GAA Football

Roscommon come up clutch to force final replay with Galway

 David Murray of Roscommon attempts a spectacular block against Galway’s Damien Comer at Pearse Stadium yesterday
Picture by Sportsfile
Declan Rooney in Salthill

Connacht Senior Football Championship final Galway 0-13 Roscommon 1-10 

ROSCOMMON finally found their form up front at the death as points from Donie Smith and Cathal Cregg forced a replay for their side after an attritional Connacht final at Pearse Stadium.

Galway must have believed that their 45th Connacht title had been wrapped up when substitute Adrian Varley kicked their 13th score with three minutes remaining, which saw them into a two-point lead.

But after a half of mediocre football, Roscommon showed great character and belief to pour forward in search of scores. A minute from time Cathal Cregg pointed to put one between the sides, before Smith levelled matters after he himself was fouled by Eoghan Kerin.

The replay will make an interesting comparison to this 70 minutes, played in incessant rain and a strong wind in Salthill.

Despite being three points behind at half-time Galway were still the better team and they would have been fair winners had they finished out the game in a manner their endeavour deserved.

Despite seeing his side needing a couple of late points to force a replay, Roscommon manager Kevin McStay said he was delighted with his side’s display.

Facing the elements in the secondhalf Roscommon had only kicked two points in the first 34 minutes of the half, but they came good in the end.

His side looked second best and a beaten side as time ticked away, but they deserve massive credit for the manner of their comeback and the steeliness shown.

“Not at all – disappointment? I’m delighted to get away. Three up at half-time; it was a five, six-point breeze. We just kept going, never stopped, and young Smith got an outrageous free. It was a brilliant free.

“I thought we’d get the winner when we went up the side, but we slowed it down a bit and never got the shot off,” said the Roscommon joint manager.

“We are delighted with a replay. We have a lot to figure out. Our young men have come through a Connacht final and we have another three under-22’s that have come through it. That was some kick Donie made, he’s only a young fella. They aren’t tap-over – they are monstrous scores. They showed great composure.”

In a highly tactical game both teams elected to put as many players behind the ball as possible and as a result it needed very patient play from the attacking sides to punch holes in the mass defence.

For the most part Galway performed better in defence and they forced countless turnovers as Roscommon players dallied on the ball and carried possession into contact.

At the other end they also appeared to be more dangerous, as Gary O’Donnell, Eamon Brannigan, Gareth Bradshaw and Liam Silke threatened with strong runs from deep.

Yet, it was Roscommon that struck the crucial score of the first-half when Enda Smith poked the ball to the net in the 16th minute after he was involved twice previously in the move along with Niall McInerney. But Roscommon were not without their performances either.

At full-back Sean Mullooly came out on top of his battle with Damien Comer, while John McManus also put in a great 70 minutes and kept danger man Shane Walsh scoreless.

But the fact that Roscommon only kicked four points in the second-half cannot be ignored.

For long periods they seemed to have no presence in the full-forward line – especially after Enda Smith went off – and instead they elected to build slowly, especially when they got within 50 metres of Galway’s posts.

Kevin Walsh said he was happy to have a second shot at winning his first Connacht title as a manager, but he didn’t feel that way after 67 minutes.

“You’ll take the draw. Would you take it with three minutes to go? No. Would you take it five minutes gone into the game? You would,” said Walsh.

“It is half-time now in a two-game series. You are two points up with a breeze behind your back, you would like to see it out. But we had one or two chances that we didn’t put over the bar and one or two counterattacks that ended up in one or two late Roscommon frees. We probably went a little deep in defence.”

Both teams will be satisfied with their scoring rate, though, in shocking conditions in Salthill.

In the second minute Conor Devaney fired a great opening score for Roscommon from the left, before O’Donnell broke through to score on a driving run for the ‘home’ side.

Both goalkeepers trotted forward in the opening half to slot 45s for their teams, and after Enda Smith’s lead goal an excellent point from Niall Daly from wide of the right touchline put Roscommon four points ahead by the 18th minute.

But with Danny Cummins a constant threat inside for Galway, they fought back well before the interval.

A free from Sice was added to by two in-a-row from Cummins, and when the hard-working Johnny Heaney found a pocket of space, Galway only trailed by 1-6 to 0-6 at the break.

Bradshaw and Comer added quick points after the restart for Galway, and after Fintan Cregg kicked a good point from distance for Roscommon, Galway added another three without reply to take the lead for the first time in the 48th minute.

A levelling free from Murtagh was responded to by Comer and Varley as Galway took on the look of champions, but instead Roscommon found renewed intent and pushed on to seal the draw.

MATCH STATS Galway: B Power (0-1, 0-1’45); E Kerin, D Kyne, D Wynne; G O’Donnell (0-1), L Silke, G Bradshaw (0-1); P Conroy (0-1, 0-1f), T Flynn; G Sice (0-2, 0-2f), S Walsh, J Heaney (0-1); D Cummins (0-3), D Comer (0-2), E Brannigan Subs: A Varley (0-1) for Sice (61 mins), P Sweeney for Cummins (65 mins), C Sweeney for Heaney (70 mins). Black card(s): P Sweeney not replaced (73 mins) Yellow cards: E Brannigan (9 mins), P Conroy (26 mins), E Kerin (72 mins)
Roscommon: D O’Malley (0-1, 1’45); S McDermott, S Mullooly, N McInerney; D Murray, S Purcell, J McManus; N Daly (0-2), C Compton; C Cregg (0-1), D Keenan, C Devaney (0-1); F Cregg (0-2, 1f), E Smith (1-0), C Murtagh (0-2, 1f); Subs: D Smith (0-1, 1f) for E Smith (42), U Harney for Compton (52), T Corcoran for Keenan (61), D Shine for Devaney (65), S Kilbride for F Cregg (67). Black card(s): P Sweeney not replaced (73 mins) Yellow cards: E Brannigan (9 mins), P Conroy (26 mins), E Kerin (72 mins), D Murray (9 mins), C Cregg (31 mins)
Referee: C Lane (Cork)

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