Roscommon and Galway need to up their game for Connacht final replay

Eoghan Kerin of Galway in action against Conor Devaney of Roscommon during the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Final between Roscommon and Galway at Pearse Stadium in Galway. Photo by Paul Mohan/Sportsfile

Eoghan Kerin of Galway in action against Conor Devaney of Roscommon during the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Final between Roscommon and Galway at Pearse Stadium in Galway. Photo by Paul Mohan/Sportsfile

The senior footballers of Galway and Roscommon will head to McHale Park in Castlebar next Sunday to battle it out for the Nestor Cup (3.30pm ) after drawing last weekend’s Connacht final on a score-line of 0-13 to 1-10 in Pearse Stadium. Both teams will go in knowing that they have the criticism of many GAA pundits and fans - some of it unjustified - rebounding from social media, print outlets, and the national wireless and TV.

The caterwauling from most quarters after last weekend’s game did not fully take into account the totally atrocious conditions that the game was played in.

Rain is no issue for GAA players. However, severe swirling wind is a totally different issue.

When the wind is as strong and unpredictable as it was at times last weekend, and you are playing into it, you have no real choice but to keep moving the ball forward, or sideways by hand.

Otherwise when you kick it into a mini-gale the probability of losing possession is extremely high.

The reason the hand-passing total was over 450 is two-fold.

Firstly, Galway’s well-rehearsed and improving defensive shield with a lot of men behind the ball when they were defending left the Roscommon forwards with little option on many occasions than to go laterally and short with the ball.

That was especially true in the second half when they were playing into the wind.

Secondly, with the scores so tight and both teams playing with an awful lot of bodies behind the ball, it was understandable why players did not want to risk losing possession by kicking the ball to outnumbered forwards.

I would not call that fear, as some pundits did - it is just that it is almost impossible to kick-pass the ball to a teammate when there are massed defences on either side.

How can you kick-pass a ball into a congested area with 25 or 26 players in very close proximity?

Holding onto possession is the only logical thing to do in that situation and ideally a player will have a runner off his shoulder or coming from behind to try and break past the first line of defence.

That said, the drawn game made for poor viewing and entertainment for the 24,332 who attended last Sunday. And those who venture to Castlebar this weekend will be hopeful of a far more exciting and high quality encounter with a lot less hand-passing and more kick passes.

Kevin Walsh and his entire squad will know that they were in a super position to win the game with three or four minutes to go and they will be disappointed that they did not close out the game when they led by 0-13 to 1-8 with only minutes to play.

Kevin McStay and Fergal O’ Donnell will be laying it on the line to their players too as regards how poor aspects of their performance was at times last Sunday.

The likes of Niall Daly who kicked two fine points from play, Ciaran Murtagh and defender Sean Mullooly did catch the eye, however the much-vaunted forward line who were averaging 20 points plus in the first five rounds of the NFL will surely be keen to up their display over the 70 minutes.

The money-men have Galway at evens and Roscommon at 11/10 to be Connacht champions. In 1998 in a Connacht final it took extra time to separate the counties in a replay, and you will get 15/2 on there being another draw this Sunday too.

Stranger things have happened.

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