Galway can build on Mayo victory and defeat Roscommon

Stronger together: Jason Doherty of Mayo loses posession as he is surrounded by Galway players, from left, Johnny Heaney, Shane Walsh, Liam Silke, Thomas Flynn and Paul Conroy during the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship semi-final at Elverys MacHale Park. 			Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Stronger together: Jason Doherty of Mayo loses posession as he is surrounded by Galway players, from left, Johnny Heaney, Shane Walsh, Liam Silke, Thomas Flynn and Paul Conroy during the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship semi-final at Elverys MacHale Park. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

When we narrowly defeated Roscommon in the Connacht final in 1998 after a replay, it was a bit of luck that made the difference between two evenly matched sides.

In the drawn game we scored a very late contentious free in Tuam that Niall Finnegan nailed to save our bacon. And in the replay on a glorious Saturday evening in Hyde Park, Roscommon goalkeeper Derek Thompson had a ball robbed from his grasp and Michael Donnellan slotted it home to give us the goal we needed to eke out a win after extra time. It was that close.

Next Sunday in Pearse Stadium (2pm ) there will probably not be much between the sides either, and it could be one bit of brilliance, or a mistake, that will decide who will be the 2016 Connacht champions.

Calling the game is not easy, and the money men agree. They have Galway at 10/11 and Kevin McStay and Fergal O' Donnell's charges at 6/5. A possible draw, which is what a few people have mentioned to me during the week is priced up at 15/2.

Roscommon did well in division one of the league, beating Kerry and Donegal in their early games and advancing to a league semi-final.

They have now three championship wins under their belts and, regardless of the standard of the opposition played, that is good for morale and building momentum in a squad.

Their glorious second-half scoring display against Sligo will help focus the Galway defenders' minds too, and in Diarmuid Murtagh, Cathal Cregg and Enda Smyth, Roscommon have some very dangerous forwards.

Different defensive challenge

The Roscommon game plan represents a different defensive challenge than that posed by Mayo for Galway. Sunday's opponents attack in waves and have a lot of mobility in their side.

They may use either Senan Kilbride or Donie Shine as a target man on occasions, but their attack revolves more around speed and fast movement of the ball than trying to bomb it into a target man.

Galway will need to have their defensive shield and defending lines in tip-top shape to repel the Roscommon attackers, and they will have to keep space at the back to a minimum.

While Declan Kyne, David Wynne and Eoghan Kerin came out of the Mayo game with plenty of deserved plaudits, this weekend will represent a new and different challenge.

Galway midfield

Any assessment of next Sunday's clash has to take into account the role that Tom Flynn and Paul Conroy have in the game. Both men were immense in the Mayo win, but those displays must be repeated.

Conroy really led the Tribesmen from midfield in his best championship display in a senior Galway jersey, and his two second-half points were glorious and inspirational efforts.

However, one swallow does not make a summer, and he needs to follow that performance up with another of similar stature. Likewise Flynn's marauding runs through the middle of the Mayo defence as typified by his critical goal are a real lift for any team, and three or four of those with tangible rewards against the Rossies could swing the game Galway's way.

If the Renmore and Athenry men can dominate midfield and link the ball, then Gary Sice, Damien Comer, Eamon Brannigan, Danny Cummins and Shane Walsh should get sufficient supply to kick a winning tally for Kevin Walsh's men.

Shane Walsh is a Galway player who needs to step up and justify his reputation of being a top-class player this weekend.

Apart from one gorgeous point in the first half of the semi-final, his contribution was far from sufficient and he was correctly replaced in the second half. His talent when he is in possession of the ball is beyond question, but he has yet to really display it on a big stage. Sunday should be an opportunity for him to do so.

The loss of Roscommon full-back Neil Collins with a hamstring injury is a genuine blow for them, but the return from injury of Ian Kilbride and the highly-talented Ultan Henry are two major pluses.

The bottom line is that next Sunday these two improving sides should produce a really top-class game of football in a packed stadium with a lot at stake.

Both squads have some very talented forwards and Roscommon are well capable of hitting a big tally in a short space of time, which is something Galway must not allow happen.

In this parish we are going for a narrow Galway win on the basis that Conroy and Flynn can reproduce their dominant display at midfield and, if they do so, that will provide the platform for the Galway forwards to hit a winning tally.

Silke's verdict. Galway (narrowly )

Galway v Roscommon: Bernard Power, Eoghan Kerin, Declan Kyne, David Wynne, Gareth Bradshaw, Liam Silke, Gary O Donnell, Paul Conroy, Thomas Flynn, Gary Sice, Damien Comer, Johnny Heaney, Eamonn Brannigan, Shane Walsh, Danny Cummins.

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