Late Roscommon fightback secures draw in poor Connacht final
Roscommon 1-10 Galway 0-13
Galway and Roscommon will get a chance to redeem themselves and Connacht football when they meet again in the Connacht final replay next Saturday – almost certainly in McHale Park, Castlebar.
While there was no shortage of excitement in a dramatic finale, this was a woeful contest. Granted the weather was appalling but with both sides set up defensively the final turned into an unappealing contest of attrition.
Roscommon only managed two points from play in the second half but were rescued at the death by a pointed free from substitute Donie Smith.
The game was strikingly similar to the last drawn Connacht final – which was also contested in atrocious weather conditions in Tuam between Galway and Roscommon in 1998.
Galway won the replay after extra time and went on to capture the All-Ireland title. On the evidence of today's action in Pearse Stadium this is unlikely to happen in 2016.
On a day borrowed from mid-February the contest was always going to be unappealing as a spectacle.
Add in the blanket-massed defences of both sides and it was self evident that chances would be at premium.
Roscommon made a host of positional changes with David Keenan linking up with Niall Daly at midfield and Cathal Compton switching to the full forward line where he formed a two man unit alongside Enda Smith.
Obviously the plan was to exploit the inexperience of the Galway full back line but after early jitters the massed Galway defence were up for the task. Roscommon were surprisingly passive in their approach and the lack of movement from their forwards was particularly noticeable.
The sides were level 0-2 each after ten minutes but the true nature of the exchanges was underlined by the fact that the home side had created seven chances compared to two for Roscommon.
But as often happens in tight games a goal can change the mood music of a contest. Enda Smith was the architect and the finisher after 15 minutes. Indeed he was involved in the move on three occasions as he linked up with Niall McInerney and and John McManus.
Galway corner back Eoghan Kerins nearly got in a vital block but Smith booted the loose ball to the net. Niall Daly kicked the first of his two first half points immediately afterwards to give his side a 1-3 to 0-4 advantage.
But they failed to follow on and Galway outscored them 4-3 during the remainder of the half with Danny Cummins helping himself to a brace of scores. On the plus side for Roscommon they had six different scorers compared to four for Galway.
Still, it was advantage Tribesmen at the break even though they trailed 0-6 to 1-6. Within four minutes of the re-start they had narrowed the gap to a point after a brace of scores from Gareth Bradshaw and Damien Comer.
The pattern which had been established in the first half was repeated with Galway having more penetration when they went on the offensive whereas once Roscommon hit the Galway blanket of bodies on the 45m line they stalled badly.
While a Fintan Cregg point stretched Roscommon's lead it was Galway who were clearly better when it came to carving out scoring chances. They hit three points in a row – the second a brilliant effort from the excellent Danny Cummins after Declan Kyne had won a crucial turnover in his own half.
By then Roscommon had replaced their two man attack of Enda Smith and Crompton and a Ciaran Murtagh free tied up the contest again in the 50th minute.
As the weather worsened the pattern of the game remained unchanged; Roscommon had plenty of possession but absolutely no penetration up front whereas Galway always looked more likely to score.
A turnover from a Roscommon kick out – only the second of the day - enabled Galway retake the lead through Damien Comer. Roscommmon emptied their bench but it was one of Galway's substitutes, Enda Varley, who crucially extended their lead to two with less than four minutes left.
But a minute later Cathal Cregg hit only Roscommon's second point from play in the second half and their third in total to set up a grand-stand finish. And finally the wet punters got some value for their money.
Galway corner back Eoghan Kerins pulled Roscommon substitute Donie Smith around the neck which earned him a yellow card and more importantly the chance of an equaliser in the third minute of injury time. Smith held his nerve and curled the free over the tie up the scores.
There was still time for more excitement as Roscommon goalkeeper Darren O'Malley reacted well to save a punched effort from Comer after a cross from Bradshaw. Roscommon recyled the ball and Galway substitute Patrick Sweeney was black carded.
Roscommon joint manager Kevin McStay was furious that the referee didn't play an advantage but once they secured possession Roscommon showed absolutely no ambition with the ball – it was symbolic of their performance in the preceding 74 minutes – and they played down the clock seemingly content to have survived. Everybody will be hoping that the weather and the football will be better next weekend.
The official attendance was 24,234
Galway: B Power (0-1, 1 45); E Kerin, D Kyne, D Wynne; L Silke, G O'Donnell (0-1), G Bradshaw (0-1); P Conroy (0-1, 1f), T Flynn; G Sice (0-2, 2f), S Walsh J Heaney (0-1); E Brannigan, D Comer (0-2), D Cummins (0-3).
Subs: A Varley (0-1) for Sice 60m; P Sweeney for Cummins 65m; C Sweeney for Heaney 70m
Roscommon: D O'Malley (0-1, 45); S McDermott, S Mullooly, N McInerney; D Murray, S Purcell, J McManus; N Daly (0-2), D Keenan, C Compton; C Cregg (0-1), 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 42m; Ultan Harvey for Crompton 51m, T Corrigan for Keenan 40m; D Shine for Devaney 65m, S Kilbride for F Cregg 67m
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)