An interesting Connacht Senior Football Championship Final beckons between Roscommon and Galway at Dr Hyde Park on Sunday, throw-in 4pm.
For the third year in a row Roscommon and Galway collide in the western decider and another fascinating battle awaits. In the last five Championship clashes involving the teams Galway have claimed four victories, but the 2017 Connacht showpiece was a great day for Roscommon, who carved out a 2-15 to 0-12 success in Salthill.
That injected Roscommon football with significant belief and Kevin McStay’s charges earned promotion back into Division One of the Allianz Football League this spring following a successful campaign in Division Two. There were plenty of encouraging signs in the spring from Roscommon, who also proved far too strong for neighbours Leitrim at the penultimate stage in the province. Roscommon eased to a 0-24 to 0-10 success with the Murtagh brothers, Diarmuid and Ciarain combining to contribute eight points, while Cathal Cregg also made a good impact drilling four from play.
The stakes will be piled high at the Roscommon venue because whoever prevails becomes the first team to advance to the new Super 8s All Ireland series format. The loser will face a tricky Round 4 Qualifier so this weekend’s match won’t be short on intrigue.
While Roscommon were enjoying a productive stint in Division Two, Galway also impressed in their first campaign at Division One level since 2011. Kevin Walsh’s charges reached the Allianz Football League Final having claimed six wins and a draw in the group stages. In that Croke Park contest with Dublin, Galway competed before being caught out by a late flurry from the accomplished All Ireland champions. In the intervening two months Galway have chalked up a couple of Championship triumphs over Mayo and Sligo.
Roscommon were never in any danger when delivering a controlled display to beat Leitrim. The promising Ciaran Lennon is the only injury absentee with a broken thumb as Roscommon seek to claim back to back Connacht crowns for the first time since triumphing in 1990 and 1991. This current crop of Roscommon players have delivered silverware and success at every level and remaining on top of the pile in the west is the ambition.
Kelly Departs Following Lakes Championship Defeat
A campaign that commenced with plenty of spring promise ended in summer disappointment as Westmeath were soundly beaten 3-16 to 1-11 by Armagh in Saturday’s All Ireland SFC Round One Qualifier at TEG Cusack Park. Manager Colin Kelly immediately announced he was stepping down from the role following a game that was dominated by Armagh. An early Ronan O’Toole goal gave Westmeath a positive start, but Armagh responded to lead 0-11 to 1-4 at the interval. Anto Duffy, Gavin McParland and an own goal from Kevin Fagan ensured Armagh closed out the deal with the minimum of fuss in the midlands.
Kelly, who had made a favourable impression at the outset of the Allianz Football League, hopes that a Westmeath native will be considered for the role. “I’ve spoken to the players, I’ve spoken to the County Board, I won’t be continuing,” Kelly remarked following the Armagh defeat. “It is a massive commitment for me. I’ve made some great friends in the players in the dressing room and we’ve had some fun along the way. Maybe it is time for a Westmeath man to take this on.
At the outset of the campaign Kelly felt that Westmeath were moving in the right direction, but injuries and player unavailability ahead of the Championship proved to be a real setback. “We played 10 games initially at the start of the year, we won nine of them,” Kelly added. “Everything was going great, but it is a five hour commute for me. I go to work at seven o’clock in the morning, I don’t get back into the house until 12 o’clock at night. “People say you knew that commitment was there going forward and you do, but at the time you are saying to yourself I’ve done three years with Louth. “There is no bad experiences. All of this was just learning. It is just difficult now and for no other reason than the commitment it is at this level. II think Damien Gavin has been exceptional, he is doing really well with the Under 20s and as I said get a Westmeath man out there with the bainisteoir bib and let us see can they get the thing rallied again.”