Mickey Freyne on his goal-den day in Salthill

In 1977 Roscommon had beaten Galway (in Hyde Park) to win the Connacht Senior Football title for the first time in five years. In 1978 Roscommon beat a strong Mayo team in Hyde Park in the semi-final (by 1-12 to 1-9) to qualify for the final where they faced Galway again, this time in Pearse Stadium. Although Roscommon were the hot favourites to win, Galway were  banking on their great record against Roscommon at Pearse Stadium counting. Roscommon had never beaten Galway in a Connacht final in Salthill but manager Tony Whyte had this superbly talented team ready for the fray and after a tough encounter Roscommon retained the Nestor Cup in style. The game saw Dermot Earley turn in another classic display. It was also a game in which ace Roscommon attacker Mickey Freyne score two great first half goals. Mickey remembers the day that Roscommon went to Salthill and laid the Pearse Stadium hoodoo to rest.  1978 Connacht Senior Football Final     Roscommon ………………………………………………………. 2-7 Galway  ……………………………………………………………. 0-9 The 1978 Connacht Senior Football Final was played on Sunday, 9th July on a sunny but windy day and a huge Roscommon crowd made the journey to see if the primrose and blue could retain their Connacht title and win in Pearse Stadium – and they were not disappointed.   Roscommon began the game on top and Dermot Earley and John O’Gara were dominating the midfield exchanges. Sean Kilbride kicked two fine points in the early stages before disaster struck Roscommon after only nine minutes when John O’Gara was forced to come off the field with an injury (to be replaced by Martin Dolphin) and then less than four minutes later Kilbride was also helped to the sideline with another serious-looking injury. However Kilbride’s replacement Larry O’Gara was to play a crucial role in Roscommon’s success.   Galway tacked on points from Gay McManus and Tom Naughton to level the scores and a Stephen Joyce point put Galway ahead for the first time (in the 16th minute). Then in the 20th minute Freyne struck for Roscommon’s first goal.   Dermot Earley ran at the Galway defence and just at the right moment he flicked the ball into Mickey Freyne and the Castlerea man went around Galway full-back Mick Judge and goalkeeper Gay Mitchell before planting the ball in the empty Galway net.   The Roscommon supporters were hardly back in their seats before Freyne had struck again. Tom Heneghan was following the roving Tom Naughton and wheh he received the ball he floated a brilliant kicked pass into Freyne who rattled the Galway net again. There was hardly two minutes between the goals.   Shell-shocked Galway hit back with a point but Roscommon – and Mickey Freyne – should have scored a third goal before half-time but his fisted effort went over the head of Gay Mitchell, struck the crossbar and was cleared to safety. Half-time score: Roscommon 2-2 Galway 0-4.    Galway began the second half the better team and Paul McGettigan and Gay McManus reduced the margin to two points with early scores but Roscommon lifted the siege when Michael Finneran scored a 12th minute point to make it 2-3 to 0-6.   Roscommon sub Larry O’Gara was playing brilliantly and the Galway defence was in trouble dealing with his aggressive running. Tony McManus and Mickey Freyne were also causing havoc with their constant interchanging. Further back Tom Donnellan, Harry Keegan and Pat Lindsay were the stars of the defence.   In the 16th minute a thunderbolt of a shot from Larry O’Gara came back off the Galway post. A goal would have sealed victory for Roscommon but the tension now remained.   Dermot Earley and Tom Naughton exchanged points to leave three points in it with 13 minutes to go. Then a Talty point in the 25th minute left the margin at just two. The rampant Earley was on target with another Roscommon point in the 26th minute before Naughton narrowed the gap to only two with a 31st minute point.   But Roscommon were not going to be denied. Earley kicked a 30-yard free in the 33rd minute and a minute from time Larry O’Gara capped a fantastic display by kicking the insurance point. Roscommon had retained their title and the Pearse Stadium bogey was well and truly a thing of the past.   Thousands of Roscommon supporters danced their way on to the Pearse Stadium pitch in the July sunshine and there were emotional scenes as Tom Heneghan received the Nestor Cup, the first Roscommon captain to bring home that cup out of Salthill.   Mickey Freyne remembers that day and his two goals. ‘It was a great day for Roscommon. It was great to get two goals in a Connacht final but you know I should have scored four!! One hit the crossbar and I missed another chance in the second half but thankfully we didn’t need them’ he told me.   He remembers both goals coming in quick succession in the first half. ‘The first goal came after a pass from Dermot Earley and I was lucky enough to score it and then almost immediately Tom Heneghan played a peach of a pass in to me for the second goal. I should have got the third before half-time but the ball hit the crossbar’ he recalled.    ‘The people of Roscommon fairly celebrated that win I can tell you. It was very seldom that we went to Galway and won in the championship and to do it in a Connacht final was something special. That was a great Roscommon team and you know that we should have won five Connacht titles in a row, never mind four.    ‘We should have won the final in 1976 too. There were many great players on that team and we all got on great together. It was good to play with all those lads and it was great to be a part of it and to get a few scores in those games. To beat Galway in Salthill in a Connacht final was a big thing to do for Roscommon and it was great to be a part of it’ he concluded. Roscommon: Gay Sheeran; Harry Keegan, Pat Lindsay, Tom Heneghan; Eamonn McManus, Tom Donnellan, Danny Murray;  Dermot Earley (0-3), John O’Gara; Sean Kilbride (0-2), Mickey Freyne (2-0), Mickey Menton; Mick Finneran (0-1), Tony McManus, John O’Connor. Subs:  Martin Dolphin for J O’Gara, Larry O’Gara (0-1) for Kilbride, Michael Keegan for Dolphin.  Galway: Gay Mitchell; Tom Heavey, Michael Judge, Seamus McHugh; Pat O’Neill, TJ Gilmore, Johnny Hughes; Paul McGettigan (0-2), Willie Joyce; Stephen Joyce (0-1), Jimmy Duggan (0-1), Brian Talty (0-1); Tom Naughton (0-2), Gay McManus (0-2), Stephen Ruane. Subs: Stephen Kinneavy for Hughes, Johnny Flynn for Gilmore, Pat Sands for Ruane. * The attendance in Pearse Stadium was declared as 18,000, with gate receipts of £24,415.  * Roscommon went on to play Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final where they were beaten by 3-11 to 0-8.