Roscommon rolls into Cork to open up the campaign on the front foot

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Roscommon 1-13 Liege 0-10

Enda Smith’s first-half goal paved the way for Roscommon to claim their first league victory since October 2020 after overcoming a poor Cork side at Dr Hyde Park.

Although they missed their contingent of Pádraig Pearses and St Faithleach who were involved in the All-Ireland semi-final on Saturday, the Rossies, who also had to line up without marquee striker Conor Cox due injury, worked extremely hard in difficult conditions to eke a well-deserved triumph.

Given the force of the wind blowing towards the ‘graveyard end’ of the Hyde, Cork were still in contention at the break, despite trailing by seven points.

But they never made a good impression after the interval, navigating dead ends and lacking the composure and creativity to create meaningful chances. Ten wide in the second half summed up the poverty of their challenge as the Rossies held them comfortably at bay.

Ironically, the rebels started with intent. Points from David Buckley and keen winger Matthew Taylor put them on their feet, although Roscommon answered with Cian McKeon (free) and Enda Smith.

A Brian Hurley free in the 11th minute sent Cork back in front, and they looked to be in good position, but then went astray when Roscommon turned the screw.

Donie Smith tied the teams from a free kick before Enda Smith’s shot on goal went through the grip of Cork goalkeeper Micheál Martin and into the net after the 14th minute.

The floodgates opened after that as Roscommon, regularly overturning possession, went for the jugular with points from Niall Kilroy, Donie Smith (two) and Cian McKeon (free).

When Cork defender Tadhg Corkery was pushed back and forced to overplay near his own goal, the Roscommon players celebrated wildly as Donie Smith landed another free – a shining example of the greater work rate of the Rossies all over the field.

By the time Donie Smith added another free, Roscommon had hit 1-7 unanswered.

A hat-trick of Cork scores from Hurley (two) and John O’Rourke hinted at a Cork revival, but McKeon had the last half-time laugh with an excellent game point to leave 2019 champions Connacht 1-10 at 0-6 ahead at halftime.

Cork barely lifted a canter with the elements in their favor. They managed to score through Mark Cronin and Hurley, but they didn’t score again for 20 minutes, lacking the creative spark to get back into the game.

A few frees from Donie Smith turned the scoreboard from Roscommon’s perspective before a superb effort from runaway Enda Smith was sandwiched between a free and a 45 from Hurley.

Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham hailed his side’s willingness to piggyback and work hard afterwards as they head to Navan and a tie with Meath next weekend.

For Cork, it was another sobering reminder of just how far down the pecking order they have fallen.

ROSCOMMON: C Lavin; F Lennon, B Stack, E McCormack; D Ruane, C Hussey, R Hughes; U Harney, E Nolan; N Kilroy (0-1), E Smith (1-2), D McGann; C McKeon (0-3, two free), D Smith (0-7, five free, a 45), C Heneghan.

Subtitles: B O’Carroll for Heneghan (ht), C Lawless for Ruane (50 min), S Cunnane for McGann (57), C Sugrue for Harney (65), C Walsh for Lennon (67).

CORK: M Martin; S Powter, K Flahive, T Corkery; C Kiely, J Cooper, M Taylor (0-1); J Grimes, R Maguire; D Buckley (0-1), J O’Rourke (0-1), C O’Callaghan; M Cronin (0-1), B Hurley (0-6, four franks, a 45), D Dineen.

Subtitles: E McSweeney for Grimes (25 min), K O’Donovan for Cooper (ht), C Óg Jones for D Buckley (48), P King for O’Rourke (65), M Buckley for Cronin (67).

Arbitrator: S Mulhare (Laois).

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