Friday 19 January 2018

Devastating first half secures Connacht title for clinical Galway

Galway 3-16 Roscommon 0-14

Gary Sice of Galway celebrates scoring his side's first goal
Gary Sice of Galway celebrates scoring his side's first goal
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Galway are Connacht champions for the first time in eight years after a devastating first half against Roscommon in this replay at MacHale Park.

The pace and power of the Galway attack in that opening period laid Roscommon to waste as they hit 2-2 in a five minute burst to leave Roscommon haplessly chasing the game.

The difference in seven days was palpable after a morbid replay and from early on there was obvious intent as both sides sought to take the game to each other.

Galway, especially, really sought to up the tempo and playing at that level brought the best out of players like Damien Comer, Shane Walsh and Danny Cummins.

Cathal Cregg of Roscommon collides with the advertising boards
Cathal Cregg of Roscommon collides with the advertising boards

Cummins struck for a goal in each half, the second a superb effort on 56 minutes after an equally sublime pass from Gary Sice for a 3-13 to 0-8 lead.

Overall they never looked in trouble and have finally got some tangible reward for their rich underage pedigree which has yielded two All-Ireland U-21 titles over the last five years.

"The road has been long and difficult at times," said Galway captain Gary O'Donnell afterwards.

With the platform of Paul Conroy's dominance at midfield they made some early incisions and were 0-3 to 0-0 clear before Ciaran Murtagh landed a sublime point from the tightest of angles cutting over off the outside of his boot on 14 minutes.

But if the captain hoped that would steady nerves, it was shortlived. Senan Kilbride did cut the gap further but they were lucky to survive when Comer got a touch on an 18th minute sideline for a goal which referee Ciaran Branagan ruled out for a square infringement.

The pace and dynamism of Galway's attack didn't take much longer to do damage however.

Goalkeeper Bernard Power's long clearance deceived the Roscommon cover allowing Eamonn Brannigan to put Cummins clear for a neat finish off his left.

Comer quickly added a point and Roscommon quickly realised there were different terms of engagement here.

Danny Cummins of Galway celebrates scoring his side's third goal
Danny Cummins of Galway celebrates scoring his side's third goal

Murtagh surfaced again for a second point but Roscommon's defence was being cut open at every point. Walsh knifed through to set up Comer before Cummins, conceding inches, took down ahead of Niall McInerney and fired over for a seven-point lead on 24 minutes.

Darren O'Malley's subsequent kick-out went out over the sideline and with the bit between their teeth Galway went for the jugular, Gary Sice stepping inside his marker to rifle a powerful shot past O'Malley.

Conroy set up Comer's third point and, in just five minutes of devastating football they had struck for 2-2 to open an 11-point gap.

Galway led by 2-9 to 0-5 and held Roscommon at arm's length throughout the second half.

Roscommon substitutes accounted for half their 14-point total.

Branagan dished out three black cards, two to Roscommon's David Keenan and Sean Mullooly to Galway's Damien Comer who appeared to be fouled by Niall McInerney.

Near the end Roscommon's Donie Smith picked up a second yellow card.

Scorers - Galway: D Cummins 2-1, G Sice 1-2 (0-2fs), D Comer, S Walsh (2fs) 0-3 each, E Brannigan 0-2, B Power (45), G O'Donnell, P Varley, E Kerin, P Conroy all 0-1 each.

Roscommon: C Murtagh 0-4 (1f), D Shine, S Kilbride, E Smith 0-2 each, F Lennon, C Cregg, U Harney, T Corcoran all 0-1 each.

Galway: B Power; E Kerin, D Kyne, D Wynne; L Silke, G O'Donnell, G Bradshaw; P Conroy, T Flynn; G Sice, S Walsh, J heaney; E Brannigan, D Comer, D Cummins. Subs: A Varley for Walsh (51), P Sweeney for Comer BC (58), F Hanley for Kyne (66), P Varley for Heaney (67), E Hoare for Sice (69), P Cooke for Cummins (70).

Roscommon: D O'Malley; N McInerney, S Mullooly, D Murray; S McDermott, J McManus; N Daly, C Compton; F Cregg, C Cregg, D Keenan; C Murtagh, S Kilbride, C Devaney. Subs: D Smith for Keenan BC (30), F Lennon for Purcell(ht), E Smith for Devaney (ht), D Shine for F Cregg (42), T Corcoran for Compton (49), U Harney for Mulooly BC (51)

Referee: Ciaran Branagan (Down).

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