When Roscommon, managed by Gay Sheeran, reached the Connacht final in 1998 against Galway (the last time the sides met in a provincial decider), there was an extra bit of spice in the run-up to the big game.
John O’Mahony had taken over the reins in Galway and expectations were higher than they had been for many years in the county after they had beaten Mayo, who had qualified for the previous two All-Ireland senior finals.
The first game was played at Tuam Stadium on a day that saw sunshine mixed with some very heavy downpours. It was clear from the very start that Roscommon meant business as they matched Galway in every department (bar scoring). At half-time it was Galway 0-6 Roscommon 0-4.
The game finished in controversy as many Roscommon people felt that they were entitled to a late free that would have put them two points up. Instead, Galway were awarded a free at the other end and it was duly converted by Niall Finnegan to level the match at 0-11 each.
The replay was held at Dr. Hyde Park the following Saturday week, and those of us who were lucky enough to be there witnessed a truly magnificent occasion. Over 26,000 people crammed into the Roscommon town venue and there was an incredible atmosphere that will remain in the minds of anyone who was there on that evening. It was a pulsating game as the two rivals slugged it out score for score.
At half-time Galway led by 0-5 to 0-4, and by full-time the sides were locked together again at 0-11 each. On to extra-time, and Galway held a narrow 0-16 to 0-14 advantage at half-time. The crucial score of the game came when Michael Donnellan pounced for the only goal of the game.
Despite Roscommon’s magnificent reply, which yielded three points in a row, Galway had done enough to claim the title (1-17 to 0-17).
It was a wonderful game of football and one of the best Connacht finals in my memory. Roscommon were denied by a whisker after a magnificent effort. Later that year Galway went on to win the All-Ireland title, beating Kildare in the final.
The teams that lined out in that memorable Connacht final replay on the 1st of August, 1998 were as follows:
Galway: M McNamara; T Meehan, G Fahy, T Mannion; R Silke, J Divilly, S Og de Paor (0-2); K Walsh, S O’Domhnaill; J Fallon (0-5), M Donnellan (1-3), T Joyce; D Savage (0-3), P Joyce (0-1), N Finnegan (0-2). Subs: J Mitchell for Divilly, S Walsh (0-1) for T Joyce, F Gavin for K Walsh.
Roscommon: D Thompson; D Gavin, D Donlon, E Gavin; C Heneghan, C McDonald, M Ryan; G Keane, T Ryan; D Connellan, F O’Donnell (0-2), E Lohan (0-8); T Grehan (0-2), N Dineen (0-3), L Dowd (0-1). Subs: D Duggan for Grehan, V Glennon (0-1) for T Ryan, T Grehan for Duggan.
Referee: S Prior (Leitrim).