Goals prove decisive for Tribesmen as Joyce’s young guns shoot down Roscommon in The Hyde
By Tom McLoughlin
Connacht rivals Roscommon and Galway went head to head in monsoon like conditions in front of 500 supporters in Dr. Hyde Park this afternoon with the common goal of aiming to reach a Connaught final against Mayo or Leitrim. Both counties had disappointing league campaigns culminating in relegation to Division Two and for Pádraic Joyce and Anthony Cunningham, their seasons and possibly the continuation of their managerial reigns were very much on the line today.
By the end of this defensive tussle, it was the Tribesmen who deservedly emerged five point victors’ thanks in no small part to their star youngsters. This augurs well for the future of Galway football as in the past there was an over dependency on the talents of Shane Walsh and Damien Comer, with the perception being if you stop those two key players, you invariably stop Galway. However, today in rain-soaked Roscommon, the Kelly brothers, Paul and Seán along with Rob Finnerty and Matthew Tierney were all instrumental in Galway’s success as they notched an impressive 2-8 of Galway’s total of 2-11.
The Rossies exited last year’s Connaught championship at home to Mayo with a limp display and this unadventurous approach continued in the league where they averaged a scoring return of just 15 points which included just two goals in four games. That trend unfortunately for their supporters continued today as they registered just 12 scores and no green flags. Granted conditions were difficult for ball handling but Roscommon looked woefully inept at times as an attacking unit, seemingly strangled by their own defensive mind-set. Steven Poacher’s fingerprints were all over Roscommon’s performances this season and at times today they had all outfield players in their own half. When Tierney scored the killer goal in the 64th minute to give his side an unassailable seven point lead, the jig was up for Cunningham’s men as they exited the championship at the Connacht semi-final stage for the second year running.
The first quarter of this championship contest was poor fare as both sides registered just two points each before the first water break. The wet conditions were never going to be conducive to attacking free-flowing football and that proved to be the case in the early exchanges. After two early Galway wides, Seán Kelly came up from defence with a rampaging run to open the scoring in the 3rd minute. Diarmuid Murtagh responded immediately for Roscommon pointing when possibly he could have advanced further for a goal opportunity. There was a period of 10 minutes without either side scoring although Peter Cooke had the first goal chance of the game when he was put clean through on goal but dragged his effort wide of the near post. The lull in the scoring was broken when Comer kicked a booming point from distance in the 15th minute after Johnny Heaney had sucked in the defenders before feeding Comer to point. Again, Roscommon immediately responded through a wonderful individual point from Enda Smith and it was 0-2 apiece at the water break.
Following a poor opening, the game came to life in the second quarter as both teams acclimatised to the conditions. In a game where every score looked difficult to come by, Galway scored an excellent goal in the 22nd minute. After some patient build-up against a mass defence where they passed and probed, Cooke was played through on goal by Sean Kelly and this time Cooke sensibly squared the ball across Colm Lavin’s goal to Paul Kelly, who side-stepped the defender to smash the ball to the net. Again, the Roscommon response was impressive and Conor Hussey reduced the deficit with a long distance point. Conor Daly, one of Roscommon’s most impressive performers on the day sauntered forward from defence to kick two first half points and when Donie Smith pointed a left footed score from play in the 30th minute, Roscommon were level once again, 1-3 to 0-6, and had reacted well to the concession of the Galway goal.
The enigmatic Shane Walsh had a quiet first half and scored his first point of the game in the 33rd minute with a wonderfully struck right footed free from distance having missed two earlier efforts with his left. Enda Smith, who looked back to his best form, responded with his second point of the day, when he shimmied away from his marker to fire over. The final score of the half came courtesy of a well struck Matthew Tierney free after some ill-disciplined defending from their opponents. Tierney, who had taken over frees on the right side from Walsh struck his free over with his left foot to give the Tribesmen a one point lead at half-time, on a score-line of 1-5 to 0-7.
Galway seized control of this tie in the third quarter and outscored their rivals by 0-5 to 0-2 during this period. Paul Kelly, who finished with a personal tally of 1-2, opened the scoring in the second half with a fine score from distance before Donie Smith responded with a 45’. Pádraic Joyce’s men then had a period of dominance and kicked four of the next five points. Finnerty fisted a point in the 40th minute following a poor Roscommon turnover and Tierney followed this up with a point from a 45’. Roscommon were guilty of some reckless and impatient tackling which were punished by both Tierney and Walsh who kicked two majestic frees from distance from near the side-lines to give Galway a lead by 1-10 to 0-9 at the second water break.
Ciarán Murtagh cut the deficit to just three points in the 59th minute and it looked like we were going to possibly get a grandstand finish in Dr. Hyde Park. However, Galway put paid to those notions when they scored their second goal of the match in the 64th minute. Both teams scrambled for possession in front of the Roscommon goal with the ball spilling around on the wet Roscommon sod. The Roscommon defenders failed to secure possession and when the ball eventually toppled out of the scrum, Tierney pulled first time on the ball to rifle home a wonderful opportunistic goal past Lavin in off the post. It may not have been the most aesthetically pleasing of build-ups but Galway won’t care a jot as it effectively secured their place in the Connaught final. Roscommon kicked a couple of consolation points but today was Galway’s day as they won comfortably in the end by 2-11 to 0-12.
Roscommon, after today’s performance, will look upon their 2021 campaign with disappointment as they lost all five of their league and championship games. Admittedly they faced difficult opposition on each occasion but if that is the table they wish to dine at, improvement, particularly from an attacking perspective is required. Whether this will be under Cunningham is a debate for another day. For Galway, Joyce can be content with their display this afternoon and after having shipped some early season criticism, he can be quietly pleased with the side he is assembling after the impressive performances of his younger players today. One negative for Galway was the sight of Shane Walsh limping off near the end having pulled up with a muscle injury and Galway fans will hope he is fit for a Connaught final against Mayo or Leitrim in three weeks’ time.
Scorers – Roscommon: Enda Smith 0-3, Conor Daly 0-2, Donie Smith 0-2 (45’), Conor Hussey 0-1, Diarmuid Murtagh 0-1, Cathal Cregg 0-1, Ciarán Murtagh 0-1, Brian Stack 0-1. Galway: Matthew Tierney 1-3 (2 frees, 45’), Paul Kelly 1-2, Rob Finnerty 0-2, Shane Walsh 0-2 (2 frees), Seán Kelly 0-1, Damien Comer 0-1.
Roscommon: Colm Lavin; David Murray, Brian Stack, Conor Daly; Seán Mullooly, Conor Hussey, Niall Daly; Enda Smith, Eddie Nolan; Niall Kilroy, Ciarán Murtagh, Shane Killoran; Diarmuid Murtagh, Donie Smith, Conor Cox. Subs: Tadhg O’Rourke for Nolan (18), Cathal Cregg for Killoran (42), Conor Devaney for Cregg (48), Cian McKeon for D Murtagh (51), Ultan Harney for Cox (56).
Galway: Connor Gleeson; Seán Kelly, Seán Mulkerrin, Liam Silke; Kieran Molloy, Dylan McHugh, Johnny Heaney; Paul Conroy, Matthew Tierney; Damien Comer, Peter Cooke, Finnian Ó Laoí; Robert Finnerty, Paul Kelly, Shane Walsh. Subs: Cathal Sweeney for Ó Laoí (62), Johnny Duane for P Kelly (67), Eamonn Brannigan for Walsh (67), Pádraig Costello for Finnerty (69), Tom Flynn for Conroy (70+3).
Venue: Dr. Hyde Park, Roscommon
Man of the Match: Matthew Tierney
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)