Electric Ireland Connacht Minor Football Semi-Final
Roscommon 2-13 Galway 0-11
Conor Hand played a starring role as Roscommon GAA followers received an early Christmas present last Friday night when a superbly well coached and highly motivated minor (U-17) team upset the hot pre-match favourites Galway to march into the Connacht final (which will be played early in the New Year).
Having easily accounted for Leitrim in the opening round, Galway were expected to be too strong for Roscommon on the night. However, in cold but dry conditions at the Connacht Centre of Excellence in Bekan, Emmett Durney’s side set about dismantling the Tribesmen’s challenge with a super game plan that worked a treat.
Roscommon withdrew Aaron Shannon to play in a roving role out the field and he got on a lot of ball throughout the game. Inside forwards Eoin Colleran and Darren Gately prospered in the extra space they were given, the tactic paying off on the scoreboard.
All over the field Roscommon players fought like tigers. Every ball was contested with ferocious intensity and time and time again the underdogs turned over possession from a shell-shocked Galway side that just couldn’t cope with Roscommon’s work rate and energy.
The sides exchanged points inside the opening four minutes with Maidhc Mac Gearailt on target for Galway and Conor Hand for Roscommon. In the 6th minute there was a sign of what was to come when Alan McManus effected a brilliant turnover in the middle of the field. A quick pass to Eoin Colleran followed. In turn he set Darren Gately free and the St. Ciaran’s man finished brilliantly for a superb goal.
Roscommon were now on their way and they simply did not allow Galway to gather any momentum. Colleran converted two frees and Darren Gately pointed from play to leave the score 1-5 to 0-2 at the first water break.
Galway were struggling and needed a route back into the game. In the 31st minute, in a rare attack, they were awarded a penalty, but David Prendergast’s shot flew wide. Roscommon continued to dominate. Colleran put over three more points (two marks) and another two scores from the very impressive Conor Hand put Roscommon in a very strong position at half-time, leading by 1-9 to 0-4.
Any fears that Roscommon might wilt after the interval – after putting in such a massive effort in the first half –were quickly dismissed on the restart when Colleran (free) and Hand pointed inside the first nine minutes against the slight breeze. The young Rossies were now 10 points up. Galway replied with a point from Conall Gallagher, but in the 43rd minute came the goal that finished the game as a contest.
Roscommon were awarded a free 35 metres out. Darren Gately took it quickly, passing to Oisin Cregg. He transferred to Conor Hand who raced through and blasted the ball to the Galway net. Game, set and match to Roscommon. That score was typical of what was an outstanding display by Roscommon.
Ryan Conlon’s point in the 51st minute saw Roscommon 13 points ahead. By now, Roscommon virtually had both feet in the final. Towards the end of the game Galway kicked five points in a row over a seven-minute period but this spurt was of consolation value only.
This was a super performance from Roscommon. The challenge now will be to repeat it in the provincial decider against Sligo. If they can, it will take a very good team to beat them.
The defence was marshalled well by Caelim Keogh and Alan McManus, while Oisin Cregg had a great game at midfield. Up front, Eoin Colleran and Darren Gately were superb, Colleran winning almost every ball that came in his direction.
Aaron Shannon was a candidate for ‘Man of the Match’ too. He covered almost every blade of grass on the field and probably handled the ball more often than any other player. But Roscommon’s best performer on the day was Conor Hand who scored 1-4 from play and was involved in almost every important move that Roscommon made on the night.
Ultimately, this was a night of achievement for the entire squad and management, all of whom played their part in what was a truly memorable win and performance. Roll on the Connacht final!