Walsh wizardry casts spell on Roscommon

A View from the Stand

‘On a number of occasions Galway broke into ‘open space’ at speed, Roscommon desperately scrambling to stop the charge of the maroon brigade. They couldn’t’

Photo: Bernie O’Farrell

 This was a throwback to Connacht finals of the past, with beautiful sunshine, lots of colour, and a very positive atmosphere in the stadium. The good humour in evidence had much to do with the weather and much to do with both counties’ high expectations this year.

Roscommon began brightly, but as the first half continued they drifted into tedious lateral passing moves, punctuated only very occasionally by the injection of pace that offered the best prospect of  penetrating a massed Galway defence. Time and time again Roscommon players drifted out to the wings, where no bounty is to be found.

From early on, there were signs that Shane Walsh, Robert Finnerty and Cillian McDaid were going to be threats. Roscommon were certainly a match for Galway in that opening quarter, but Anthony Cunningham’s team were less direct than the home side, and having to work harder for scores.

They say goals win games, and while Roscommon would ultimately match Galway on three-pointers, the home team netting twice in the first half essentially laid the foundations for their win.

Their opening goal was a beauty, and it created the first significant gap between the teams. Moving the ball more quickly than Roscommon, Galway attacked up the right, then switched to the left, where Sorcerer Shane was finalising a new trick in his mind. Two delicious dummies later, then a right-footed finish for a goal that declared serious intent.

1-4 to 0-4 behind after Walsh’s 18th minute wizardry, Roscommon then scored highly on their supporters’ groan-ometer, firing over a number of wides. Uncharacteristic, but it happens. Finally, Cox pointed to end the scoring famine.

When Kieran Molloy was black-carded on 31 minutes, it should have boosted Roscommon, but it was Galway who made the next decisive move. There was some good fortune involved, Finnerty’s effort for a point rebounding off an upright. Patrick Kelly proved most alert, the Galway man fielding the unexpected present from the skies, then firing to the net with relish. A mountain suddenly loomed in front of Roscommon in Salthill. Galway led 2-7 to 0-8 at half-time. For Roscommon supporters, the sunshine was still glorious, but the mood now at least a touch sombre.

Although Galway made a good start on the resumption of play – outscoring Roscommon early on – the visitors played some fine football, and were notably more direct as the second half wore on. All Roscommon substitutes who were introduced impacted positively, to varying degrees. Richard Hughes made a few great runs, Andrew Glennon posed some threat in the danger zone, while Diarmuid Murtagh’s off the ball running and eventual 1-1 may have enhanced his prospects of starting next time out.

Roscommon were now more direct, injecting more pace, urgency. They certainly couldn’t be faulted for effort. But anything the Rossies could do, Galway could do more of. The home side were a good deal superior on the day. John Daly was having a stormer at the back, McDaid was excellent, Finnerty and Walsh superb, and Damien Comer had now swaggered on to the stage. Walsh, in particular, was majestic. Several of the Galway points were of the highest quality. Roscommon facilitated much of this by being too slow to get back into defence after attacks broke down. On a number of occasions Galway broke into ‘open space’ at speed, Roscommon desperately scrambling to stop the charge of the maroon brigade. They couldn’t. In contrast to Galway’s fleet-footed forays, Roscommon – despite playing more directly, particularly after the substitutions – frequently ran into familiar heavy traffic.

An excellent goal on 62 minutes – shortly after a penalty appeal had been turned down – gave Roscommon some hope of an unlikely comeback. Conor Daly was on hand to finish to the net after great build-up play, Richard Hughes making a decisive run, Enda Smith going to his inner well three times during that move. Trailing by five – there would be fourteen more minutes’ play – Roscommon could perhaps dare to dream. But Galway weren’t about to collapse in the cauldron, and instead confidently kept the scoreboard operator on their toes, restoring a very comfortable six-point lead as referee McQuillan began to check his watch. There was just time for Roscommon to goal again, Diarmuid Murtagh with a trademark strike which underlined his class. A mention too for Ultan Harney, who was magnificent for Roscommon.

A very classy Galway were most deserving winners. They could have won by more, but there was only three points in it at the end (2-19 to 2-16). Roscommon will take heart from their doggedness, and hope to learn much from the errors of their earlier approach play. Suffice to say they need to tighten up in defence too. The day belonged to Galway and Wizard Walsh. Roscommon are still very much in this championship and should look to their next fixture with a positive mindset and absolute confidence that they have within their armoury what it will take to progress further.