Connacht Senior Football Championship Final: Galway 0-13 Roscommon 1-10
Donie Smith’s 72nd minute free from 25 metres ensured that Roscommon and Galway will have to meet again next weekend to decide the destination of the Nestor Cup for 2016 after what was a very poor decider played in terrible weather conditions at Pearse Stadium, Salthill last Sunday.
It would be very easy to join in the torrent of criticism that has surrounded this game since Sunday, but despite the fact that there was a very marked lack of ambition shown by both sides, which contributed to the poor fare, there were several mitigating factors.
The conditions were terrible. The squally showers which fell for most of the game were fanned by a strong wind which blew diagonally into the terrace end corner of the field. It made constructive football almost impossible and handling errors were understandable, and we saw plenty of those from both sides.
However we also saw all the things that are wrong about modern-day Gaelic Football. Both teams approached the game in an ultra-conservative manner. For much of the game there were 25 to 30 players behind the ball. There was an orgy of handpassing back and forth across the field and backways in many cases. In the second half we saw one point scored in a 17-minute period as both sides seemed afraid to push towards the winning line.
Players on both teams were afraid to have a go – lest they gave away possession – and it made for a drab encounter for the huge crowd who braved the elements and the brutal traffic to see this game. I know it’s easy to sit high up in the press box and criticise, but if either side had shown a little more of a positive attitude then they would have won the game – I have no doubt about that.
In the build-up to the game there were worries about the Roscommon defence and the attack was lauded, but on Sunday it was the defence who were rock-solid while the attack misfired totally. In fact four players who started in attack were taken off.
On the plus side, Sean Mullooly was outstanding at full-back and John McManus wasn’t far behind him with a superb second-half performance. Niall McInerney, Seanie McDermott and Davy Murray were also prominent in keeping the Galway attack at bay. Niall Daly had a great match in midfield, but the forward division was very disappointing.
Roscommon started with Enda Smith and Cathal Compton, two players who are 6 foot 3 inches tall, in the full-forward line, but they hardly kicked one direct ball into them, even when we had the strong wind at our backs in the first half, an approach which made no sense at all. Ciaráin Murtagh, Fintan Cregg, Conor Devaney and company never got going at all and it was only when Thomas Corcoran and Donie Smith came on that Roscommon looked like a threat up front.
Galway will be kicking themselves this week that they didn’t win this final against a Roscommon team who played really poorly. It took them only ten minutes to level the scores after half-time but they just couldn’t kick on after that. They had some excellent performers like Gary O’Donnell, Declan Kyne and Danny Cummins, but some of their bigger names like Damien Comer and Shay Walsh were less prominent.
I think there is huge room for improvement in Roscommon and there is a real cause for optimism ahead of the replay. We have a wonderful set of young men who are putting their lives on hold for Roscommon football. They are excellent players too and I hope that the management trust them to go out and play the way they are capable of. If we can be more positive in our approach and trust the players to play to their strengths, I have no doubt that Roscommon can win this replay. We have got to be bolder. The man who never made a mistake, never made anything. Let’s go for it!