Pressure game!

Rossies hoping to land a knockout blow

Connacht SFC semi-final: Roscommon v Galway on Sunday in Dr. Hyde Park at 1.15 pm

Journalists love clichés when it comes to big games. Teams are often ‘at a crossroads’, or ‘the last chance saloon’, or maybe even, ‘it will come down to the team that wants it more’. You can take your pick, but in plain English, this match on Sunday in Dr. Hyde Park has a lot more riding on it than qualification for the Connacht final – for both teams!

Of course, our primary interest here is with Roscommon. This group of players has given us great entertainment over the past five or six years, with two Connacht titles and three National League Division Two titles. We have some excellent players but have probably over achieved in terms of our place in the pecking order.

But now Roscommon are under pressure. This year’s league threw up matches against Dublin and Kerry that no one expected could be won, however the form of the team in the games that were winnable was very worrying. Anthony Cunningham’s men never got in a blow against Galway in Pearse Stadium, and after a good start, there was a calamitous collapse in the relegation play-off against Armagh. Sunday will require Roscommon to come up with their best display of the year if they want to entertain thoughts of a win.

There have been problems with the kick outs, and also at midfield, but Roscommon’s style of play seems to have become more negative in 2021. In several matches – notably against Galway and Armagh – Roscommon enjoyed plenty of possession, but too often the ball went laterally or even backwards when a more direct approach was needed. Roscommon have some excellent forwards but that’s not much good if they are not getting the ball. At times this year, they have been starved of possession.

  If Roscommon can hit the ground running as they did against Armagh and get fast ball into the likes of Conor Cox, Ciaráin and Diarmuid Murtagh, then this is an eminently winnable game. The shackles have to come off in terms of attacking play or Roscommon will be in trouble.

Galway and their manager Padraic Joyce are under huge pressure on Sunday. They too have been relegated from Division One but anyone who saw that play-off clash with Monaghan will know that it was a game that they should have won.

Despite having some outstanding players, Galway have not been playing the open expansive style that Joyce promised when he took over from Kevin Walsh and now he is a man under huge pressure from within his own ranks. Galway have a lot of emerging young players, but when they line out at Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday, it is to the ‘old reliables’ Shane Walsh, Damien Comer and Paul Conroy that they will be looking for to come up with match winning contributions.

 Another cliché one hears often is ‘the end of an era’, and if Roscommon were to lose this match, it could well be the case, as a number of players could be coming close to the end of the road after making massive contributions to the cause.

This is a very hard game to call. If Roscommon can do reasonably well in the middle third of the field and play a more direct style of football, then this Galway team can be beaten. However, any repeat of what we saw in the league games against Galway and Armagh will result in defeat.

Is there one big performance left in this Roscommon team? This writer thinks there is.

 Prediction: Roscommon