Would the real Kildare team stand up please? On all known evidence, Kildare were the team to beat in the race to be crowned all-Ireland minor champions. They simply blew all opposition out of the water in Leinster and were expected to have little difficulty in taking Roscommon’s scalp in the quarter-final. After all Roscommon had failed to retain their Connacht title.
Yet, just as their u21s flattered to deceive in the All-Ireland decider against Galway, the Lilywhites minors came crashing down to earth when they met a highly motivated, well organised, and more skilful Roscommon side in O’Connor Park, Tullamore, last Monday afternoon.
Fergal O’Donnell has many happy memories as both player and in more recent times as manager in Roscommon but this win will be up there with the best of them. There may have been no medals handed out just yet but on this evidence the young Rossies could well repeat the feat of the ’08 side and go all the way.
While he has an abundance of talent at his disposal O’Donnell certainly had not been found wanting in terms of preparing the team physically and implementing a game-plan to which Kildare simply had no answer. The ‘Fergie factor’ has played a big part in the underage success Roscommon has enjoyed in recent years and is laying the foundations for a stronger senior side in the coming years.
The likes of Martin Flannery, Eoin Fallon, Ronan Daly, Cathal Compton, Ultan Harney, and Diarmuid Murtagh bring huge talent to a side that in truth had no weaknesses last Monday.
Two goals in the opening 10 minutes rocked the favourites and a third major 10 minutes later had them firmly on the ropes. The dismissal of Tadhg O’Rourke on a second yellow card shortly before the break threw the Lilywhites, now trailing by five points, a lifeline.
Ultan Harney underlined his class and more importantly sent out a message that Roscommon were not for turning when he pointed straight from the throw-in. Kildare were unable to make their numerical advantage count and with both defences on top the goals Kildare needed were never going to materialise.
A heroic team performance from Fergal O’Donnell’s men who displayed maturity beyond their years with the controlled football they displayed. They have bundles of talent and this win will only improve them further.