Forward thinking can ensure more success in Salthill
Connacht SFC Final: Galway v Roscommon on Sunday at Pearse Stadium at 1.45 pm
Another chapter in one of the most enduring rivalries in modern-day Connacht football will be written this Sunday when Galway and Roscommon meet in this year’s senior provincial decider in Salthill. Seldom has a big game at this level looked so evenly balanced.
The sides met twice in the Allianz Football League this year with Roscommon winning on both occasions including a 1-20 to 0-22 victory in the Division Two final.
Depending on what side of the fence pundits are on (neutrals aside!), there are convincing arguments to be made for both sides’ chances of taking home the Nestor Cup this Sunday.
The Tribesmen have been boosted this year by a return of a number of key players from injury, including Shane Walsh, Cillian McDaid and Sean Kelly. They have added considerably to Galway’s efforts in the championship against Leitrim and particularly against Mayo at MacHale Park.
Those who fancy Galway to win on Sunday say that with players like the aforementioned Walsh and McDaid, Paul Conroy, and Damien Comer in top form and fit, this will be a much-improved Galway team that will be just too strong for Roscommon. McDaid and Conroy form a very potent midfield partnership and Conroy is a candidate for Player of the Year already. Roscommon will have to curb him on Sunday.
However, those tipping Roscommon have equally strong arguments as to why it might be their year. Anthony Cunningham’s men are unbeaten in league and championship in 2022 and that includes two wins against Sunday’s opponents. They brushed aside the challenge of Sligo with the minimum of fuss in the semi-final and have, by all accounts, been performing very well in recent challenge games. A clean bill of health with a full squad to choose from is also a major plus for Roscommon.
A very distinct change of playing style in 2022 has also brought Roscommon on in leaps and bounds as a team. They have an excellent set of forwards and are now utilising that asset with a far more direct style and it has yielded high scores over the course of 2022.
There will be a number of key battles on Sunday. Brian Stack versus Damien Comer will be one of those vital clashes. Roscommon will have to come up with a strategy to prevent the ball coming into Comer as he is an exceptionally strong player who can score or bring others into the game.
Shane Walsh is a class act, one of the best players in the country. If he is allowed to dictate the play then Roscommon will be in big trouble. Midfield will also be crucial: Paul Conroy is playing the best football of his career and Cillian McDaid is improving all the time. Their clash with Ultan Harney and Eddie Nolan could swing the match one way or the other.
It is up front where Roscommon can make hay on Sunday. The strong running of Enda Smith and the skill and scoring power of Cathal Heneghan, Conor Cox, Donie Smith, Cian McKeon and Ciaráin Murtagh has been a joy to behold this year. On the sideline and chomping at the bit to get into the action will be the likes of Diarmuid Murtagh, Keith Doyle and Niall Kilroy, who are outstanding performers.
There has not been much between these teams over the years and this Sunday will be no different. Galway have some class players and proven match-winners. They have also tweaked their playing style with the arrival of coach Cian O’Neill this year. But Roscommon look to have a better balanced team full of very good footballers and their more direct style has been a joy to watch this season.
In sport, any team can have a bad day – and a day where it doesn’t happen for them – but all things being equal, Roscommon can be expected to go to Salthill and win on Sunday by two or three points. Anthony Cunningham’s men have better forwards and they can get enough scores to edge it.