FBD Insurance League Final
The first silverware of the Anthony Cunningham reign arrived last Sunday at Tuam Stadium as a steely Roscommon side frustrated and outfought the current Connacht champions in an ill-tempered FBD League Final.
Man of the Match Donie Smith kicked eight points and probably should have raised a green flag in the closing stages but could only watch as his close-range effort bounced off the foot of Ruairí Lavelle’s post.
Cunningham was pleased with the victory but said the ‘Primrose and Blue’ were still very much at the development stages.
“We’re still working, it’s a work in progress right through the team but yeah you’d have to look at defensively over the last couple of years. It’s just coaching and practicing and getting that bit cuter.
“Galway changed their game, they ran through for the goal really, really well and maybe threatened with one or two more but we settled again and showed good composure,” he said.
A heavy pitch coupled with the niggly nature of the encounter ensured that top class football was at a premium, however there was much to admire in the way Roscommon went about their business.
The half-time whistle saw the defending FBD champions lead 0-6 to 0-4 with Donie Smith (0-3, 2 frees), Ciarán Lennon (0-2) and Shane Killoran (0-1) making inroads in front of a congested midfield and compact defence.
There were decent goal chances too for Enda Smith and Ciarán Lennon with Lavelle saving down low from the Boyle man and Lennon happy with a point having burst through the Galway defence.
In the absence of Damien Comer, the Tribesmen looked to Shane Walsh to unlock Cunningham’s tough-tackling defensive unit. It was to be a frustrating afternoon for Walsh and Co. as Roscommon more often than not forced them backwards while six scores from 24 shots tells its own story.
The frustration boiled over with less than ten minutes to play in the first half as a melee broke out and referee Liam Devenney struggled to maintain control. A yellow card each and a new yellow jersey for Gary Patterson was the result of the first shemozzle of the New Year. Christmas had certainly arrived late in Tuam with the Mayo official issuing no fewer than 18 cards last Sunday afternoon.
If the first half was all about getting to know each other, the second half was mostly about Galway being snuffed out. The visitors smothered the Maroon and White forwards and runs from deep were – for the most part – met with meaty challenges.
When Galway did get through it was down to some well-worked interplay between Barry McHugh and Gareth Bradshaw. McHugh squeezed a pass to his teammate, and getting it back on the run, slammed it to the Roscommon net. Gut check time for Cunningham’s charges, but as he said at the full-time whistle, practice makes perfect.
“You’ve got to learn these things, you can’t train for a lot of those things because when you get a sucker-punch it’s how well you react and we go through that quite often with the players and hopefully they’ll build from that,” he said.
Roscommon didn’t bend after McHugh’s goal and if anything it made them even more resolute. Galway runners were tracked and the Rossies broke with real purpose once possession was turned over.
Substitute Ultan Harney steadied the ship with a fine point before Colin Compton squeezed a shot between the posts following a superb cross-field ball from Donie Smith, and two frees from Smith himself put the Rossies out of reach with Galway beginning to sink in the mud.
There was still time for the man of the match to put the icing on the cake following good work to release him by brother Enda and Tadgh O’Rourke on 57 minutes. Donie’s shot did beat Lavelle but clipped his far post before bouncing to safety. However, Smith would take his total to 0-8 with two fine scores in the closing stages.
Galway’s afternoon, on the other hand, went from bad to worse as Johnny Heaney hobbled off and David Wynne was sent off in injury-time.
All in all, and despite the fact that it’s still January, a Roscommon performance of real steel in Tuam as Cunningham set his sights on next Saturday’s trip to Castlebar and tougher tests ahead.
“It’s Mayo and it’s Castlebar but look we just want to be playing all those matches to learn and to get better. It’s about how much we improve week on week, that’s the big question. These guys haven’t got a lot of Division One football but (are) really looking forward to it.
“It’s all about confidence and that’s what you’re learning from today. It’s about how you react in the weeks ahead and we’re on the road for consecutive weeks now so it’s using that in the locker, but yeah, there are tough days ahead,” he said.
Roscommon: Darren O’Malley; David Murray, Conor Daly, Evan McGrath; Conor Hussey, Niall Daly, Ronan Daly; Tadhg O’Rourke, Enda Smith; Shane Killoran (0-1), Donie Smith (0-8, 5 frees), Niall Kilroy; Cathal Cregg, Ciarán Lennon (0-2), Colin Compton (0-1).
Subs used: Gary Patterson for Killoran (17 mins), Ultan Harney (0-1) for Murray (38 mins), Aonghus Lyons for Kilroy (55 mins), Caoileann Fitzmaurice for Cregg (62 mins), Hubert Darcy for O’Rourke (67 mins).
Galway: Ruairi Lavelle; Declan Kyne, Sean Andy O’Ceallaigh, Eoghan Kerin; Sean Kelly, Gareth Bradshaw, Gary O’Donnell (0-2); Tom Flynn, Ciaran Duggan; Johnny Heaney, Johnny Duane, Fintan Cooney; Shane Walsh (0-2, 1 free), Michael Daly, Barry McHugh (1-1, 0-1 free).
Subs used: David Wynne for Kyne (27 mins), Cein D’Arcy for Daly (half-time), Peter Cooke for Cooney (50 mins), Padraig Cunningham for Duane (64 mins), Danny Cummins for Flynn (68 mins).
Referee: Liam Devenney (Mayo)