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Dublin: 0 °C Saturday 25 November, 2017
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Roscommon's Jekyll and Hyde show, Donegal's 'moving quarter' returns

Plenty to discuss after Sunday’s GAA action.

1. Roscommon’s Jekyll and Hyde display

ROSCOMMON CERTAINLY DON’T make things easy on themselves.

They’ll play the winners of Galway and Mayo in the Connacht final. The journey to their first provincial decider since 2011 has been a far bumpier one than expected.

Sean Mullooly with Keelan Cawley and Adrian McIntyre Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

After almost crashing out of the championship in New York, Roscommon looked like they’d steadied the ship against Leitrim. At half-time against Sligo today, they were lost lost at sea.

How did they turn things around after half-time?

“The first-half was shocking,” Roscommon joint-manager Kevin McStay told Newstalk after the game. “We were in an awful position. I just said to them at half-time it would be great one to win.”

It certainly was.

In the end Roscommon’s win was a comfortable nine points. It was quite the turnaround, considering they found themselves in a 2-8 to 0-6 hole at half-time. Goals from Adrian Marren and Kyle Cawley (who is in the middle of his Leaving Cert) left Niall Carew’s men in control.

Even though the wind was a factor, Sligo’s eight point lead looked like an unassailable one.

Kyle Cawley celebrates scoring a goal Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

It didn’t take Roscommon long to flip the script in the second-half. After the interval they brought a renewed energy and enthusiasm to the game.

The message from McStay was clear.

“[We had to] stop giving up these horrendous turnovers that are costing us so much,” he said. “Show a bit of composure. Take an extra pass out of it and it’ll open up.

“We felt we were in good shape, physically. There was a strong wind there, people probably didn’t realise that. I’m very pleased with whatever we won by in the end. It was a good second-half.”

After the break Roscommon went for the jugular. By the end of the game they were an unstoppable force. It’s hard to single out why they were so bad in the first 35 minutes. Was it an over-emphasis on their game plan that paralyzed them?

Whatever it was, Roscommon loosened up in the second half and started to play some football. The movement in their attack caused Sligo untold problems.

Of course, losing Adrian Marren to a black card just before half-time was a key factor in Sligo’s second half collapse.

Sean Mulooly with Pat Hughes Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Senan Kilbride’s goal 30 seconds after the restart set the tone for the remainder of the game.

Rossies’ offensive juggernaut finally started to pick up speed and after Neil Collins and the Smith brothers were summoned from the bench, they were steamrolling Sligo all over the field.

Roscommon’s strong running and abundant fitness levels caused the Sligo defence to creak. Roscommon outscored them by 4-10 to 0-5 after the interval, with Ciaran Murtagh bagging a brace of goals and Donie Smith adding the fourth.

Three games into their championship campaign, Roscommon continue to blow hot and cold. If they start like they did today in the Connacht final, the game will be over by half-time.

The trick is to find the tempo they brought in the second-half when their lives flashed before their eyes. That’s the version of Roscommon we need to see more consistently.

***

Ciarain Murtagh celebrates scoring a penalty Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

2. Connacht final beckons for the Rossies

The mentality now changes for Roscommon. They’ve gone into the last three games in Connacht as heavy favourites. The spread betting was six points in their favour today. With the favourite tag comes expectation and a pressure to perform.

The Connacht final will require a different approach. They’ll more than likely face six in a row chasing Mayo, who are warm favourites to come out of the other semi-final against Galway.

Going in as underdogs might suit Kevin McStay and Fergal O’Donnell’s team. They thrived in the league when expectations were low. (Roscommon’s high fitness levels at that early stage also contributed to their fine league form).

The Connacht final is a game that will really test their metal. The talk all during the league was how Roscommon were ready to challenge Mayo’s crown in the west.

Now it’s time to really see what they’re made of.

***

Ryan McHugh with Declan McCusker and Richard O'Callaghan Source: Presseye/Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

3. Donegal’s ‘moving quarter’ is back

During Jim McGuinness’s final season as Donegal manager, the third quarter of their games became known as “the moving quarter.”

Things followed a predictable trend. They would slowly wear down the opposition through relentless running and tackling in the first half. After the interval they’d put the afterburners on and made a break for home. Goals usually followed.

Donegal’s famous win over Dublin in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final epitomized how they did things.

Today’s win over Fermanagh wasn’t quite as eye opening as that August day in Croker, but it was every bit as emphatic.

Donegal performances haven’t yet hit the level they were at in 2014, but the “moving quarter” reappeared with a devastating spell after half-time.

It culminated with Odhran MacNiallais’ second goal on 44 minutes. He palmed the ball into the net to finish off a sweeping move where Donegal zipped through with quick movement and even quicker hands.

It put Donegal 2-7 to 0-8 ahead and they clipped over the next three points to lead by eight after 52 minutes. Game over.

Patrick McBrearty celebrates his side's second goal Source: Presseye/Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

Of course, had Sean Quigley dispatched a penalty on the stroke of half-time, it could have been an entirely different game. Neil McGee conceded the penalty and was sent off for swinging his elbow as he drove out of defence.

McGee’s dismissal seemed to militarize Donegal. They’ve a remarkable ability to slow down the tempo of a game and grind it out when they go down to 14 men. They took control of matters after the break, which couldn’t have come at a better time for Rory Gallagher.

By the time MacNiallais had scored the game-defining, you’d have been forgiven for thinking it was Donegal who had the spare man. They have an uncanny ability to choke the life out of a game. Fermanagh failed to kick a wide in the second half and scored just once from play.

Barry Mulroney and Rory Kavanagh Source: Presseye/Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

Still, Fermanagh did expose a chink or two in the armour of their opponents.

They showed that you can cause Donegal problems when you run at them. On a number of occasions Fermanagh did exactly that and Tomas Corrigan was happy to knock the frees over the bar.

We won’t know the full extent of how much Paul Durcan’s absence affects Gallagher’s team until further down the line, but there were some worrying signs in Ballybofey.

In the early stages of the first half, Donegal noticeably went short with their kickouts every time Fermanagh scored. Pete McGrath eventually instructed Fermanagh to push up on the restarts, causing Mark Anthony McGinley problems.

He put three balls straight out over the sideline in the opening half and it’s an area Donegal will need to brush up on before they take on Monaghan. They really miss Durcan’s disguised kick outs.

Finally, Frank McGlynn left the field with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. Gallagher will be hoping it’s not a serious one.

***

Johnny Moloney with Paul Sharry and Francis Boyle Source: Tom Beary/INPHO

4. Slow start kills Offaly as Westmeath advance

Westmeath are one game away from making back to back provincial finals for the first time in their history.

Coming off a third successive league relegation, Tom Cribbin’s charges find themselves in a very winnable Leinster SFC semi-final against Kildare on June 26th.

Westmeath’s defensive structure frustrated Offaly for long spells and at the other end John Heslin and John Connellan kicked some excellent points.

Offaly were slow starters on a number of occasions already this year and they were second off the mark once again in Mullingar. Westmeath kicked the game’s first four points and it took the away side 17 minutes to get their first score.

With a strong breeze at their backs, Westmeath led by six at the break. Offaly eventually whittled away at their lead and got to within a point, but they didn’t have the firepower to get over the line.

The Faithful shipped a goal after six minutes against Longford in their championship opener four weeks ago. In their last league game against Limerick, Offaly handed their opponents a three point head start before eventually turning things around. It’s an area Pat Flanagan needs to work on.

***

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Kevin O'Brien

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