It may have been a miserably wet Sunday in July, but Galway showed enough glimpses of what they are capable of to defeat a limited Roscommon side and reach a sixth Connacht final in a row.
Despite being in control for much of the game, it was not until Matthew Tierney’s 65th minute goal they sealed the deal.
The Oughterard clubman, in his first senior championship outing, produced a timely late goal to help put the game out of Roscommon's reach. And not for the first time when asked about Tierney, Galway manager Padraic Joyce, said: "If he’s good enough, he’s old enough".
Tierney, who scored 1-3, received the man of the match award on his debut. It was only a matter of time before Tierney would make the step-up since he became known to the Galway GAA public in his club side's run to the 2020 All-Ireland intermediate championship. As an 18-year-old, he regularly showed nerves of steel to score important frees for his side, and last Sunday he again produced the goods. When standing over the dead balls, he nailed two long-range frees and a ’45, in addition to that all-important game clinching goal.
Tierney was not the only player making his championship debut in what was a new-look Galway outfit. Several more were only playing their second or third game, and it is starting to look like Padraic Joyce is finally getting the players he wants on the pitch regardless of age.
With nine of the starting team having played fewer than five championship matches, this was not a Galway side with loads of experience, but it was the footballing team which Joyce has been looking for - though weather conditions, as well as negative Roscommon tactics, prevented this game from being the spectacle it could have been.
Galway had taken control of this game in the 23rd minute when a very well worked move was finished to the back of the net by Moycullen’s Paul Kelly. A driving run from his brother Seán forced several Roscommon players to commit and left space for Peter Cooke to lay the ball across the box to be knocked in by Kelly. Kelly’s goal was his third in four games this year, having already found the net against Roscommon and Monaghan in the league.
Seán again played a part in Galway’s second goal, making a bursting run up the field in the dying minutes to pass to Tierney who eventually found the net. Setting up both goals and keeping the dangerous Conor Cox scoreless for the 58 minutes he was on the pitch, while brother Paul scored 1-2, ensured the brothers headed home to Moycullen pleased with their performances.
Captain Shane Walsh pulled up towards the end of the game with a hamstring strain and will now be in a race for fitness for the Connacht final against Mayo or Leitrim on July 25.
Damien Comer, making his first start since 2018, thankfully came through unscathed lasting the full 70 minutes.
On occasions last weekend, particularly in the first half, Roscommon players ran through the Galway defence far too easily to get shots away. Galway improved in the second half, getting hands on and tackles in to slow down the Roscommon attack, but it will need to improve again and be present from the first minute in the next game if Galway are to continue progressing throughout this year’s competition.
There was no doubt Galway were deserving winners over Roscommon, and most importantly they showed they had learned from the Monaghan loss by not allowing Anthony Cunningham’s side back into the game when they turned up the pressure late on.