Wednesday 17 July 2019

Stirring Rossies comeback sinks dismal Tribesmen

Roscommon 1-13 Galway 0-12

Enda Smith of Roscommon in action against John Daly of Galway. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Enda Smith of Roscommon in action against John Daly of Galway. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

It wasn't just the win, but the manner in which it was chiselled out, that sent Roscommon into a celebrational orbit which will keep supporters in the clouds for days.

History maker Anthony Cunningham, who celebrated his 54th birthday this weekend, won't allow his players to join them, but then the immense satisfaction of having beaten Connacht's 'Big Two' in their home grounds to land the title is more than enough to keep them satisfied until they head into 'Super 8s' action.

Roscommon captain Enda Smith lifts the trophy following his side's victory during the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Final. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Roscommon captain Enda Smith lifts the trophy following his side's victory during the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Final. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Another joyous occasion for Roscommon in Pearse Stadium left their fans so ecstatic that they couldn't contain themselves near the end, swarming in from stand and terrace as stoppage time ticked into the final minute.

Emphatic

Referee Barry Cassidy insisted that the pitch be cleared and when play resumed with Roscommon leading by a goal, the team's emphatic response was to drive at the Galway defence, winning a free which Conor Cox converted.

It was a fitting conclusion to a game where Roscommon's second-half enterprise and Galway's inexplicable lethargy were the key factors.

Galway face a really tough debrief after a dismal weekend for the county. On Saturday the hurlers exited the All-Ireland Championship earlier than in any year since the mid-Sixties. It increased the pressure on the footballers, but after a good first-half they fell apart in a manner that raises serious questions about their mental toughness.

The Roscommon team celebrate in the dressing room. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
The Roscommon team celebrate in the dressing room. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

The nature of the defeat bewildered supporters, who will, of course, have noted the irony of a former Galway hurling manager coming back to haunt his native county.

Cunningham, who was forced out by a player coup in 2015, has completed his reinvention and now holds the unique distinction of having led two counties to titles in different codes in different provinces as well as presiding over two provincial club football successes with St Brigid's (Roscommon) and Garrycastle (Westmeath).

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"I'm just delighted to be involved in the GAA, be it football or hurling, it's an honour and it's a privilege," said Cunningham.

He clearly brings a lot more to the managerial role than mere enthusiasm, with Roscommon the latest to benefit from his expertise.

He - and the team - were handed a serious test at half-time yesterday when Galway led by 0-10 to 0-5, having kicked five unanswered points in the final 10 minutes.

With the wind whipping up behind them for the second-half, Galway seemed perfectly primed to drive on, but instead suffered a catastrophic power failure.

Some of it was down to Roscommon's raised intensity levels, but there was more to it. In what was one of their worst second-half performances for many years, Galway scored just one point in 35 minutes of normal time before adding another from a '45' in stoppage time.

By then Roscommon were two points ahead and they added two more to guarantee a victory which was built on old-fashioned values.

Roscommon didn't bring anything new or radical to their game in the second-half, instead relying on getting the basics right. They worked extremely hard, throwing themselves into every contest with massive energy, while supporting each other through every difficulty.

It was an attitude that enabled them to mop up lots of breaking balls, helping to build a platform from which to attack Galway.

They wiped out the five-point deficit in the first six minutes of the second-half, with a goal from Diarmuid Murtagh pumping up their confidence levels.

They threw themselves into every exchange with relentless determination, whereas Galway grew disjointed, running out of answers to an increasing number of hard questions.

Drought

Murtagh put Roscommon ahead in the 50th minute and while Michael Daly finally ended Galway's scoring drought two minutes later, it brought no reaction from his colleagues.

Instead, Roscommon added three points to put themselves in a match-winning position, which they protected quite comfortably to the end.

The win handed them the first ticket to the 'Super 8s' in a group with the Leinster champions and the Munster and Ulster runners-up or Round 4 qualifier winners, while Galway need to win a Round 4 game to get into the other group.

They have three weeks to reset their programmes, a process which may be helped by the availability of some players who have been out injured.

First, though, they have to figure out how and why they were so lacking in just about everything required at this level in the second-half. Otherwise, there's no way back.

Scorers - Roscommon: D Murtagh 1-3 (2f); C Cox 0-5 (2f); C Devaney, R Daly, N Kilroy, D Daly, S Killoran 0-1 each. Galway: S Walsh 0-4 (2f, 1'45); M Daly 0-3 (1f); A O Laoi 0-2; F O Curraoin, E Brannigan, G Bradshaw 0-1 each.

ROSCOMMON - D O'Malley 7; D Murray 7, S Mullooly 7, C Daly 7; N Daly 9, C Hussey 7, R Daly 8; T O'Rourke 7, S Killoran 7; C Devaney 7, C Cregg 7, N Kilroy 7; D Murtagh 8, C Cox 8, E Smith 7. Subs: H Darcy 6 for Devaney (25), C Compton 7 for Smith (56), C McKeon 6 for Cregg (63), A Glennon for Murtagh (68), B Stack for Killoran (75)

Galway - R Lavelle 6; L Silke 6, SA O Ceallaigh 6, E Kerin 6; G O'Donnell 6, G Bradshaw 6 , J Daly 6; T Flynn 5, F O Curraoin 5; P Cooke 5, M Daly 6, J Heaney 5; A O Laoi 7, I Burke 5, S Walsh 6. Subs: E Brannigan 6 for O Curraoin (21), S Kelly 6 for Cooke (54), C McDaid for Heaney (63), A Varley for M Daly (63), M Farragher for Burke (69), K Molloy for O'Donnell (74)

Ref - B Cassidy (Derry)

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