Comeback Kings of Connacht

 

 

 

 

Rossies crowned after storming second half

“Most of the important things have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all”.

 

Those are the words of American writer Dale Carnegie. They apply perfectly to Roscommon’s wonderful senior football team who turned in as fine a second-half display as this observer has seen in championship football from the Primrose and Blue. It landed them the county’s 24th provincial championship and further enhanced the reputation of this group of players as a really special team who have given wonderful entertainment and excitement to their loyal fans over the past four years.

  At half-time in Pearse Stadium it looked bleak, very bleak. The Rossies had competed well for the first quarter but as the torrential rain came, Galway tightened their grip on proceedings and by half-time they led by five points and looked in total control.

  In fact, with the aid of the elements to come in the second half, many Roscommon fans were hoping that it would not be a drubbing at the hands of the Tribesmen.

  However, deep below the stands in the Roscommon dressing room, all was calm at half-time. There was no panic, no roaring or shouting, no harsh words, just a request from the management for the players to up the intensity and work rate. What happened after referee Barry Cassidy blew the whistle to start the second half will go down in Roscommon folklore as long as Gaelic football is discussed.

  Roscommon were simply a different team. They worked like tigers all over the field. They pushed the Galway men out of the way time after time. Suddenly the men in Primrose and Blue were winning kick-outs, turning over ball and laying siege to the Galway goal.

  Within just six minutes, the sides were level. What was all the fuss about? We could hardly believe our eyes. Niall Kilroy’s point in the 38th minute was followed by a brilliant goal and suddenly it was game on. A mighty run from Cathal Cregg (a player re-born this year)…and Diarmuid Murtagh knew it was a chance. He raced goalwards and pointed to where he wanted the pass. Cregg left it on a plate for him and the St. Faithleach’s man drilled it to the net low and accurate. Hard to believe it was the first goal he ever scored in inter-county championship football.

  And now heroes were emerging all over the field, Ronan and Niall Daly were like two gunslingers sent into town to root out any troublemakers. If one Daly didn’t get you, the other one did! They were tremendous.

  Davy Murray was immense. He tackled and hustled and harried a succession of Galway attackers who must have been sick of the sight of the Pearses’ man by the time the game was over. 

  Tadhg O’Rourke and Shane Killoran were winning most of the ‘dirty ball’ in the middle of the field, their performance silencing much of the criticism aimed at Roscommon’s midfield in recent months. Killoran scored an inspirational point with ten minutes to go, having burst through three Galway men. Then Tadhg O’Rourke made a spectacular catch near the end of the game just when the pressure was on. Enda Smith’s presence was also important throughout and Conor Devaney was a huge loss when he went off as he was really playing well.

  Darren O’Malley’s role in this Roscommon team often goes unmentioned: he has been cool, calm and ultra-reliable all through this campaign. A save he made in the final minute of injury-time was much harder than it looked. He’s a class golfer and he’s a class goalkeeper too!

  Then there is Conor Cox – what a find he has been this year! He kicked five mighty points last Sunday but his point after ten minutes is one that will be talked about for many a year to come. He was pushed out towards the sideline and found himself no more than three yards from the end-line. He decided to swing a left peg at it and it flew between the posts. It was an outrageous score from a seriously talented player. Tony McManus or The Gooch would have been very happy with that one, and I cannot give higher praise than that. What a player Cox is.

  Roscommon simply bullied Galway into submission…playing with intensity, huge work ethic and no little skill. The Tribesmen were a huge disappointment in that second half and their return of a paltry two points was an indication of their limp response to that Roscommon tsunami.

  This magnificent Roscommon team can now take their place as one of the best we have seen in 40 years. They have given the people of Roscommon some entertainment and pleasure. A Division Two league title, two promotions into Division One, a spectacular run in Division One that featured four away wins, two Connacht titles – beating Galway away in one and Mayo and Galway away in the other – and now two appearances in the Super 8s. It’s a magnificent record and the players and management should be very proud.

  There is more to come too. With the exception of Dublin, no team left in the championship will want to face this Roscommon team. The fact that the opening game in the Super 8s is at home is an even biggest boost.

  Last Sunday when the Roscommon crowd ran onto the pitch before the game was over, I was reminded of that famous quote from BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme from the World Cup Final in 1966. He said: “Some  people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over”, just before Geoff Hurst crashed home England’s fourth goal. “It is now,” he finished as the ball hit the net.

  Last Sunday, when the Roscommon fans were cleared, Conor Cox lofted over a 30-metre free with the outside of his boot to give the Rossies a four-point lead. It was indeed all over after that!

  Seeing the people of Roscommon flood onto the pitch in Pearse Stadium to dance and sing and celebrate with the players and seeing Enda Smith hoist the Nestor Cup into the Salthill air is something that I will remember for many, many years to come.

  A truly magnificent day to be beside the seaside.