Regrets? We have a few – but lots of positives too!

PAUL HEALY – View from the Stand

‘Even the greatest writers in history needed ink, or a ribbon in their typewriter. Michelangelo must have been frustrated on those days he was without paint’

Ciaráin Murtagh lines up for a shot during last Sunday’s Connacht SFC semi-final against Galway in Dr. Hyde Park. Pic: Bernie O’Farrell

As critical as a good game plan is, football can still be a simple game, the margin between victory and defeat sometimes slight, uncomplicated.

The narrative of last Sunday’s big game was to some degree shaped by errors – and by fortune, both good and bad.

Roscommon were superb in the second half, but they made more unforced errors than usual throughout. Sometimes, irrespective of your preparation and ability, you can’t achieve your goals if the basics aren’t looked after. Even the greatest writers in history needed ink, or a ribbon in their typewriter. Michelangelo must have been frustrated on those days he was without paint!

On Sunday, Roscommon missed an open goal, fumbled another goal chance when a point ahead, and made a frustrating series of unforced errors. Galway’s goal had an element of good fortune about it.

This is not to suggest that Galway didn’t deserve their win, because they did. Except for a short spell early in the second half, Pádraic Joyce’s players were consistently impressive. Had they been more clinical in their finishing, this game might have been over as a contest by half-time. Unlike Edith Piaf, Roscommon had some regrets on Sunday evening. By now, they will be buoyed by all the positives from the game.

Passing on the press box, I took my place in a bustling Hyde Park stand with our son and one of our daughters. Roscommon were bright early on, executing their game plan perfectly. Conor Carroll’s clever kick-outs floated unerringly to appreciative Roscommon hands. Behind us, a man chatting to another supporter was conflicted between the here and now and the past. “There’s no such thing as kicking the ball long any more, God be with the days…” he mused.

The game was level at 0-3 apiece after 17 minutes. Roscommon’s patient build-up play was then increasingly tarnished by unforced errors. A straightforward crossfield pass sailed over the sideline. Players ran into cul-de-sacs, where they were bottled up by maroon marshals, the outcome often a free against Roscommon. Michelangelo was spilling his paint. Sensing vulnerability, Galway pounced. They led 0-7 to 0-3 at half-time. It would have been worse had Damien Comer – accepting another Roscommon gift – put away a goal chance in the 24th minute (he saved face, pointing the rebound after Carroll parried).

It looked ominous for the home side, but Roscommon were mesmerising in the third quarter. O-8 to 0-3 behind, they scored 1-3 in four minutes and 20 seconds, even missing another goal in that exhilarating period. Sub Cian McKeon was superb. The goal was magnificent. Keith Doyle charged forward. Ben O’Carroll produced one of his brilliant, defence-splitting passes. Enda Smith fielded beautifully, inviting Ciaráin Murtagh to apply a trademark finish.

The Hyde came alive. The man behind us had wondered how players of past eras would fare in the modern game, but now his focus was firmly on the present. When the Galway ‘keeper made an error, the ball came to Conor Cox, but cruelly fell from his grasp with a possible goal beckoning. Small margins, again.

Many teams would have been rattled by this Roscommon tsunami, but Galway expertly slowed the game, stalling the home side’s momentum. It was close, but Galway were worthy winners. Roscommon’s second-half showing inspires confidence for the summer afternoons to come.