Joy for St. Faithleach’s, heartbreak for St. Dominic’s, regret for Fuerty, and plenty of daylight back to the chasing pack – the Mulryan Construction Roscommon IFC came to an end last Sunday afternoon at Dr. Hyde Park, with Diarmuid and Brian Murtagh lifting the Jamesie Murray Cup on behalf of the Shannonside club at the end of a marathon contest at county headquarters.
Unsurprisingly, Diarmuid is one of the 15 players that’s been selected for the Roscommon Herald IFC team of the year, despite struggling to make an impression in the final, but who will fill the other 14 slots? There was incredible competition for places, particularly in the half-back and full-forward lines, but when all is said and done, seven clubs have representation on the side, including eight that togged out in last Sunday’s final.
So did your star player make the cut? Let’s see!
Goalkeeper: Mark Miley (St. Dominic’s)
A red card at the tail end of the final meant the year ended on a sour note for the former All-Ireland champion goalkeeper, but we can forgive an element of frustration at that stage, given everything that had gone before it. Throughout the year Miley was as sharp as ever, making a string of saves in key games.
Colm Lavin’s unfortunate injury early in their quarter-final meant the Éire Óg man didn’t get the chance to prolong what had been a good campaign up to that point while Neil Hannon of Clann also made some very impressive stops throughout the year, suggesting that he’ll be a strong contender for the senior job in 2022. For now however, Mark Miley holds the top spot.
Right Corner-Back: Micheál Byrne (St. Dominic’s)
His best performance came in the county final, where he did a superb man-marking job on Diarmuid Murtagh that limited the damage done by the St. Faithleach’s captain. All year he had been quietly effective without ever standing out, but there isn’t a club manager in Roscommon who wouldn’t be happy to have the dual player lining out in his full back line.
Full-Back: Mikey Cox (St. Faithleach’s)
Not unlike Byrne, Cox is not a flashy player by any manner, but he goes about his business very effectively, dealing with high and low balls with equal aplomb. In modern gaelic football, the average number of goals per game at club level is around 2.5. The equivalent number for this year’s Roscommon IFC is 3.25, and St. Faithleach’s were the only team to concede less than a goal per match (four in six). No player was more important to that than Cox.
A shout out here too to Jack Keane of Castlerea, and also to Jack Sharkey of Kilmore, who played well in defences that were under a bit more pressure.
Left Corner-Back: Darren Nerney (St. Faithleach’s)
We always have to do a little bit of juggling to accommodate someone who doesn’t deserve to miss out even if they weren’t the best player in their primary position, and that player is Darren Nerney. We’d have no qualms in selecting him at 4 in a good team either, as he played extremely well as a sweeping defender, operating just in front of his full back line throughout the year.
Right Half-Back: Kieran Connaughton (Clann na nGael)
Clann’s game this year was based around running the ball hard and straight through the middle third, breaking tackles and creating overlaps. Connaughton was outstanding in this regard, while still looking after his defensive duties at the same time. He chipped in with plenty of scores too, and it’s a measure of Clann’s depth at this position that they could field players like Connaughton and David Flynn in the half-back line of their second team.
Centre-Back: Eoin McCormack (St. Dominic’s)
McCormack was a rock at the heart of the St. Dominic’s back line, putting in tackles and blocks while still playing a key role going forward. His inspirational point late in the first half of Sunday’s final, and his goal when the team was under pressure against Éire Óg, proved that he’s also a man that’s happy to take responsibility when the heat is on.
As mentioned, Darren Nerney was excellent in this role and had to be accommodated elsewhere, while Fintan Sweeney of Shannon Gaels, Keith Waldron of St. Aidan’s, David Flynn of Clann and Denis Barron of Éire Óg are others that put in a good year in what is invariably a pivotal position for any side.
Left Half-Back: Shane Keenan (Castlerea St. Kevin’s)
There’s no medium setting for Keenan, who just waits for the whistle to go and then spends every minute on the field bursting his lungs for the collective cause. He’s a tough opponent for any player and is someone who had the potential to be a really top class performer if a few of the rough edges can be sanded off the sides of his game.
Midfield: David Rooney (St. Faithleach’s)
Rooney’s contribution in the final wasn’t on the same scale as some of his efforts throughout the year, but it was a tough day to be in the trenches at midfield, and it’s notable that St. Dominic’s – who went into battle with two good midfielders in the shape of Jack Lohan and Tom Appleby – didn’t control the middle either. 0-13 from play across six games is incredible going.
Midfield: Shane Dowd (Creggs)
The absence of his brother Ronan only further added pressure on Shane this year, and he certainly didn’t let the side down. He alternated between midfield and centre forward for most of the year and the only way he could have done any more for the team’s cause is that if he figured out a way to do both jobs at the same time.
Right Half-Forward: Aengus Lyons (Fuerty)
After coming back from injury, Lyons hit the ground running in 2021 and still got better and better as the year went on. His season ended in success with the Athleague hurlers, but three wins and then an extra time, one-point defeat to St. Faithleach’s would suggest that Fuerty are pretty close to where they need to be. Lyons is a huge part of that, and will continue to be for as long as he stays fit.
Centre-Forward: Daire Keenan (St. Dominic’s)
Keenan is a joy to watch on the ball, with a very natural, fluid running style and a great sense of where he needs to be to make the most significant attacking contribution. He has gone from being an impressive newcomer to becoming the central cog in the St. Dominic’s attack.
Left Half-Forward: Séa Henry (Clann na nGael)
Henry had games where he was good, and then there were games when he was unstoppable – the group game against St. Aidan’s comes to mind in particular. The sheer force with which he runs when on the ball is a huge weapon for his side, and he would certainly be able to make a meaningful contribution if called upon by Liam Kearns.
Right Corner-Forward: Conor Cox (Éire Óg)
The competition for corner and full forward places on this team was utterly ludicrous, and yet there could be no real argument with any of the three that we’ve chosen (famous last words I’m sure!). Conor Cox made a slow start to the season, failing to score from play against St. Faithleach’s in the first game, but from then on he was simply unstoppable, ending the season as the top scorer with 2-41 to his credit.
Full-Forward: Diarmuid Murtagh (St. Faithleach’s)
Like a lot of attacking players on both sides, Diarmuid didn’t have the type of game on Sunday that he would have wished, popping over the first score of the game but failing to raise a flag after that. Over the season however, he was superb. His first goal against Castlerea was exactly the type of ruthless finish, enabled by his power and accuracy, that demonstrated how he brought his best form to the table for his club all summer.
Left Corner-Forward: Niall Kilroy (Fuerty)
The only man to get selected on two Roscommon Herald Teams of the Year, Kilroy racked up the scores across Fuerty’s four competitive fixtures, despite getting plenty of defensive attention in those games. Not too many players could play as target man, put in that amount of tackles and hits, and still be there to score freely.
Others like Darren Donnelly, Conor Fallon, James Tansey, Darren Clabby and Adam McDermott all played well and scored freely over the season, but the three inside forwards selected here raised the bar to an incredibly high level.
*Compiled by Kevin Egan