Just when Roscommon’s brilliant point-taking, and their admirable doggedness in the face of a devastating late Galway surge, looked like they wouldn’t be enough to secure victory in Sunday’s entertaining league final in Croke Park, up popped Diarmuid Murtagh with magic in his boots.
Murtagh’s 71st minute goal – a stunning solo effort fit to grace any final ever played in GAA HQ – finally (just about) shook off Galway at a time when Pádraic Joyce’s team were on top.
In a free-flowing game which was devoid of cynicism, fortunes swayed back and forth. Roscommon trailed by 0-3 to 0-1, but then took control, before Galway reeled them in again. A first-half shoot-out which featured some great scores from both teams was as good an advertisement for the game as we’ve seen in a while. Honours were even at the break, 0-9 apiece.
Although Galway, led by the magnificent Paul Conroy, were bang in contention, Roscommon’s relentless, stylish point-taking moved them five clear (0-17 to 0-12). Several Rossies were in dynamic form, including Ultan Harney, Niall Kilroy, Ciarain Murtagh, Donie Smith and Conor Cox.
A Galway fightback was always likely, but few could have anticipated just how dominant they would be in a 10-minute spell which saw them clinically dismantle Roscommon’s lead. When Galway’s score-spree saw them go one in front, Roscommon began to wobble, and you sensed that the momentum would almost inevitably see maroon colours adorning the Division Two league trophy.
The sides were level going into the 71st minute, and that’s when Murtagh wrote his own fairytale. These Murtagh boys have always had magic in their boots, and now we saw Diarmuid parade all his talents. An audacious run initially brought him wide, before the St Faithleach’s ace entered heavy traffic in the centre, somehow dodging increasingly frantic defenders. Just when it looked as if he might be running out of time and space – and with three defenders circling him like bees around a hive – Murtagh flashed a magnificent shot into the corner of the net.
Galway threw everything at Roscommon during the remainder of an eight-minute injury-time phase, but Anthony Cunningham’s team held on to win by 1-20 to 0-22. Roscommon are National Football League Division Two champions after a league campaign in which they played eight, winning six and drawing two. A good day at the office, but bigger days ahead.