12 first round games were played across the senior and intermediate championship, with ten clubs getting their seasons off to a winning start while senior contenders St. Brigid’s, Clann na nGael, Boyle and Pádraig Pearses all had to content themselves with a draw, albeit with St. Brigid’s getting off the mark last night in Strokestown.
So that’s how the teams fared – but who were the individual stars? Here’s the Roscommon Herald’s team of the week:
Goalkeeper: Austin Brady (Elphin)
A close call between Brady and Aaron Dowd of Western Gaels, with both men making key saves and keeping clean sheets in games where one goal conceded would have cost their clubs wins. If there was a difference between them, it was in the shape of Brady’s distribution – though as a player with very little senior football behind him, Dowd will be confident of making progress in that regard in short and long term future.
Right Corner Back: Aidan Dowd (Western Gaels)
Two early points for Brian Kelly of Roscommon Gaels indicated who was the form forward that Western Gaels had to watch, but from that point on Aidan Dowd got the better of the battle, while still playing a key role on the ball into the bargain. Expect him to play a key role in Fergal O’Donnell’s plans from now on.
Full back: David Murray (Pádraig Pearses)
Enda Smith might have run riot for Boyle but outside of that, Pearses actually did a good job on the other main attacking threats in Basil Mannion’s side. Cian McKeon didn’t play poorly, and he certainly showed for a lot of ball and tried to take the game to the county champions, but more often than not Murray was able to repel the danger. Given the quality of his direct opponent, he gets the vote over a couple of other strong performers such as Colin Walsh (Oran), Shane O’Malley (Michael Glaveys) and Mikey Cox (St. Faithleach’s).
Left Corner Back: Brendan Pacey (St. Croan’s)
He’ll face tougher challenges as the year goes on, but this was a promising start from the young St. Croan’s man, who crowned his performance with a late point. In a game where every score was precious, he walked the line between pressurising his opposite number and not giving Marty Parker cause to blow his whistle extremely well.
Right Wing Back: Thomas Greene (Éire Óg)
We’re taking liberties with positions here since Greene did line out in the centre of the Éire Óg defence, but his tenacity, positional sense and defensive strength would be of huge value anywhere in the back six. Lots of Éire Óg players impressed late in the game when the result was in the balance, Greene was at his best when things were competitive.
Centre Back: Cathal Cregg (Western Gaels)
A new role for the county man and one that he took to with ease. His control of that key sector of the field forced Roscommon Gaels to try and work down the wide channels, which meant the quality of the chances the home side created in Lisnamult was poor. As things got tighter and tighter late in the game, Cregg got better and better.
Left Wing Back: Michael Murtagh (Shannon Gaels)
Shannon Gaels’ clash with Ballinameen won’t have caught the eye of neutrals in the same way as some of the more high profile derbies like Clann vs Brigid’s or Elphin vs Strokestown, but it was a hugely significant game for these two clubs and that extra bit of quality in the Shannon Gaels ranks – exemplified by a very consistent and impressive performance from Murtagh at wing back – proved crucial.
Midfield – Enda Smith (Boyle)
For the final quarter of the game he endured the torture of sitting on the sideline and watching as his club coughed up a massive lead, in no small part because he had been sent off and so the visiting side at Woodmount had been reduced to fourteen men. Yet Smith’s performance was by far the single biggest reason that they were so far in front in the first place, as he had been utterly imperious up to that point, scoring a glorious solo goal, playing a key role in two others and kicking two points – not to mention any number of other cameos in terms of tackles, catches and runs. By some distance, it was the best display of the weekend by any player in the county.
Midfield – Caoileann Fitzmaurice (Michael Glaveys)
A very positive start from the West Roscommon club in this year’s championship was somewhat tarnished by a late injury to their midfielder, who was withdrawn late on after playing a hugely significant role in a very polished performance against Tulsk. Two early points from Fitzmaurice helped Glaveys recover from the concession of an early goal to Tadhg O’Rourke, and in general he was the key performer in a sector of the field where both clubs played a lot of their trump cards.
Right Wing Forward – Mikey Dunne (St. Faithleach’s)
He’s not the star name in a star-studded St. Faithleach’s team, but he put in a superb show over the hour, handling a huge amount of ball and adding pace and purpose to every move in which he was involved. If St. Faithleach’s succeed in bouncing back up to the senior ranks at the first attempt, Dunne is likely to play a huge role in that.
Centre Forward – Andy Glennon (Michael Glaveys)
Like the man given the number six jersey on this team, Glennon has been moved into a deeper role this year and he thrived, orchestrating play throughout Glaveys game against Tulsk last Saturday. With Cathal Heneghan back fit, Glennon can now be freed from carrying the bulk of the scoring workload, and that should bear more fruit as the year goes on.
Left Wing Forward – Darragh Walsh (Oran)
After a couple of early errors Walsh belied his youth by bouncing back with a fantastic overall display that featuring great running on the ball, some excellent distribution and some fantastic points from distance. Much more of this and he’s likely to pop up on Anthony Cunningham’s radar sooner rather than later.
Right Corner Forward – Keith Doyle (St. Dominic’s)
This was a close call between Doyle and Ciarán Sugrue of St. Brigid’s, and there’s no doubt that Doyle’s performance has to be viewed with the standard of opposition in mind. Had Sugrue added to the three points he kicked in the first quarter he might have got the nod, but Doyle kept up his performance over the full hour far better and he’ll be looking forward to adding to his tally against Ballinameen tomorrow.
Full Forward – Ronan Dowd (Creggs)
Yet again we’re taking liberties in terms of positions, though it would be a brave analyst who would confidently identify what position Dowd was filling against Kilbride. He popped up all over the forward line and was incredibly difficult to stop as a result, picking off scores and taking defenders out of the game as Creggs gradually undid their poor start.
Left Corner Forward – Ciarán Lennon (Clann na nGael)
Time will tell, but this performance may represent a real milestone in the career of the mercurial Clann attacker. He can be devastating at times, particularly when fitting into an attack that’s build around other players in anchor positions, but on Saturday evening he had to show real leadership in his club’s fightback against St. Brigid’s. He changed his game to suit the way Niall McInerney was marking him, he offered himself as a great outlet for players in the middle third and when the game was on the line and he was presented with a great goal chance late on, his finish was exemplary.