Joe Callaghan reports from Gaelic Park, New York
Roscommon 1-15 New York 0-17
The wait for a fairytale goes on. But oh how close New York came to making history in the Bronx last night.
Under leaden skies they frightened the life out of Roscommon, refusing to wilt against massively favoured opponents, they fell by the narrowest possible margin, an agonising solitary point.
With Luke Loughlin and Brian Connor dominant after the break, it was a stretch of four straight points after the hour mark had Roscommon on the ropes. A score from substitute Senan Kilbride as the clock ticked over turned out to be decisive.
But for Roscommon’s management team, lauded for a hugely impressive league campaign, there will be a lot of searching questions to be answered
Kevin McStay and Fergal O’Donnell chose New York as the place to turn to new blood. Five Championship debuts were handed out – to Sean Mullonly, Niall McInerney, Cathal Compton, Cian Connolly and John McManus.
It was the visitors who burst out of the gates with vigour, winning a free less than 40 seconds in but Fintan Cregg let the opportunity slip by as he sent it left and wide. If that first-minute frenzy had fazed the hosts they had a funny way of showing it.
Darren Freeman may not be a household name in Gaelic football circles but he will now forever be the answer to the trivia question of who scored in the first game of the 2016 Championship, the New York corner forward slotting over in the fourth minute.
Ciaran Murtagh pointed a free to equalise soon after but it did little to settle the favourites as a visibly frustrated O’Donnell stalked the sideline.
Luke Loughlin was cutting through the Roscommon rearguard with some power and when he grabbed his second point in the 16th minute – his scores coming either side of a free from former Offaly forward Brian Connor – New York were leading by four points to two.
A Roscommon team who had been such impressive road warriors in the National League were finding the longer haul trip hard to shake off.
In fact it wasn’t until Maurice Deegan intervened that they assumed command. A stellar Vinny Cadden save was wasted when Cathal Cregg was hauled to the ground by Ronan McGinley and a penalty signalled.
Ciaran Murtagh dispatched it expertly and Roscommon nerves began to settle as the floodlights were turned on early on a dank Bronx evening.
The Murtaghs were to the fore both tacking on points – as did Devaney – before half-time but the team that blitzed Cork in the league were finding New York’s defence tougher to crack.
Paddy McNiece’s free before the whistle ensured New York were still in it at the break, trailing by just four points, 1-7 to 0-6.
McNiece pointed a free soon after the restart but by the time Donie Shine was sprung from the bench on 43 minutes, Roscommon looked to be assuming command, ahead 1-10 to 0-8, thanks largely to Fintan Cregg.
How wrong that was to prove as Freeman and Connor scored two apiece and ramped up the pressure in an incredible final 15 minutes.
“Let’s Go New York” chants erupted from the grandstand.
Go, they did. All the way to the final whistle and that agonising final margin. The miracle never felt so close.
Roscommon: C Murtagh (1-3, pen; 1f), F Cregg (0-4, 4f), C Devaney (0-3), D Murtagh (0-2, 1f), C Cregg (0-1), C Connolly (0-1), S Kilbride (0-1)
New York: D Freeman (0-4), B Connor (0-4, 2f), L Loughlin (0-3), P McNeice (0-3, 3f), B Gallagher (0-1), K Connolly (0-1)
NEW YORK: V Cadden, R McGinley, G McCartan, K Moynagh; K Scally, J Duane (c), K Quinn; J Glynn, B Gallagher; L Loughlin, B Connor, P McNeice; P Boyle, K Connolly, D Freeman.
Subs: J Comerford for Quinn (11 mins; black card); P Lambe for Comorford (40 mins); S Hogan for Duane (43 mins), N Egan for Glynn (60 mins)
Yellow card: McGinley (20)
ROSCOMMON: G Claffey, S McDermott, N Collins, S Mullooly; J McManus, D Keenan, N McInerney; N Daly, C Compton; F Cregg, C Murtagh, C Devaney; C Connolly, D Murtagh, C Cregg.
Subs: J McDermott for C Compton (23 mins); D Shine for Connolly (40mins); S Kilbride for D Murtagh (60mins); N Kilroy for Cregg (61 mins)
Ref: M Deegan (Laois)