Resilient Rossies raise doubts about Tribesmen's 2019 model
FBD Connacht football league final: Roscommon 0-13 Galway 1-5
The perception of Galway as a squad overflowing with creative attackers and Roscommon as a side with a leaky defence took a serious hit in Tuam Stadium yesterday where the opposite was the case on both fronts.
Whether it was a one-off that will have little relevance in the higher-stakes action ahead remains to be seen but for this important week running up to the start of the Allianz League, a much warmer glow surrounds Roscommon.
Frankly, Galway were woefully inept, as borne out by their meagre return of 1-5, of which only 1-1 was scored in play by the forwards, with the remaining 0-4 coming from wing-back, Gary O'Donnell (2) and frees by Barry McHugh and Shane Walsh.
McHugh missed three other frees he would normally slot over, in marked contrast with Donie Smith who pointed five frees and added three more points from play.
It typified the difference between the sides in a fractious game where referee Liam Devenney flashed 12 yellow, three black and one red card, the latter pointed in the direction of Galway sub David Wynne late on.
The players certainly didn't make it easy for him, but then some of his decisions played their own part in raising frustration levels.
"I think it was something like eight yellows, three blacks and a red (Galway) so obviously we have to have a look at that again and see was it all discipline or was it some funny decisions as well," said Galway manager Kevin Walsh.
He has a lot more to look at too, starting with the team formation and the manner in which they go about working the ball into scoring positions.
Having made considerable progress last year, albeit with doubts around the attacking alignment, Galway will be watched closely in the coming weeks for signs of a more refined system.
There was certainly no evidence of it yesterday. Apart from Shane Walsh's pace and trickery, there was little to worry the Roscommon defence.
Galway's build-ups were slow to the point of being virtually static at times, allowing Roscommon to lock all approach doors.
Galway spent much of their time crabbing across the pitch, gaining very little ground, before eventually picking difficult passes which required precise deliveries.
And with their accuracy well below the required level, Roscommon defenders must have been surprised by how often they were able to cut out the danger.
Kevin Walsh was especially disappointed with the number of chances missed in the second half and also with the manner in which Roscommon were allowed to counter-attack when a move broke down.
He said that Galway weren't as advanced with their preparations as at the same stage last year, having given the squad a longer break.
A lengthy injury list and the unavailability of Corofin players add to concerns ahead of a league campaign which starts against Cavan on Sunday.
Galway won six and drew one of their seven Division 1 games last year, but if yesterday's performance is an accurate indicator they are more likely to be threatened by relegation than reaching the final for a second successive season.
"We would have given everything we had to the league last year. We're definitely behind that at this stage and that would be planned, trying to keep a bit of freshness there as well," said Walsh.
Together with Cavan, Roscommon are favourites for relegation but will have taken enough encouragement from yesterday's success to give them real hope of beating the odds.
Having led by 0-6 to 0-4 at half-time and by three points early in the second half, their big test came when McHugh drove in Galway's goal in the 44th minute.
The response was emphatic as they scored the next four points and were unlucky not to add a goal when Donie Smith's shot hit the post.
They conceded only one more point for the rest of the game and while their cause was aided by Galway's sloppy finishing, giving away only six scores was a defensive triumph.
"Any day you come to another team's home ground and win is good, especially against Galway who are a top-class team. It's all about confidence and a win like that helps, but we have a lot of hard work ahead," Rossies boss Anthony Cunningham said.
Both managers are glad that the handpass restriction has been scrapped for the league, although whether the public agree is a different matter. Lengthy handpassing chains were back in fashion yesterday, taking away from the entertainment value for the 2,500 crowd.
In common with most other managers, Walsh and Cunningham had no time for the handpass trial.
"Personally I didn't see any value in it so I'm delighted it's gone," said Walsh.
Cunningham accepts that administrators are doing their best to improve the game as a spectacle and is happy to work with the other experiments.
And the restricted handpass? "It was the most difficult one. It was hard to work with," he said.
Scorers - Roscommon: D Smith 0-8 (5f); C Lennon 0-2; S Killoran, U Harney, C Compton 0-1 each. Galway: B McHugh 1-1 (0-1f); G O'Donnell, S Walsh (1f) 0-2 each.
Roscommon - D O'Malley; D Murray, C Daly, E McGrath; C Hussey, N Daly, R Daly; T O'Rourke, E Smith; N Kilroy, C Compton, S Kiloran; D Smith, C Lennon, C Cregg. Subs: G Patterson for Killoran (17), U Harney for Murray (35+3), A Lyons for Kilroy (52), C Fitzmaurice for Cregg (61),H Darcy for O'Rourke (67)
Galway - R Lavelle; D Kyne, SA Ó Ceallaigh, E Kerin; S Kelly, G Bradshaw, G O'Donnell; T Flynn, C Duggan; J Heaney, J Duane, F Cooney; B McHugh, M Daly, S Walsh. Subs: D Wynne for Kyne (27), C Darcy for Daly (h-t), P Cooke for Cooney (50), P Cunningham for Duane (62), D Cummins for Flynn (67).
Ref - L Devenney (Mayo).