By Mike Fitzpatrick
It was a dreadfully damp Sunday afternoon in Gaelic Park that greeted this eagerly anticipated FBD football challenge match between Roscommon and New York in which the pitch became something akin to a mudbath, and the players were barely recognizable at the end.
Roscommon won by three points.
The game commenced with an injury-hit and absentee-ravaged New York side eager to improve on their reputation as All Ireland hopefuls for the new millennium, and the thoughts of coming up against such a talented side as Roscommon was always going to be a useful experiment for this blossoming team.
Missing Michael Slowey, Martin Slowey, Sean Teague, Willie O’Donnell, Pat Mahoney and a number of other regulars, the task was made that much more difficult before a ball was even kicked.
Roscommon opened the scoring with a fine effort over the bar from Nigel Dineen following some intelligent midfield work from Donal Casserly early in the half. Gerry Lohan followed up soon afterwards with another effort over the black spot for the visitors, and New York were two points behind.
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Missing Monaghan man Michael Slowey, the top scorer in the New York senior championship, the home side were forced to juggle their lineup around a little before the kickoff. Despite a little initial nervousness, Kevin Lilly got off the mark for New York, and then the bustling Donegal man Stephen Cassidy forced his way through the tight Roscommon backline to provide Kerryman Bingo Driscoll with an opportunity to level the tie, a chance which Driscoll did not spurn.
All level once more, until Roscommon forward Dineen unleashed a powerful shot past Eunan Doherty in the New York goal to give the visitors a three point lead.
New York came back and counterattacked immediately, with Kieran Keaveney coming agonizingly close to netting a goal. With goalkeeper Derek Thompson off his line, full back John White saved a certain Keaveney goal from creeping past the line. Gerry Lohan, part of a counterattacking Roscommon contingent, then witnessed his shot sailing effortlessly over the bar. Left unmarked, Lohan had no trouble shooting between the posts to give Roscommon a seemingly healthy lead coming up to the half time break.
Introducing Neville Dunne and Paddy O’Connor gave New York an extra dimension, with Dunne providing some extra speed and strength in defense, and the terrier-like O’Connor adding a little aggression to the forwards. A free from Driscoll, and another point from Lilly brought New York right back into the tie, and a superb goal from O’Connor equalized for the American-based side right on half time.
After the interval, both sides battled to gain something of a lead, with Eddie Lohan adding his name to Roscommon’s scoresheet, and Brian McCabe of New York capping a fine personal display with a well-taken point.
Fergal O’Donnell and Derek Duggan then proceeded to hit points over to give Roscommon a two point lead.
Disappointingly for New York however, both Lilly and McCabe were denied free’s when they were seemingly illegally bundled off the ball by challenges probably attributed more to the difficult surface rather than any malicious intent on behalf of the Roscommon backs. Nonetheless, the New York bench saw these two non-frees as potential game winners, and were understandably aggrieved.
The game wore on, with Roscommon substitute Brendan Butler hitting a point for his side to increase his sides lead, and Lilly hitting another for his side.
An ongoing battle in midfield between New York’s John Meehan, and John Gillooley of Roscommon continued, proving to be one of the many highlights of the game, with both players proving themselves to be major assets to their respective clubs. Meehan shirked nothing, and had a hand in the final pass which witnessed Donal Breslin, just back from a lengthy injury layoff, to score arguably the best point of the afternoon when, following a long run, he blasted over from 40 yards. Gillooley and his partner in midfield Donal Casserly, provided vital links between defense and attack, and both came close to scoring in the second half.
The final quarter of the game saw Roscommon move into a two-point lead, which New York fought all the way to overcome.
Substitute Gary Dowd unluckily hit the outside of the post with a goal-bound effort, which on any other afternoon would have been made count, and at the other end, Nigel Dineen made no mistake with a pointed effort.
Bingo Driscoll and Lilly finished off New York’s scoring with a point apiece, but Derek Duggan’s third point of the afternoon gave Roscommon a three point victory.
All in all, it was very much a worthwhile exercise, with both teams giving the crowd what they had anticipated, a highly competitive fixture.
New York: Eunan Doherty, Keith Murray, Owen Cummins, Joe Cassidy, Jim Donaghue, Richie Purcell, Donal Breslin, John Meehan, James Kavanagh, Bingo Driscoll, Kieran Keaveney, Danny Leavy, Kevin Lilly, Brian McCabe, Stephen Cassidy. Subs Used: Neville Dunne, Gary Dowd, Paddy O’Connor, Dave Reynolds Scorers: Kevin Lilly (0-4), Bingo Driscoll (0-3), Paddy O’Connor (1-0), Brian McCabe (0-1), Donal Breslin (0-1)
Roscommon: Derek Thompson, Denis Gavin, John White, E. Gavin, Sean Casey, Clifford McDonald, Ciaran Heneghan, John Gillooley, Donal Casserly, Gerry Lohan, Derek Duggan, Eddie Lohan, Nigel Dineen, Fergal O’Donnell, Frankie Dolan. Subs Used: Bernard Butler, Tom Ryan, Alan Nolan, Lorcan Dowd. Scorers: Nigel Dineen (1-2), Gerry Lohan (0-3), Derek Duggan (0-3), Fergal O’Donnell (0-2), Bernard Butler (0-1), Eddie Lohan (0-1).