Tribes’ title glory can’t disguise Jekyll and Hyde show
Galway 0-16 Roscommon 2-6 (Connacht SFC final)
A game eventually broke out in the second half of this Connacht final in Dr Hyde Park. When it did it was Galway who thrived sufficiently to land a 46th Connacht title, taking them to within one of Mayo on the western roll of honour.
That was sufficient cause for celebration in its own right, especially as it is only their second Nestor Cup success in the last 11 years. But the manner of victory still left more questions than answers for the new champions, especially in the context of the bigger ascents they now face in the coming weeks.
Only when they pushed up and applied real pressure on Roscommon in that second half did they claim a proper grip on proceedings, forcing the hosts into the kind of mistakes they just weren't making before that.
Roscommon's loss of nine of their 13 second-half kick-outs reflects that change of approach by Galway and with that less structured and more frantic passages of play they were able to respond to the raised temperature better.
It prompts the fundamental question as to what style best suits this team. By sitting back so deep in the first half and relying on their counter attacking punch, something that worked well for them during the league it must be said, they conceded a lot of territory to Roscommon who were playing against the wind.
It gave the hosts a foothold they might not have expected and allowed them to build slowly and steadily without much interruption, buoyed on by bigger numbers among the official 18,864 attendance.
Enda Smith was hugely influential, picking off clever, well-timed passes from which Diarmuid Murtagh and Donie Smith chiefly profited.
Smith was also involved in the build up to Ciaran Murtagh's goal, the half-forward accelerating away to loop in behind Barry McHugh and outfox the Galway defence which was conceding only its third goal in 11 competitive games in the 22nd minute.
That gave Roscommon a healthy 1-4 to 0-2 lead and a real sense of deja vu after a similarly impressive start in the corresponding game last year that Galway never recovered from.
Smith continued to do as he pleased in the middle third without ever being asked the same questions Lee Keegan asked of him in the drawn All-Ireland quarter-final against Mayo last year. Giving him that much freedom could have been more costly than it was for Galway but Roscommon left a lot out there, 13 wides in all with another four shots dropping short.
With so little time in possession it was no surprise that Galway made such elemental mistakes when they did have it. There was no flow to them because they chose to play on the back foot when they had the wind.
They had trouble finding Damien Comer all day too, with Roscommon sitting Niall Kilroy back as a sweeper and it was only in the concluding stages when the frustrated captain, yellow-carded in the 45th minute after a second successive foul, settled with two points and a helping hand in Adrian Varley's late effort.
In that vacuum it was Shane Walsh who once again stepped up, hitting three points from play and nailing all five frees he stood up to. He made so many telling incisions through the Roscommon defence and, like Smith at the other end, should have been the focus of a better containment plan.
His scores from play were top class, all coming in the opening 40 minutes when Galway needed them as a lifeline. Walsh is making better decisions in possession these days, especially with his shooting while some of his tackling back was also profitable.
Other things turned in Galway's favour too after a lacklustre first half. Cathal Compton had been doing well but injury forced his 26th-minute withdrawal and Roscommon clearly suffered from that.
Tom Flynn had a very strong second half, bringing a more physical approach and, fittingly, was the man in possession when referee David Coldrick brought proceedings to an end.
They got a better impact off the bench too. Not surprisingly Sean Armstrong brought a bit of guile to their play while Kieran Duggan improved Galway's competitiveness another notch from the 45th minute on.
Ultimately Roscommon can have few complaints from a second half when they failed to score from play, relying on an early Diarmuid Murtagh free and a magnificent Conor Devaney penalty - doubling the number of goals Galway had conceded all year - on 64 minutes after Flynn took down Diarmuid Murtagh.
That recovered the lead for Roscommon again, 2-6 to 0-11, after six successive Galway points from the 42nd to the 60th minute had put them two clear, their success on Colm Lavin's kick-out telling most during this period.
But this Galway team is developing significant character in tight games down the home straight and they held their nerve to reclaim the initiative again, something that couldn't have been easy after watching Devaney convert that penalty with such conviction.
Walsh set up two of the last five scores to see them home while Ian Burke and Comer also built on their returns.
Galway defended more aggressively and were just as comfortable in one-to-one situations. Cathal Sweeney foraged hard while eventually Declan Kyne helped to contain Diarmuid Murtagh after his lively start.
The effort was collective to deny Diarmuid Murtagh at close range after good approach work from Cathal Cregg and Smith while Diarmuid Murtagh also let possession slip from a good position in behind after Fintan Cregg's ball over the top had found him.
Galway's reward, apart from the feel of silverware again, is first entry to the 'Super 8s' and a group that puts them in company with the Munster champions. Right on course for where they want to be.
Scorers - Galway: S Walsh 0-8 (5fs), I Burke 0-3, D Comer 0-2, S Armstrong, S Kelly, A Varley all 0-1 each.
Roscommon: D Murtagh 0-5 (2fs), C Murtagh, C Devaney (pen) 1-0 each, D Smith 0-1.
Galway: R Lavelle 7; D Kyne 6, SA O Ceallaigh 7, D Wynne 6; C Sweeney 7, G Bradshaw 7, S Kelly 7; P Conroy 5, T Flynn 8; J Heaney 6, S Walsh 9, E Brannigan 5; B McHugh 5, D Comer 6, I Burke 8. Subs: K Duggan 7 for Conroy (45), S Armstrong 7 for McHugh (48), E Kerin 7 for Wynne (50), P Cooke 6 for Heaney (65), A Varley for Brannigan (70), G O'Donnell for O Ceallaigh (72).
Roscommon: C Lavin 6; P Domican 7, N McInerney 7, D Murray 6; J McManus 7, F Cregg 6, C Devaney 6; C Compton 7, T O'Rourke 6; B Stack 5, E Smith 8, C Murtagh 6; D Smith 6, D Murtagh 7, N Kilroy 6. Subs: U Harney 6 for Compton inj (30), F Lennon 6 for Murray b-c (53), C Cregg 5 for Stack (55), F Cregg 5 for C Murtagh (60), C Daly for O'Rourke (63), R Stack for Kilroy (71).
Ref - D Coldrick (Meath).