Galway claim the silverware as Roscommon run aground in Salthill 

Action from the Connacht Championship final between Roscommon and Galway. Pic: Mick McCormack

Cunningham’s sights still firmly on quarter-finals

Connacht SFC Final: Galway 2-19 Roscommon 2-16

Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham still has his sights firmly set on an All-Ireland quarter-final place – at a minimum – despite last weekend’s disappointing Connacht final defeat to Galway. Roscommon came up short in Sunday’s decider in Salthill, Galway winning by 2-19 to 2-16.

Roscommon will join Donegal, Kildare and Limerick in one bowl in next Monday’s draw with the winners of this weekend’s four qualifiers resting in the other bowl. Mayo play Monaghan, Tyrone take on Armagh, Clare play Meath and Louth face Cork.

After Sunday’s defeat Cunningham said that Roscommon had conceded too much on the scoreboard to be in a position to win a provincial final.

“We conceded too many scores and we have to improve on that. We need to have that bit more energy and drive in our game. But Galway are a fine side, they are worthy champions. For us it’s back to the drawing board but it’s only tweaks that’s needed”.

Cunningham said Roscommon still have a “fantastic chance” of getting to an All-Ireland quarter-final.

“We’ve a fantastic chance of getting to an All-Ireland quarter-final, win the next day and we’re up there. That will be difficult, but we are still looking forward to it. In fact I would prefer to be playing in two weeks again than having to wait for a month” he concluded.

The final margin of three points would suggest that the 2022 Connacht final was a high-scoring thriller – however this was a game that Galway controlled for most of the way and which they deserved to win easily.

All credit to Roscommon – who never gave up – but they were outclassed by a home side who played some tremendous football and especially in the second quarter when they scored two opportunist goals.

Unfortunately for the huge Roscommon following it was arguably the poorest performance of the year and the exhilarating and exciting direct brand of football seen in all previous games this year was absent, with much of the lateral and backwards play often broken up by the Galway defence.

The previously lauded Roscommon attack never got going, and although posting a total of 2-16 was very commendable, too many Roscommon attackers simply did not perform on the day.

In the final analysis Roscommon simply couldn’t cope with the Galway full-forward line of Rob Finnerty, Damien Comer and the irrepressible Shane Walsh, the latter turning in a breathtaking performance that included a brilliant 18th minute goal.

Despite playing second fiddle for most of the match, Roscommon battled away and Ultan Harney was immense for Anthony Cunningham’s men all through. While putting up a very respectable total, the Roscommon attack never got into full flow and there was hesitancy in their play. Eight first-half wides told its own story. Galway defended well for most of the second half and they kept the Rossies at arms’ length. Diarmuid Murtagh’s goal in the 7th minute of injury-time gave the scoreboard a much better look at the end of the match from a Roscommon point of view.

In brilliant sunshine, there was a tremendous atmosphere in Pearse Stadium, and a huge Roscommon following there to cheer their team on. The first quarter was evenly fought. With the sides at 0-4 apiece we looked set for a titanic struggle. Roscommon’s points came from Cathal Heneghan (a goal chance), Conor Daly, Cian McKeon and Donie Smith.

Then in the 17th minute Enda Smith raced through on goal, only to shoot wide. Galway went straight down the other end and scored a quite brilliant goal. Needless to say it was Shane Walsh who took possession, sold two dummies and crashed the ball past Colm Lavin. It was a fantastic goal, fit to grace any game. It sent Galway on their way.

Galway scored four of the next five points as they surged clear. Kieran Molloy was black-carded for a foul on Ciarain Murtagh in the 31st minute but Galway went in at half-time with another goal in the bank when Rob Finnerty’s shot hit a post in the 33rd minute and Patrick Kelly reacted quickest to lash the ball to the net. It helped the home side into a 2-7 to 0-8 half-time lead.

With Ultan Harney having a superb game in the middle of the field, Roscommon were never totally out of the game, but Walsh, Finnerty and Comer kept the scoreboard ticking over from a Galway point of view and there was generally seven or eight points between the teams.

In an attempt to turn the tide, Anthony Cunningham brought on a number of subs. Roscommon had a penalty claim turned down in the 60th minute when John Daly appeared to ‘foot block’ Brian Stack who was through on goal. Referee Joe McQuillan gave a ’45 after consulting the umpires.

In the 62nd minute Conor Daly was at the end of an excellent move involving Enda Smith and subs Diarmuid Murtagh and Andy Glennon, the Pearses man fisting to the Galway net to reduce the margin to five.

Conor Cox converted two frees but Galway replied with points from Walsh (a ’45) and Paul Conroy. In the 7th minute of added time Diarmuid Murtagh blasted home a goal after being set up by Andy Glennon. But the game was over at that stage and the maroon and white ribbons were already on the Nestor Cup.

It was a very disappointing display from Roscommon who must now regroup for their appearance in the qualifiers on the weekend of June 11th and 12th.