Galway gain upper hand in the Hyde

 Damien Comer of Galway celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Roscommon and Galway at Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Damien Comer of Galway celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Roscommon and Galway at Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Connacht SFC semi-final: Galway 1-13 Roscommon 1-9

It was like the 2022 All-Ireland semi-final all over again in Dr Hyde Park yesterday afternoon, as Galway’s strong collective defensive endeavour dulled Roscommon’s attacking edge, leaving Damien Comer to deliver a tour de force up front and leave the Tribesmen just 70 minutes from silverware.

“He (Comer) probably carried us there on his own, he might have a bit of a sore back going home from all the carrying” was Pádraic Joyce’s slightly tongue-in-cheek description of his full-forward’s 70 minute performance.

“He was really good, kicked 1-4, caught kickouts as well and he had a great block there at the end. He’s working for the team, he’s a great talent and he just needs to push on now the next day”.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that these two sides had the best defensive records in the top division of the Allianz Football League, both sides set their stall out by looking after business in front of their own goal, and trying to maintain a solid structure.

Tacticians and ‘purists’ might revel in the first half display, where attacking play on both sides was slow and methodical, but ordinary supporters without a vested interest in one side or the other could easily have called it a tough watch.

After a tense and tight first 15 minutes, with two points on the board for each team, Galway began to turn the screw, controlling play that bit better, not to mention taking advantage of Roscommon mistakes.

A wild long ball from Conor Carroll with no real direction was quickly hoovered up, returned at pace, and ultimately yielded a point from a Shane Walsh free. Carroll redeemed himself with a fine save to deny Comer after another errant pass, this time from Ciaráin Murtagh, left the Rossie defence wide open.

In a game where scores were hard to come by, those punishments, not to mention some fine individual scores from Damien Comer, helped Galway to an 0-7 to 0-3 half-time lead, which seemed substantial given the nature of the game.

Instead, Roscommon suddenly showed up, and the 16,917 crowd was really brought to life. Ciaráin Murtagh added to his three first half frees with Roscommon’s first point from play, Conor Daly and half-time substitute Cian McKeon got in on the act with points, and when Enda Smith’s first significant contribution to the game saw him win a high ball from Ben O’Carroll and slip in Murtagh for a goal, the Rossies had a most unlikely lead.

With Galway on the rack, this was the point where they needed to press home their advantage, but they couldn’t quite do it.

As manager Davy Burke described: “Ben O’Carroll intercepted a short kickout and gave it to Conor Cox, he slipped. Cian Connolly went in one-on-one, didn’t find Enda Smith. Conor Daly’s goal chance was probably more difficult to miss than to get. Then the ball comes back [off the post] for Damien to tap into the net and those are the margins. We had four or five good goal chances against the best defence in Ireland, and we only took one of them – it’s not going to work, is it?”

Matthew Tierney, who had a quiet game overall, kicked one mark and another excellent point to follow, John Maher clipped one over from close range, and the Tribesmen were back in control when a high ball from Dylan McHugh crashed off the post and was seized by Comer, and as he showed all the power and strength that has become his trademark, he slammed the ball past Conor Carroll to give Galway a four-point lead again at the start of the final quarter, and they were too cute to ever look like relinquishing that against a Roscommon attack that outside of Murtagh, was completely bereft of ideas.

“Any day you leave Hyde park with a victory is a good day out, Roscommon are a good side and will have a big say in the championship as time goes on” said Joyce.

His own charges are beginning to find their voice too.

Galway: B Power; J McGrath, S Kelly, J Glynn; C Sweeney (0-1), J Daly, D McHugh; P Conroy, J Maher (0-2); M Tierney (0-2, 0-1m), P Cooke, J Heaney (0-1); I Burke (0-1), D Comer (1-4), S Walsh (0-2 frees).

Subs: R Finnerty for Heaney (61), C McDaid for Cooke (67), D O'Flaherty for Sweeney (70+3), D Conneely for Burke (70+3).

Roscommon: C Carroll; B Stack, C Daly (0-1), D Murray; N Daly, C Hussey, E McCormack; Enda Smith, K Doyle; D Ruane, C Murtagh (1-6, 0-3 frees), C Lennon; B O'Carroll, D Murtagh, D Smith.

Subs: C McKeon (0-2) for D Smith (HT), C Cox for D Murtagh (47), C Connolly for O'Carroll (60), R Hughes for N Daly (61), D Cregg for Ruane (66).

Referee: David Gough (Meath).