Wednesday 23 January 2019

Damien Comer stands up late on as Galway edge Roscommon in tight Connacht final

Roscommon 2-6 Galway 0-16

17 June 2018; Damien Comer of Galway issues instructions to a teammate during the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Final match between Roscommon and Galway at Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
17 June 2018; Damien Comer of Galway issues instructions to a teammate during the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Final match between Roscommon and Galway at Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Galway secured their 46th Connacht title and their second in three years when they dethroned title holders Roscommon at Dr Hyde Park in front of an estimated attendance of 17,500.

The Tribesmen also become the first county to secure a spot in the Super 8s where they will be paired with the Munster champions, in addition to the runners-up in the Ulster and Leinster championships or the team that beats them in Round 4 of the qualifiers.

It was sweet revenge for Kevin Walsh's side, who suffered a shock nine-point loss to Roscommon in last year's decider in Salthill.

An injury to Roscommon's ball-winning midfielder Cathal Compton five minutes before half time impacted hugely on their ability to win primary possession in the middle third of the field – so much so that they only managed to win three of Colm Lavin's 14 second half kick-outs.

As Galway did in the first half, Roscommon found it exceedingly difficult to score after the break when they had the advantage of the breeze. Indeed, they failed to score for 47 minutes from play and only managed two scores – a free and a penalty - after the break.

But their season is still much alive – but they need to regroup and prepare for their crucial Round 4 qualifier game later this month.

Galway won the toss and elected to play with a strong wind blowing into the graveyard end but right from the throw-in it was the defending title holders who took the game to the visitors.

Once Roscommon had possession, Galway pulled 13 men behind the ball leaving only Ian Burke and team captain Damien Comer – who was well marshalled in the first half by Niall McInerney up front.

Roscommon's attempts to prise open the massed Galway defence was akin to finding a route through a maze but the home side did show admirable patience when in possession and the openings ultimately came.

Full forward Diarmuid Murtagh was the principal source of concern for the Galway full-back line. Early on he was marked by Declan Kyne, though full-back Sean Andy O Ceallaigh later moved on to him.

Murtagh still kicked three excellent first half points from play and kicked a free but the key score of the half came after 22 minutes when in the best move of the half Enda Smith, Conor Devaney and Ciarain Murtagh combined before the latter exposed a lack of pace on the right flank of the Galway defence, ghosted past Sean Kelly and beat Ruairi Lavelle from close range.

The goal put Roscommon 1-4 to 0-2 ahead but the favourites did improve in the second quarter. Roscommon goalkeeper Colm Lavin drove all his re-starts straight down the middle of the field and midfielders Cathal Compton – until he retired injured in the 30th minute – and Tadgh O'Rourke won the aerial battle.

However, Galway snaffled three of his kick-outs at the end of the half and it helped them outscore the home side 0-3 to 0-1 in the last 13 minutes of the second half. Shane Walsh was the only Galway forward to seriously trouble the Roscommon defence.

He kicked two delightful points and his probing balls threatened to unlock the resolute Roscommon but their cause wasn't helped by some wayward shooting as they kicked eight first half wides with Eamon Brannigan kicking three to leave his side trailing 1-5 to 0-5 after a torrid first period.

Galway continued to get turned over in possession early in the second half and after Paul Conroy was dispossessed Roscommon moved forward; Donal Smith won a free which Murtagh converted to give his side a precious four point lead.

But Galway's work rate increased dramatically and furthermore they began to dominate midfield and a brace of Shane Walsh points – one from a free – left it a two point game after 42 minutes.

Roscommon still had chances but by the 50th minute they had chalked up five wides with the worst miss coming when centre back Fintan Cregg blazed wide with Diarmuid Murtagh standing loose inside him.

Meanwhile, Galway were the masters of economy and when David Murray gave away two frees within 90 seconds – his second indiscretion earned him a black card – Shane Walsh nailed the two placed balls to level the contest with 17 minutes remaining.

Murtagh had a goal chance at the other end but was held up and his attempted linked up with Donie Smith dropped agonisingly short; Galway hacked the ball clear and Ian Burke won a free which Walsh converted to give a one point lead. When Sean Kelly doubled it with nine minutes remaining the game was seemed destined to peter out.

But there was one last kick left in Roscommon. Enda Smith and John McMcManus combined before the latter found Diarmuid Murtagh going through at full pace and he was hauled down by Tom Flynn. Team captain Conor Devaney's left-footed penalty whistled into the roof of the net to give his side a flattering one-point advantage in the 63rd minute.

But when the game was in the melting pot Galway completely dominated. Substitute Sean Armstrong had his team's level again with a minute and team captain Damien Comer finally got some joy kicking a brace of points with scores from Adrian Varley and Ian Burke giving his side a deserved four point win as the contest ticked into the seventh minute of injury time.

Galway's win brings them level with Mayo in the Connacht championship Roll of Honour.

Roscommon: C Lavin; P Domican, N McInerney, D Murray; J McManus, F Cregg, C Devaney (1-0 1 pen); C Compton, T O'Rourke; C Murtagh (1-0), E Smith, B Stack; D Smith (0-1), D Murtagh (0-5, 2f), N Kilroy Subs: U Harney for Compton 30m; F Lennon for Murray (BC) 53m; C Cregg for Stack 56m, C Daly for O'Rourke 63m; R Stack for Kilroy 70 +1;

Galway: R Lavelle; S A O Ceallaigh, D Kyne; D Wynne; C Sweeney, G Bradshaw, S Kelly (0-1); P Conroy, T Flynn; E Brannigan, S Walsh (0-,8 5f), J Heaney; I Burke (0-3), D Comer (0-2), B McHugh. K Duggan for Conroy 45m, S Armstrong (0-1) for McHugh 49m; E Kerin for Wynne 51m; P Cooke for Heaney 65m; A Varley (0-1) for Brannigan 70m; G O'Donnell for O Ceallaigh 70 +3,

Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)

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