Saturday 24 March 2018

Roscommon plan major ambush but Tribesmen can circumvent it

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Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Roscommon enjoyed a good spring and a bad summer last year, raising questions as to whether they peaked too early in an effort to stay in Division 1 on their return there after several seasons in the lower slopes.

This year, they ran a disappointing league campaign, winning only one of seven games as they dropped back into Division 2.

They finished with a -46 point scoring difference, underlining the extent of the difficulties they experienced.

Still, it's all about the next game and while an air of gloom settled over Roscommon in April, more optimistic voices spoke of a possible upside.

Essentially, they believe that, unlike 2016, the training plan was geared towards summer and a shot at the Connacht Championship, where a kind draw offered them an opportunity to reach the final by beating Leitrim at home.

"We were relegated and that might have been the end of the story for someone observing from outside but this match was hugely important to us. We saw it as a way of turning the corner after the last couple of months," said manager Kevin McStay after the win over Cavan in the final league game.

Three months later, he takes Roscommon back to Pearse Stadium, scene of their close call against Galway in last year's Connacht final. He does it against a different background, with Roscommon's stock value having dropped almost in direct proportion to Galway's increase.

Kevin Walsh's men will replace Roscommon in Division 1 next year and go into tomorrow's game off a second successive championship win over Mayo.

There's also the memory of the 11-point win over Roscommon in the replay in Castlebar last year. It all signposts a Galway win, yet doubts persist as to whether it will be that straightforward.

If Roscommon had been more adventurous in the final minutes of the drawn game last year, they might well have snatched a winner. Instead, they took caution to ridiculous lengths and ran out of time as they tried to work the ball into the perfect shooting position. Galway deployed a defensive mindset that day too, but shook it off for the replay and had the title secured long before half-time.

"The lads went for it. We didn't want to play safe today," said Walsh afterwards.

Will Galway adopt a similarly gung-ho approach today? They certainly didn't do it against Mayo in the semi-final but then circumstances were different.

Roscommon conceded an average of 21.3 points per game in the league so it's obvious where much of McStay's concentration has been since then.

With the right possession flow, the Galway forward line can be just as good as most of the Division 1 teams Roscommon encountered.

However, question marks still persist about the Galway defence, resulting in a game-plan that does not always allow full rein to the front men to indulge their attacking instincts.

That was evident in the drawn Connacht final last year but once they played a more expressive game in the replay, they unhinged the Roscommon defence quite easily and had the game won by half-time.

McStay's men will be more secure this time but it's still unlikely to be enough to prevent Galway completing the county's Connacht double since 2002-2003.

Irish Independent

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