Roscommon are Connacht minor football champions for the first time since 2012 (first time at U-17 level since 2017) after a terrific 1-5 to 1-2 victory against Sligo in horrific weather conditions at the Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence, Bekan, on Saturday evening.
As Storm Bella battered the country, Emmet Durney’s bravehearts had to dig deep to see off the Yeats County who were looking for their first provincial crown at this level since 1968.
The Rossies managed to keep Sligo scoreless for 55 minutes but not even a late rally could deny the team captained by Eoin Colleran from Pádraig Pearses.
Playing with the elements at their backs, Roscommon scored four points through Oisín Cregg, Colleran and the excellent Conor Hand to lead by 0-4 to 0-0 at the break.
But Roscommon literally battened down the hatches in the third quarter, showing resilience and maturity beyond their years. And when Hand set up Shane Walsh for a game-defining goal just before the second-half water break, they had one hand on the cup.
Hand added another terrific score and it took Sligo 55 minutes to open their account through Canice Mulligan. Substitute Simon McKeon soon added another, and when Dylan Walsh’s 59th minute free went all the way to the net mission impossible suddenly looked possible again for Sligo.
But Roscommon held on, with Cregg, Caelim Keogh, Luke Walsh, Eoin Ward, Colm Neary alongside substitutes Thomas Lennon and Bobby Nugent putting their bodies on the line.
During the first Covid-19 lockdown, manager Emmet Durney hoped that these players would get the chance to represent their county. Now, on St. Stephen’s Night, they’re Connacht champions.
It was worth the wait.