League title win a massive confidence boost – Cunningham

Stunning Murtagh goal delivers memorable win

Allianz National Football League Division Two Final
Roscommon 1-20 Galway 0-22

3 April 2022; The Roscommon players with the cup after the Allianz Football League Division 2 Final match between Roscommon and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham says Sunday’s Division Two title win against Galway in Croke Park has delivered a “massive” confidence boost for the team ahead of the Connacht Championship.

  Roscommon will face the winners of New York v Sligo and are in excellent shape following an unbeaten league run which culminated in winning some welcome silverware on Sunday.

3 April 2022; John Daly of Galway in action against Eddie Nolan of Roscommon during the Allianz Football League Division 2 Final match between Roscommon and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

  After a rollercoaster contest, the Rossies edged past Galway largely thanks to a sensational late goal from substitute Diarmuid Murtagh which Anthony Cunningham described as “an excellent strike”.

  The manager told People Sport: “We were on the ropes there with ten minutes to go. We were five up…but we showed our mettle out there when they scored the six points in a row. It was a magnificent strike from Diarmuid. It is testimony to the man. He is fighting to get his place back on the team and he is working very hard, as are all the players. I’m delighted for them all today”.

  Cunningham continued: “We have played a lot of games in recent weeks but we got some great scores again today. Galway are a top class side and it was never going to be easy. It was a great test and super preparation for the championship.

  “Our midfield was good again today and we looked solid in defence too and we threatened up front. Ciarain (Murtagh) was buzzing all day out there, and inside, Donie (Smith) and Coxie (Conor) were always a threat”.

3 April 2022; Cian McKeon of Roscommon during the Allianz Football League Division 2 Final match between Roscommon and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

  Roscommon’s magnificent league season ended in some style in Croke Park when Anthony Cunningham’s men defeated Galway for the second time in a week to land the Division Two title after a thrilling battle against their old rivals.

  It was fitting that such an exciting game was decided by a brilliant individual goal, scored by Diarmuid Murtagh. The St Faithleach’s man slalomed his way through the Galway defence in the first minute of injury-time before unleashing a rocket of a shot into the top corner of the Galway net. There were a couple of anxious moments for Roscommon after that explosive strike, but they had done enough to get the job done on the day.

  On a perfect day for football, it was Galway who began best. Rob Finnerty was causing a lot of trouble for the Roscommon defence in the opening 10 minutes, but once Davy Murray was switched on to the Galway attacker his influence waned considerably.

  With Galway leading by four points to two, Ultan Harney (who was magnificent again) had a great goal chance in the 13th minute but his shot was well saved by Conor Flaherty.

3 April 2022; Donie Smith of Roscommon lifts the cup after the Allianz Football League Division 2 Final match between Roscommon and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

  Galway, with Paul Conroy fantastic in the middle of the field, were probably slightly the better team in the opening half, but Roscommon hung in well and two magnificent long-range frees from Eddie Nolan helped them to a share of the spoils at half-time (0-9 apiece).

  The second half was a real rollercoaster of contrasting fortunes. Roscommon used their new exciting brand of running, attacking football to brilliant effect in the third quarter. Harney was the driving force at midfield while Ciarain Murtagh was having his best game in a Roscommon jersey for ages. Not far behind him was Donie Smith, while Conor Cox was unerring from frees.

  By the 52nd minute Roscommon led by 0-17 to 0-12, at which point Galway manager Pádraic Joyce sprang the multi-talented Shane Walsh from the bench. He made an instant impact, Galway firing six points in a row to hit the front (0-18 to 0-17) with seven minutes left.

3 April 2022; Diarmuid Murtagh of Roscommon shoots to score his side’s first goal during the Allianz Football League Division 2 Final match between Roscommon and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

  But Roscommon had brought on their own ‘supersub’. Diarmuid Murtagh struck a trademark point to equalise, and his big brother Ciarain followed up to edge Roscommon in front in the 67th minute. Rob Finnerty levelled the match again as the clock went over the 70-minute mark.

  Then, enter Diarmuid Murtagh, who took the ball from Enda Smith in the 71st minute and raced across the 20-metre line trying to engineer an opening. He beat three Galway defenders and blasted home one of the finest goals seen at GAA HQ in many a long day.

  Matthew Tierney and Roscommon sub Keith Doyle exchanged points in injury-time. There was still time for Tierney to narrow the gap further and for Galway sub goalie Conor Gleeson to fist over in the dying seconds. But that fabulous Murtagh goal was decisive and Roscommon held on. Beating Galway twice in the space of a week is certainly no mean achievement. Roll on May 1st.