The well known Kingspan Breffni Park in Cavan, hosted the final of the All Ireland U20B Richie McElligott Cup between Down and Roscommon under a threatening overcast sky that thankfully remained reasonably dry for the duration of the game. With a three hour trek from the Upper Ards to the Willie Doonan, Senior All Ireland Footballer memorial stone, just outside the Breffni gates, lunch in Cavan’s popular ‘Hard boiled Egg’ was a welcome stop and provided the moment to reflect on why we were here. All Irelands, regardless of age or level don’t come around as a matter of turn. You earn the right to be in the final due to hard work, a dedicated back room team, knowledgeable management, skilful players with committed families and last but not least, your share of luck on the day.
As the mid-day breeze displayed its physical presence with the fluttering of the Championship flags high above the terraces, Down were left to play head on into the breeze with their backs to the town centre of Cavan in the first half. Referee Tarlach Conway from Derry quickly set about establishing his game administration with captains Lukas Boyd – Down and Naoise Coyle – Roscommon and within less than a minute, the sliotar was rolled in to mark the start of what would be an enthralling hour for Down supporters.
Down v Roscommon – 1
Roscommon’s Patrick Fallon chalked up the first point of the match from an awarded free close to the centre of the pitch just seconds into the start of the game. Fallon would pickup a second chance to float another free over Down’s bar and would prove to be Roscommon’s reliable free taker throughout the remainder of the match.
As Down worked the sliotar up into Roscommon’s half, a hopeful free taken by James Duggan from a foul on Oisín Coulter dropped short but an alert Coulter wouldn’t be denied his just desserts and following in, picked up a loose ball to open up Down’s score stats with a fine short range point.
The Rossie’s centre half Mike Lohan would benefit from picking up the sliotar from a period of fluid play before pointing and drifting Roscommon slowly into the early lead of Down 0-01 Roscommon 0-03 but Down’s nifty full forward, Oisín Coulter, was about to nail the gap with two fine back to back diagonal shots over the bar from his left side to level things up.
A long puck out from the Roscommon keeper, Michael Corcoran, eventually weaved its way into the hands of full forward Adam Donnelly and a fine strike exercised the reactions from Down’s Cahal Lavery, pulling off a remarkable save.
Down v Roscommon – 2
After a quickly taken free for Down that was knocked on by Michael Dorrian, Roscommon’s James Dillion would inadvertently return the sliotar back into the hands of Dorrian who remarkably caressed the sliotar over the Rossie’s bar for a fine point despite Dillion breaking his stick over the foot of Dorrian.
Dorrian commits to the tippy toe treatment Down v Roscommon – 3
Roscommon’s Ryan Conlon levelled the scores once again and inched the Rossies forward by one point and as they moved the sliotar deep into Down’s full back line, Deaglan Mallon swept out with pace to safely move the danger up the pitch into the waiting hand of Ethan Bell. Bell would catch the dropping sliotar, turning into a solo run and offloaded to a waiting Finn Turpin who finished the sequence with a point to level the scores at 5 points each.
Down v Roscommon – 4
Just before the match clock ticked its way down to declare the end of an evenly balanced first half, Roscommon took advantage of Patrick Fallon’s free taking to inch a lead by two points, followed by an exciting on goal attempt from Down’s Dorrian but competently saved by the Rossie’s Michael Corcoran.
The first half would come to a halt after points from Roscommon’s Adam Donnelly and Down’s James Duggan that left the large scoreboard illuminating Down 0-07 Roscommon 0-09 with everything to play for now in the second half. Roscommon’s Eoin Kiernan attempted to make a dramatic psychological impact on the scoreline going into the whistle with a close range goal tapped in from a lobbed sliotar by Adam Donnelly, but the umpire spotted and signalled a square ball to referee Conway and the Rossie’s supporters howled in disappointment.
A side line straw poll amongst the various pundits suggested a 3 – 4 point breeze might favour Down now but just as that was said, the breeze fizzled out as if Roscommon had switched it off on their way to the changing rooms. Would Down loose out on that advantage was the question on some minds.
With the second half now underway, Down’s keeper Lavery was able to enjoy a resurgence of the breeze and now had the option of dropping sliotars deep into Roscommon’s half back line should he wish, as part of his armoury. It was however, Roscommon who took the early advantage and nudged their campaign closer to a possible victory with two points in succession from Mikey Lohan and a free from Patrick Fallon. Roscommon were alive now and a goal scoring chance was on the cards when Patrick Fallon looked like he was going to go one to one with Lavery but a defiant challenge from James Higgins disorientated Fallon and the opportunity went amiss.
Down moved back into the game after an infringement on James Duggan gave him the opportunity to make amends with a simple strike over the bar as referee Conway moved him forward. Finn Turpin attempted to reach the clutching hand of Michael Dorrian but having knocked the sliotar down, displayed his brute determination to repossess and having done so made a bee line to Rossie’s goal. A blasted strike was blocked by Ben Kelly but the blocked sliotar was badly cleared by Thomas Tiernan and lay on the ground like a beacon to any forward. Dorrian stepped in and with a clean pull, the sliotar was drilled into the back of Roscommon’s net for Down’s first goal. Dorrian wasn’t about to let that goal go to his head and followed that up with a fine point.
Dorrian scores Down’s first goal Down v Roscommon – 5
Roscommon’s Ben Kelly was deemed to have fouled an attacking James Duggan and referee Conway reached for the yellow and then the red as this was his second yellow after an earlier incident with Duggan. Roscommon were now down to fourteen men and the task ahead of winning the McElligott Cup just got even harder.
Both sides would now enter a period of the game where points were traded from Duggan and a long free from Eoin Pucci, then two frees from Patrick Fallon either side of a tight angled point from the Rossies Mikey Lohan followed by an awesome long range air mailed sliotar by Pucci to bring the scoreline to Down 1-12 Roscommon 0-14.
With ten minutes of normal time remaining on the clock, down turned on the afterburners with a display of intelligent play. A well fought for sliotar picked up and secured by the ever hard working Lukas Boyd was quickly directed to Pucci by a short hand pass. Pucci flighted a cute diagonal ball that increased the chances of a red shirt covering its decent. It would be James Duggan on the end to bat the sliotar to a waiting Aodhan Furlong. Furlong sensing the build up of an ominous wall of yellow jerseys off loaded with a hand pass to a coiled and cool Oisín Coulter, who looks like he has dispatched the sliotar in slow motion from his left side past keeper Michael Corcoran into the back of the receptive net. Down 2-12 Roscommon 0-14.
Coulter on the far right enjoys Down’s second goal with only a wry smile Down v Roscommon – 6
By now Pucci was omnipresent and seemed to be in the right place at the right time, intercepting a Roscommon pass with incredible reflexes and turned to usher yet another wonderful long sliotar over the Rossie’s bar. Down 2-13 Roscommon 0-14.
Eoin Kiernan would wrap up Roscommon’s point scoring campaign with a classy point from a well earned sliotar. Down continued to apply pressure and a hard fought sliotar by Finn Turpin was short passed to a hungry Michael Dorrian, who delivered a wonderfully flighted sliotar for another point. Down 2-14 Roscommon 0-15.
James Duggan would close Down’s scoring book after having benefited from a simple mistake by keeper Michael Corcoran. Just when the Richie McElligott Cup looked securely on its way to the Mournes, referee Conway blew for a penalty on Dara Finneran with seconds on the clock but Cahal Lavery was again on top form and dived low to his right to save yet another penalty. Conway blew for the end of the game and the Down lads showed what this meant to them with a goal mouth frenzy of celebrations.
Lavery reads the line perfectly Down v Roscommon – 7
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Down v Roscommon – 9
Well done to Down and commiserations to Roscommon, who presented a great challenge that gave everyone a fitting All Ireland final.
Cahal Lavery, James Higgins, Deaglan Mallon, Eoin Pucci, Ciarán Savage, Lukas Boyd, Ciarán Milligan, Owen McDermott, Aodhan Furlong, Ethan Bell, James Duggan, Michael Dorrian, Finn Turpin, Ryan Convery, Oisín Coulter, Pearse Smyth, Rory Corcoran, Eoin Magee, Seán Milligan, Feargal McManus, Donal Magee, Jon Fisher, Ryan O’Neill, Liam Gordon
Michael Corcoran, Ben Kelly, James Dillion, Thomas Tiernan, Micheál Hussey, Naoise Coyle, James Mannion, Jack Dowling, Mikey Lohan, Finn Killion, Eoin Kiernan, Michael Brennan, Patrick Fallon, Adam Donnelly, Ryan Conlon, Dara Finneran, Michael Dillon, Ronan Finn, Trevor Fallon, Cormac Mulry, Aidan Hoare, Aaron Flaherty, Thomas Carey
Ballycran supporters make the long journey to support the team Down v Roscommon – 10
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Defending stalwart Deaglan Mallon de-escalates the threat Down v Roscommon – 21
Lukas Boyd patrols the half back line Down v Roscommon – 22
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Marksman Patrick Fallon Down v Roscommon – 26
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