Saturday 7 December 2019

Galway hammer limp Rossies

Mark Hehir scores Galway's first goal
despite the efforts of Geoffrey Claffey
Mark Hehir scores Galway's first goal despite the efforts of Geoffrey Claffey
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

In the build-up to this Connacht quarter-final at Hyde Park, the giant screen that is to become a feature at most big provincial fixtures this summer showed a montage of clips from clashes over the last decade between Galway and Roscommon.

Each clip told a familiar tale with Galway inevitably having it all their own way.

If the Roscommon players were trying to erase recent history between these counties from their minds as they finalised preparations, the sound just outside their dressing room was a stark reminder of how it had been.

By 5.40, the montage had been added to without any need to alter the script. This was as it almost always has been in recent times with Galway delivering a seventh championship victory in nine meetings (one draw in 1998) over the home side since 1990.

For the record, it was Galway's biggest ever victory over Roscommon in Hyde Park and their biggest ever score against Roscommon in a championship match anywhere. Not bad for a team with two midfielders and two half-backs among their front six!


That was the perception that allowed the belief to develop in the days before this game that Roscommon could avert the course of recent history here.

With Michael Meehan and Padraic Joyce on the bench and Nicky Joyce off the squad, could Galway really amass a winning score in a championship match of this nature with this attack?

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The answer was emphatic, with Paul Conroy leading the charge. Conroy has had a weight of expectation thrust onto his young shoulders for a few years now, courtesy of his role in Galway's 2007 All-Ireland minor success.

But yesterday was the day that he really delivered, hitting 1-4 in a display that incorporated great fielding, clever lay-offs and assured finishing off either boot that had you wondering which foot is actually his strongest.

Around him a Galway attack can evolve and flourish in the coming years. That Roscommon allowed Conroy to go unchecked for so long with Niall Carthy, only back from injury, trailing in his wake was symptomatic of how they just weren't up to speed with this game at any level.

Roscommon's paucity won't be a concern for Galway.

This was by far their most complete championship performance since 2008 and after some hairy moments during the league it was a firm stamp of approval for Alan Mulholland's calm and measured approach to overhauling the team and rebuilding this confidence.

He won't be wiping Galway from his own bookmaking boards for Connacht success just yet but this was a huge step in the right direction for a team that has underperformed so badly in the last three seasons.

Joe Bergin hasn't had many days like it as a midfielder in a maroon shirt while Gareth Bradshaw and Gary Sice once again controlled the right flank with perfect harmony. As a No 5-10 combination, Tomas O Se and Paul Galvin are out on their own but Bradshaw and Sice may be close to next best.

Bradshaw pushed forward for two early points while Sice picked off Galway's third goal on 63 minutes, which triggered a mass departure from the home fans among the 12,962 crowd.

The build-up to that Sice goal involved two names that will further fuel the enthusiasm around this Galway team that is sure to follow.

It was Padraic Joyce's delivery across the Roscommon goalmouth and Meehan's catch on the endline and patient play that created the opportunity for Sice.

Meehan had come off the bench on 46 minutes for his first action with Galway since last year's championship defeat to Meath -- and he quickly pointed a free -- while Joyce was into the action five minutes later and instantly teed up Meehan for a point from play.

They may not play full matches for Galway in the months ahead but Roscommon were quickly resigned to their fate when they arrived.

As much as Mulholland will continue to build a team around the impressive Johnny Duane at centre-back and Thomas Flynn, Mark Hehir and Conroy in attack, the impact of Meehan and Joyce will also be vital.

Galway took the direct route to feed Conroy and it paid off handsomely for the second goal on 21 minutes when he gathered Duane's 40-metre delivery, made space for himself and finished with some style.

Earlier he had set up Hehir for the first goal after John Rogers had spilled possession on 11 minutes to wipe out Roscommon's good early work.

By the break they were 2-8 to 0-6 clear with limited signs of any Roscommon response.

Roscommon were wholly disorganised and so dispirited. Less than 12 months ago, they lost their Connacht title by just two points to opponents that ended the reign of the All-Ireland champions a couple of weeks later.

How can they keep that company for two seasons and then produce this on the opening day of the 2012 championship?

Clearly, Fergal O'Donnell's organisational skills and knowledge of the players are a greater loss than anyone could have imagined.

No one could have thought that Roscommon would return to Castlebar 2009 so quickly again but they have. When it goes wrong for them it tends to go horribly wrong.

Only Cathal Cregg, when he ran at Galway defenders in the second quarter, and David O'Gara, when he came on for a misfiring John Rogers, emerged with credit on their side.

Donie Shine was a big disappointment, scoring just two points from frees from nine shots at goal.

His movement was laboured and the Galway full-back line, containing championship debutants Kieran McGrath and Keith Kelly, were much too alert and mobile around him.

The departure of towering midfielder Michael Finneran after just 10 minutes with an ankle injury allowed Galway's Joe Bergin an armchair ride for the remaining 60 minutes but enters as only a small part of the defence.

Picking up from such a demoralising defeat will be extremely difficult in the six weeks they now have until the first round of qualifiers.

Scorers -- Galway: P Conroy 1-4, G Sice 1-3 (2f), M Hehir 1-0, J Bergin, G Bradshaw, M Meehan (1f) 0-2 each, S Armstrong, K McGrath 0-1 each. Roscommon: S Kilbride 0-3 (2f), D O'Gara , D Shine (2f) 0-2 each, C Cregg, K Mannion, G Heneghan 0-1 each.

Galway -- A Faherty 7; K McGrath 7, F Hanley 8, K Kelly 7; G Bradshaw 8, J Duane 8, G O'Donnell 6; J Bergin 8, G Higgins 6; G Sice 7, D Burke 6, T Flynn 6; S Armstrong 6, P Conroy 9, M Hehir 7. Subs: M Meehan 7 for Armstrong (46), P Joyce 6 for Burke (51), T Fahy 7 for O'Donnell (53), D Cummins for Hehir (63), M Boyle (66) for Sice (66).

Roscommon -- G Claffey 6; S McDermott 6, N Carthy 5, S Purcell 5; C Dineen 5, P Domican 6, I Kilbride 5; M Finneran, K Mannion 6; D Keenan 5, C Cregg 7, J Rogers 5;S Kilbride 6, D McDermott 5, D Shine 5. Subs: N Daly for Finneran (10 inj), D O'Gara 7 for Rogers (23), G Heneghan 6 for Keenan (47), K Higgins for McDermott (53), C Shine for I Kilbride (63).

Ref -- J McQuillan (Cavan)

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