, Joe Murray.
Tyrone: Noel Bonner, Barry Tally, Sean Teague, Mark Daly, Kevin Ryan, Phil Mallon, Vinny Hollywood, Seamus O’Hanlon (1-6) Damian Daly, Mickey O’Neill, Gary McConnell, Shane Devlin (0-4), Emmet Woods, Duke Devlin, Paddy Redmond (0-1) opponent (0-1).