Heavy defeat for Galway footballers

Michael Lundy of Galway is sent off by referee David Gough during the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship final match between Galway and Roscommon at Pearse Stadium in Salthill, Galway. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

Michael Lundy of Galway is sent off by referee David Gough during the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship final match between Galway and Roscommon at Pearse Stadium in Salthill, Galway. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

In my final paragraph on these pages last Thursday I said that if Galway were "absolutely focused, and went out and performed to their utmost capabilities, then they should be good enough to beat Roscommon."

However, nobody, including the vast majority of Galway or Roscommon supporters who rolled up early last Sunday afternoon to Pearse Stadium could have foreseen such a flat and inept performance from the 2016 Connacht champions.

Yes Roscommon played really well - no one is denying that fact - however, Galway let them dictate proceedings from the throw-in, and there was a dearth of leadership and ball winners around the middle third. Roscommon's Enda Smith who is only 22 years of age roared into the game around midfield and looked like an All-Star in the making. Getting marks, moving the ball at speed and he was a really inspirational figure for his team.

Had we no-one to nullify his influence?

The Galway full-back line and half-back line were under serious pressure for the full 75 minutes too and Cian Connolly's hugely important early goal for the Rossies was too easy - while 20-year-old Brian Stack soloed through the Galway defence to slot home the game's crucial goal without a glove being laid on him.

Galway lacked intensity

From the get go Galway's body language and intensity was poor.

And apart from a really good burst in the third quarter when they hit a few good scores and narrowed the gap to three points, - 2-09 to 0-12 after 55 minutes - to give them some hope - Galway were always on the back foot. The fact that Galway did not score in the last 20 minutes of play is also something that needs to be addressed.

All over the field, the team looked rather flat and did not have the raw hunger and drive to match the Rossies in the physical stakes.

The basic and fundamental questions in any competitive game is who wanted to win the game more? And which players were prepared to put their bodies on the line? We had only one definitive answer and it was Kevin McStay's players that played with real conviction and belief.

A key way to measure which team is more up for the fray is the number of breaks they win, and Roscommon were the masters of the breaking ball with the diminutive Niall Kilroy coming up with a world of ball and playing his roving sweeper role superbly. Watching young Brian Stack pushing and jostling Galway captain Gary O' Donnell before the throw-in was laying down a marker. Roscommon were hurting from last year and they meant business.

Unfortunately too many of the Galway players did not play to the performance levels or with the required urgency to win big championship games.

Fair play to Roscommon

Fair play to Roscommon, they were full value for their 2-15 to 0-12 victory and not many would begrudge them their third provincial title since 1991.

They march on to the All-Ireland quarter-finals in Croke Park whereas Galway have two weeks to try to dust themselves down to take on a formidable opponent in Donegal in Markievicz Park (Sligo ) on Saturday week, July 22, at 7pm.

The Rossies had massive displays all over the pitch from Colm Lavin in goal up to substitute Donie Smith who hit a super point on his introduction. Guys like Conor Devaney, Brian Stack, John McManus, and veteran Seán McDermott who made his debut back in 2005 all produced top displays.

The reality is that bar Shane Walsh and Damien Comer on occasions, what other Galway player won his individual battle?

Galway's indiscipline proved very costly

The rot hit early in the game with Meath's David Gough handing out a few early frees to the visitors that settled them nicely into the game - some seemed of the soft enough variety - however Galway have only themselves to blame in most regards.

Damien Comer's sheer indiscipline after only three minutes, when he picked up a yellow card for deliberately delaying play twice, and throwing the ball behind him, right in front of the bearded Meath man, was reflective of where Galway were.

Once the combative Annaghdown man was cautioned at that early stage he was unlikely to finish the tie and that is what happened after an unnecessary and ugly schemozzle started by Galway in injury time that saw Comer get a second yellow, substitute Micheál Lundy a straight red, and Paul Conroy a black card. It looked silly and when you are seven points down in injury time and well beaten, it is a bit late to be starting a scrap.

Galway were cleaned out in the middle third of the field and the maroon kick-out strategy was a bit of a shambles. And all the blame for that most definitely does not rest exclusively on Ruairí Lavelle's young shoulders. Goalkeeper is the loneliest position on the field and when things go wrong - it is very easy to lay the blame on the last line of defence.

Martin McNamara was lambasted in 1997 for his kick-outs when Mayo beat us in Tuam Stadium - was it all his fault? Or the guys who were not moving for him? Twelve months later and Mac was considered the best goalkeeper in Ireland and got an All-Star.

As Kevin Walsh pointed out after the game, the team's inability to win primary ball or even breaking ball in the middle third was a massive factor in their defeat. "We were second best to a lot of breaking ball and they outclassed us on a number of marks. We seemed to be that half-yard off for long periods."

Roscommon beat Cavan in their last league game, which was probably big for them, and then had the big win against Leitrim, but it was just disappointing in the manner of the 50-50 balls.

Next up Donegal

After such a deflating performance it will be very tough for the Galway management team and panel to pick themselves up in nine days time for a trip to Markievicz Park in the qualifiers. The footballers' season is not over yet however and they need to gird themselves for the challenge of Michael Murphy and company. Two years ago Donegal beat Galway by 3-12 to 0-11 in Croke Park at this stage and they are favourites to do so again.

Kevin Walsh will need to shake things up a bit and those selected will need to take a leaf out of Roscommon's book and travel up to have a right cut off the Donegal lads and leave everything they have out on the field of play.

When a squad does that - who knows what can happen. Just ask Roscommon.

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