Connacht SFC Final Replay: Galway 3-16 Roscommon 0-14
* Super Galway leave Roscommon on brink * Players must stand up and be counted against Clare
With 15 minutes to play in last Sunday’s replay at Elvery’s MacHale Park in Castlebar, Galway corner-forward Danny Cummins sped down the field on the stand side of the ground. His angled shot from 15 metres out flew like an exocet missile into the bottom left-hand corner of the Roscommon net for Galway’s third goal of the game. It extended the Galway lead to 14 points. The rain had just begun to fall and the vast majority of Roscommon fans had seen enough, and thousands of them poured towards the exits. It had been another very bad day at MacHale Park, where we have seen many heavy championship defeats over the years. This was another painful encounter to add to the list. In fact this game was over as a contest after 15 minutes.
Roscommon’s season, which started so well with some marvellous displays in Division One of the league, is unravelling at an alarming rate and it will take a gargantuan effort to rescue the championship season with a win against Clare next weekend. This hammering will certainly not help the cause and it is hard to know where to start to analyse this game, such was the poverty of the challenge offered by Roscommon. The free-flowing, possession-based, fast-running game we saw earlier in the season is now gone, and the players are hesitant and unsure since the championship started, with the exception of the second half against Sligo.
From the first few minutes, it was clear that Roscommon were in trouble. The defence was all over the place as Galway, inspired by Paul Conroy and the brilliant Damien Comer, drove straight at the Roscommon rearguard. Roscommon defenders were popping up in attack and no one seemed to know who they were marking. Galway took full advantage. Comer, Danny Cummins, Shane Walsh, Gary Sice and Tom Flynn had the freedom of the park as the Galway tally mounted. When Galway scored their first goal, after 19 minutes, you sensed the game was over as a contest, and when Gary Sice scooted around Fintan Cregg to blast home the second goal in the 25th minute, a rout was on the cards. Ciaráin Murtagh flew a lone flag for Roscommon in the first half with a few quality points, but elsewhere Roscommon were beaten in every position. It was painful to watch.
The second half was a non-event – as Galway ambled to the easiest of victories – and although some of the Roscommon subs, like Enda Smith, Fergal Lennon, Thomas Corcoran and Done Shine, did well when they came on, the Nestor Cup was already parcelled up and ready for a trip down the N17 for the winter. In fact the Roscommon subs scored just as much as the players who started, which tells its own story.
So, what happened? There are serious questions for the management team to answer after this defeat. Despite the fact that Roscommon were in trouble all over the field in the first half, there were no changes made except for an enforced one when Donie Smith came on for the black-carded David Keenan. Roscommon were getting roasted at midfield and in defence, but it was only when the game was over as a contest that we saw any changes. The midfield sector has been a problem for Roscommon all year and the chickens came home to roost last Sunday.
It’s probably time now to give the likes of some of the fringe players starting spots. Certainly the midfield area has got to be more competitive. I don’t go to training and therefore I cannot see what the form of every player is, but the case of Diarmuid Murtagh is a real mystery. Kevin McStay told me after the game last Sunday that Diarmuid Murtagh is fully fit. I know if I was picking the Roscommon senior football team and I knew that Diarmuid Murtagh was fully fit he would be the first name on the team sheet. In my humble opinion he is the best footballer in the county. If he was playing last Sunday the result would not have been any different, but surely we must put our best team on the field in order to have a chance. What has happened that Diarmuid Murtagh is considered not good enough to even make the match-day 26? At his best he would get on any team in the country, in my view.
It has been another desperately disappointing championship for Roscommon. When it comes to next summer, it will be 16 years since we have beaten Galway or Mayo in the championship – and that’s the bottom line. But all is not lost. We have one more throw of the dice – next weekend. The managerial skills of the Roscommon backroom team will be tested to the limit this week in order to lift the players for what will be a very difficult game against Clare.
You won’t read any criticism of players in this report. They are a great bunch of young men who are making huge sacrifices for Roscommon football. It would be great if we could get back on the winning trail again this weekend. But we were seriously out of our depth last Sunday, which is alarming.
Going forward, the management team will have to sit down and re-assess what has happened this summer. Maybe too much was put into the league campaign and perhaps many of the players are simply burnt out. However it’s a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ scenario. If Roscommon were relegated from Division One – left to concentrate on the championship – it would have thrown up its own set of problems. Overall, the year has been positive and to have stayed in Division One was a huge achievement. But any team is judged on how it does in the championship and we have a long, long way to go before we make any progress in that regard. Let’s see what happens against Clare first.
Where there is life, there is hope. Give it one last lash, lads!