Championship hopes washed away as Galway advance
Connacht SFC Semi-Final: Galway 2-11 Roscommon 0-12
A miserable year for Roscommon footballers came to a conclusion at a sodden Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday last when Galway were the deserved five-point winners in a forgettable Connacht Championship semi-final.
As the heavens opened, it was clear that the winners of this clash would be the team that made fewer mistakes on the day and that turned out to be the Tribesmen. They scored two goals that fell into the ‘soft’ variety from a Roscommon point of view and they were decisive. Down at the other end of the field, the home side failed to create one clear goal chance in the entire game and that was to prove costly.
There was huge effort from the Roscommon players throughout, but several crucial errors and a defensive game plan were their undoing in the end.
Despite the deluge of rain that fell before throw-in, the Hyde Park pitch stood up well though the surface was slippery and difficult. The first quarter of the game was lifeless with both sides moving the ball laterally with possession the priority.
Thankfully for the 1,049 people present, the game opened up somewhat in the second quarter. In the 21st minute, Galway made the breakthrough. Sean Kelly made a great run into Roscommon territory, off-loaded to Peter Cooke who spotted Paul Kelly free on the edge of the square and he fisted to the Roscommon net.
Roscommon’s response was immediate with Conor Hussey and Conor Daly pointing from play by the 26th minute. Paul Kelly fisted over for the visitors after a good run a minute later but Roscommon were level by the 30th minute with Conor Daly and Donie Smith on target.
Shane Walsh, who had been largely anonymous to that point, was on target with a long-range free before Roscommon’s best player on the day, Enda Smith, pointed on the run.
As the rain continued to fall, young Matthew Tierney completed the first-half scoring with a 35-metre free in injury-time and when the sides went to the dressing rooms it was Galway who led by 1-5 to 0-7.
Despite the closeness of the scoring, one always got the feeling in the third quarter that Galway were the more likely winners. Their approach was far more direct and they were creating more chances.
By the second water break they led by 1-9 to 0-9 with Tierney (2), Paul Kelly, and Robert Finnerty on target. Roscommon’s replies came from a Donie Smith ’45 and a fisted point from sub Cathal Cregg who was forced to retire injured just five minutes after he had come on for Shane Killoran.
Galway were able to keep Roscommon at arm’s length until the clinching score came in the 66th minute when Sean Kelly once again did the spade work. The Roscommon defence had two chances to clear as the ball bobbed around in front of gaol and Matthew Tierney reacted quickest to fire past Colm Lavin and off a post to seal the win.
It was a very disappointing day for the home side for whom Enda Smith was by far the best performer on the day. Brian Stack, Donie Smith, Sean Mullooly and sub Ultan Harney were others who played well.
For the winners, Kieran Molloy was the People Sport ‘man of the match’ followed closely by Matthew Tierney, the Kelly brothers and Peter Cooke.
When Roscommon look back on this, they can have no complaints as Galway were the better team on the day. Roscommon made crucial errors for both Galway goals and it is something that has happened this year on a number of occasions.
The arrival of Stephen Poacher as a coach has not resulted in an improvement and Roscommon’s style of play has become more defensive this year. It’s a style of play that does not suit the likes of Ciaráin and Diarmuid Murtagh, Conor Cox, Donie Smith and the other Roscommon forwards and the scoring rate has dropped alarmingly players are operating further away from the opposition goal.
With Division Two football coming up next spring, and some players coming towards the end of their careers, one got the impression after last Sunday’s game that it was the end of an era for a team that has given Roscommon followers some great days out with two Connacht titles and three Division Two titles in recent years.
In truth, 2021 has been a real struggle. A return to the traditional style of Roscommon football that maximises the talent in the team, particularly up front, would surely be a better way forward.
It will be February 2022 before we see Roscommon perform in a competitive environment again and it is a shame that there is not a second chance for teams knocked out early in the championship this year but that’s the situation in these Covid times. It leaves plenty of time for soul searching.