Tuesday 23 July 2019

Perfect birthday gift for Cunningham as he hails Rossie 'courage'

'Anthony Cunningham turned 54 over the weekend.' Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
'Anthony Cunningham turned 54 over the weekend.' Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Frank Roche

A game of two halves in Salthill - but also a tale of two managers.

As Kevin Walsh tried to make sense of this psychological hammer blow to his Galway footballers, his fellow county man bore the contented look of someone who had just received the best birthday present ever.

Anthony Cunningham turned 54 over the weekend. "I am not getting any younger," quipped the Roscommon boss. "It is just an honour. Have to say, in Ian Daly and Mark Dowd - two tremendous coaches with me and I was lucky."

Cunningham may have been quick to pass on the plaudits; but yesterday represents a signature achievement for a much-travelled manager who has now won provincial titles in different codes (after his 2012 Galway success in Leinster) and with two club football teams.

At half-time, his adopted Rossies trailed by five. At full-time, with seven additional minutes stretched to nine by a premature pitch invasion, they led by four.

How exactly did that happen?

"You would have to use the word courage," Cunningham ventured. "They really went for it. It was looking a bit rocky ten minutes before half-time. We dropped off and Galway punished us."

But, he expanded, "the Mayo match was a great confidence boost and, when we were in trouble there today, they went back to that reservoir and said, 'We have done this before.'

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"We haven't conceded a goal yet. We were rocked by Galway there and they are a top-class team. Kevin has done tremendous work and they have been standard-bearers in Connacht as much as Mayo. And when you do get rocked, it is very hard to coach or teach that. You are just hoping that their character will respond."

And so it did, in spades.

The worry for Galway, heading into an uncertain qualifier world, is that they had zero response when Roscommon upped the ante.

"The second half we just didn't seem to get our hands on the ball," Walsh lamented. "We overturned the ball maybe two or three times at the start of the second half, when we were attacking, and the next 20 minutes we didn't seem to get our hands on the ball.

"We'll have to evaluate it during the week ... one thing for sure is it wasn't a consistent performance."

Cue one of those awkward questions about Galway's set-up, and whether they had held too many players back in their own half.

Guff

"Do you think so?" riposted Walsh, who went on: "I don't think it was one of the reasons, because there's a lot of guff out there about that.

"At the end of the day we didn't get our hands on the ball when we needed to get our hands on the ball. There was no different structure in the first half compared to the second half ... ten points in the first half is good in these conditions."

He concluded: "At this moment it's raw, and there's no point in saying too much about that. But certainly after a week is over and they get the club (games) out of the way, I'd be hoping lads will be ready to come back and try and put this right."

Last word to Cunningham.

"We sort of brought the crowd in then to help us," he quipped of that late invasion. "It was a difficult situation. They could have slipped a goal there ... they almost snuck it but a great save by Darren (O'Malley), he was under pressure. It is great for these young players."

Irish Independent

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