Hurling and camogie

Roscommon hold off comeback to send Donegal down

The efforts of Paddy Hannigan weren't enough to prevent Roscommon relegating Donegal on Saturday 
Michael O'Brien in Ballina

DONEGAL came agonisingly close to retaining their NHL Division 2B status on Saturday, only to be pipped in the dying moments.

After making a great comeback, which saw Ardal McDermott’s side reel in Roscommon after trailing by 10 points, a frantic final few minutes saw Roscommon’s Ronan O’Meara get the winning score to ensure promotion for the Connacht side.

“We were hanging on for a finish and all the momentum was with Donegal but in fairness to our lads they dug deep and got the scores that were needed,” said Roscommon manager Justin Campbell.

“It was an unusual sort of a game. You win a league final last week and then you have to play a promotion game, it’s a sort of a difficult game to motivate yourself for. We sort of took our eye off the ball when we were on top and I felt we were never entirely comfortable. Maybe we didn’t deserve to be as far in front. I felt Donegal played well and just weren’t getting the scores.”

After losing all their Division 2B games, the pressure was on Donegal to produce a performance. But they struggled in the first half. It was a real stop-start sort of game with the strict refereeing of John Keane ensuring there was little flow to the game.

Roscommon edged the first-half, but Donegal were wasteful, hitting eight wides in the opening half-hour. Their full-forward Paddy Hannigan did looking threatening when possession came their way and indeed they were unlucky to have a goal disallowed after seven minutes with Hannigan deemed to have fouled his opponent. They trailed 1-6 to 0-5 at the break with free-taker Lee Henderson getting four of the five scores from frees.

Against the wind in the second-half, they were much more productive, with Jamesie Donnelly, Danny Cullen, Ciaran Mathewson and Paddy Hannigan hugely influential. Long balls to Hannigan yielded goals in the 44th and 52nd minutes, with the full-forward flicking Mathewson and Cullen deliveries to the net.

Roscommon corner-forward Adrian Murphy bagged goals in the 39th and 40th minutes to add to his first-half strike for a hat-trick, which gave Roscommon a healthy 3-6 to 0-5 advantage with 25 minutes to play. But Donegal stormed into the game from there on and they were on level terms by the 63rd minute when Mathewson took a pass from Cullen before firing past Noel Fallon.

Christopher McDermott briefly gave Donegal the lead before Cillian Egan responded from a tight angle for Roscommon. Ronan O’Meara (free) and Bernard Lafferty exchanged points in the final minutes before O’Meara slotted over the winner from play in injury time to end a dramatic contest.

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