A free deep into injury-time, and kicked over by sub Donie Smith into the strong wind and rain in the 72nd minute, was enough to give Roscommon a draw in what was an eminently forgettable Connacht SFC final played at Pearses Stadium last Sunday.
The strong wind and heavy rain showers ensured that good football and quality scores were to be at a premium. In the 2nd minute, Roscommon, who were playing with the aid of the elements, were ahead when Conor Devaney pointed from 25 metres. Galway were always competitive and within 90 seconds they were level with an excellent point from Gary O’Donnell on the run.
In the 6th minute goalkeeper Darren O’Malley pointed a ’45 and in the 9th minute Gary Sice got through for a well-taken point from close range. Then in the 15th minute Roscommon got in for the only goal of the game and it was of the soft variety from a Galway point of view. Enda Smith won possession and when the Galway defence mishandled, John McManus got a hand to the ball and deflected it into the path of Enda Smith, who toe-poked home from 10 metres.
Two minutes later Niall Daly scored a peach of a point and Roscommon were now four points up. But Galway were always competitive and they replied with points from Gary Sice (free) and the dangerous Danny Cummins.
The play was being dominated by defences, but the sides kicked some quality points. Ciaráin Murtagh pointed from 40 metres in the 23rd minute before Danny Cummins replied for Galway a minute later. Fintan Cregg pointed a 30 metre free in the 26th minute. In the 29th minute Johnny Heaney scored a superb point from 35 metres into the wind and the first-half scoring was completed with Niall Daly scoring from 30 metres out in the 31st minute. Half-time score: Roscommon 1-6 Galway 0-6.
Galway were very impressive on the resumption of play and it took them only 10 minutes to achieve parity. They produced points from Gareth Bradshaw, Damien Comer, Bernard Power (a ’45) and Danny Cummins, with Roscommon only able to reply through a Fintan Cregg point. It meant the sides were level at 1-7 to 0-10 after 45 minutes.
Paul Conroy put the home side ahead with a massive free from 55 metres in the 49th minute and it looked ominous for Roscommon at that stage. But Galway retreated into their shell and the play became really defensive as the sides seemed scared out of their wits of making any mistakes.
Ciaráin Murtagh levelled the scores with a pointed free in the 51st minute but for the next 17 minutes we only saw one score (a point from Damien Comer) as the game descended into stalemate. In the 68th minute Galway sub Adrian Varley scored a fine point on the run and the JJ Nestor Cup looked destined for a winter stay in Galway.
Roscommon finally showed some urgency. Donie Shine, Donie Smith and Thomas Corcoran were on as subs and having a positive influence, and when Cathal Cregg scored from 20 metres in the 69th minute, it was a one-point game.
Then in the second minute of injury-time Donie Smith was ‘clothes-lined’ by a Galway defender and was awarded a free 25 metres out from goal. Into the breeze it was a very difficult kick but he judged it beautifully and the sides were level.
There was still time for Galway to launch a last-gasp attack but the Roscommon defence stood firm and when Roscommon got the ball into their attack in the 74th minute no-one seemed to want to shoot for the score that would have been the match-winning point and referee Conor Lane called a halt to proceedings.
It might be just as well that both sides will get another chance at it. Donie Smith had saved Roscommon’s bacon and Galway had thrown away a great chance of another Connacht title.
Galway: Bernard Power (0-1, ‘45); Eoghan Kerin, Declan Kyne, David Wynne; Gary O’Donnell (0-1), Liam Silke, Gary Bradshaw (0-1); Paul Conroy (0-1, free), Thomas Flynn; Gary Sice (0-2, frees), Shane Walsh, Johnny Heaney (0-1); Danny Cummins (0-3), Damien Comer (0-2), Eamon Brannigan. Subs: Adrian Varley (0-1) for Sice (61), P Sweeney for Cummins (65), C Sweeney for Heaney (70).
Roscommon: Darren O’Malley (0-1, ‘45); Seanie McDermott, Sean Mullooly, Niall McInerney; Davy Murray, Sean Purcell, John McManus; Niall Daly (0-2), Cathal Compton; Cathal Cregg (0-1), David Keenan, Conor Devaney (0-1); F Cregg (0-2, 1 free), Enda Smith (1-0), Ciaráin Murtagh (0-2, 1 free). Subs: Donie Smith (0-1, free) for E Smith (42), Ultan Harney for Compton (52), Thomas Corcoran for Keenan (61), Donie Shine for Devaney (65), Senan Kilbride for F Cregg (67).
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).