Late Rossie raid elevates mediocre to memorable

A View from the Stand

‘Boosted by a ‘bench’ that continues to impress, a terrific Roscommon charge elevated this encounter from the mediocre to the memorable’

Brian Stack lined out at centre half-back in Roscommon’s excellent win over Galway in Salthill last weekend. Photo: Bernie O’Farrell

It was rugby titan Moss Keane who famously said of a particularly uninspiring game: “The first half was even; the second half was even worse”.

Under no circumstances would that quip be an entirely fair characterisation of Sunday’s unusually low-scoring contest between Galway and Roscommon.

Well, you could say that the first 20 minutes or thereabouts was even, and that the rest of the opening half – from a Roscommon perspective – was even worse.

The third quarter was largely dismal too…but the finale was pretty special. A match that had been tedious to watch seemed to be under Galway control; then, boosted by a ‘bench’ that continues to impress, a terrific Roscommon charge elevated this encounter from the mediocre to the memorable. At least for the visitors.

This was a stunning Roscommon win, Davy Burke’s team scoring the last five points of the game to grab the afternoon’s prize from a shell-shocked home side. Overturning a 0-8 to 0-4 deficit in a 20-minute spell represented quite the purple patch, given the paucity of scores up to then.

The large crowd (over 7,000) deserved better than the boring early fare. Roscommon started brightly, but the injury to Galway star Damien Comer cast a shadow over the stadium. Comer received a warm ovation as he was stretchered off after a lengthy stoppage. We wish him a quick recovery.

Ciarán Lennon scored an early point for Roscommon on Sunday and was a lively presence in attack. Photo: Bernie O’Farrell

It was a big blow to Galway. That said, they were the better team in the first half, worth their 0-5 to 0-3 lead, Roscommon grateful that Diarmuid Murtagh’s score before the break ended a long barren period, after early points from Daire Cregg and a lively Ciarán Lennon.

Roscommon had been guilty of some poor shot selection. It was frustrating for visiting supporters to see ambitious shots sail wide, often after good (if laboured) build-up play.

At 0-8 to 0-4 behind, and while they hadn’t been found wanting for spirit and composure, Roscommon were heading for defeat. That’s when those subs ignited Roscommon, instilled new belief.

Ben O’Carroll pirouetted into open spaces with intent from the moment he was called into battle. When O’Carroll got his first ball, he scored with customary brilliance, his marker as baffled as any victim of a three-card trick merchant.

Burke’s men owned the final quarter, slowly, brilliantly, hauling Galway in. Such a transformation had seemed unlikely a short while earlier.

Entering time added on, the visitors were level. The atmosphere was now electric, supporters on edge. Galway were playing their part too. In truth, either side could have won it. A previously ordinary game had unearthed some drama once it reached the business end.

When Galway were dubiously penalised for overcarrying, Roscommon were like a predator sensing blood. The ever-influential Niall Daly timed his handpass to Richard Hughes perfectly, inviting the Gaels man to claim the day. Hughes kept his composure, dissecting the posts and writing an unlikely punchline to this slightly curious story. There had been nothing much between the sides, but Roscommon were superb in that last quarter, when it mattered most.