Little is defined in the inter-county game in January, but Friday’s Connacht FBD League final success over Roscommon still ensures Galway will embrace upcoming challenges with optimism.
Roscommon, missing instrumental figures involved with Padraig Pearses and St Faithleach’s, summoned a gutsy display in the splendid NUI Galway Connacht GAA Air Dome, but Padraic Joyce’s evolving team found the answers.
Paul Conroy’s contribution was classy, while inside Rob Finnerty, going well in the Sigerson Cup with DCU, mined five points from play.
Initially Roscommon were causing Galway significant problems edging 0-8 to 0-4 in front, but Johnny Heaney’s intelligent reading of the game and Seán Fitzgerald’s palmed goal spearheaded the revival.
Anthony Cunningham’s outfit led 0-10 to 1-6 at the interval, but then Galway seized the initiative clipping nine out of the first 11 second half points.
“The lads are long enough around themselves to know that the first half there just wasn't at the level it should be at,” Joyce reflected.
“We know that when we play Roscommon they always come out fighting. They are a great footballing side and played some brilliant football in the first half there. We found it hard to come to terms with that, but in the third quarter we did and in fairness to us we controlled the game after that.”
Galway’s diligence and willingness to graft encouraged Joyce, who was satisfied to secure silverware too. It's nice, the work-rate is what I really was impressed with,” Joyce adds.
“Obviously, we were a bit slow starting but the performance overall and the second half there, I would be very, very pleased with. In the first half when we kind of got a bit over-ran, we stuck with it at the same time and went in at half-time a point behind.
“Our third quarter was fantastic then. We played really some great football, upped the tempo of the game and we carried that to the end. Obviously, a bit nervous there at the end but I felt we were always in control of the game.”
The Pearse Stadium Allianz Football League opener against Meath on January 29 was firmly in Galway’s thoughts ahead of the FBD. “They were two good games in fairness, last week and this week,”Joyce says about the Mayo and Roscommon triumphs.
“We are focused on the league. We have Meath at home in two weeks' time and that's the game we're looking for.”
Former Antrim footballer Owen Gallagher, who has been hugely effective for Maigh Cuilinn, made his Galway debut. “He brings a different dimension to us as well,” Joyce says. “He is a very strong runner with the ball. He did really well. It was his first game.
“Overall, he has been very positive in the camp since he came in and he's been very good in fairness to him.”
Joyce also praised Kelly, who led by example with a vibrant performance. “Seán, I felt, has been one of our better players in my time anyways, and he's really stepped up to be a real leader,” Joyce says.
“You would have seen the other night, scoring the goal for NUIG as well to get them back in the game [against UUJ]. He's a real driving force there. We've had to play him full-back the last couple of years.
“We've had Sean Fitz there and he's doing really well there. So, we gave him [Kelly] a chance this evening out the pitch and he did really well. I thought he was exceptional at centre-back. We took him off the end there, he was getting a bit tired. Good fella and a good captain and hopefully he'll have a successful year.”
Matthew Tierney has assumed vice captain duties with the gifted Oughterard clubman a particularly promising player according to Joyce.
“He's one of the most talented footballers in the group that we have,” Joyce says. “I think he just needs to realise how highly he is held in Galway.
“Putting him as vice-captain, he just needs to step up and become one of the main men now this year. He is doing it so far, so hopefully he will have another good year as well.”
Galway: C Flaherty; C McDaid, S Fitzgerald (1-0 ), L Silke; D McHugh, S Kelly (0-1 ), J Heaney (0-2, 1 45 ); P Conroy (0-3, 1f ), P Kelly; C McWalter, O Gallagher, F Ó Laoi; P Kelly, R Finnerty (0-5 ), D Conneely.
Subs: S Walsh (0-3, 3fs ) for McWalter (26 ), T Gill (0-1 ) for McDaid (26 ), M Tierney (0-1, 45 ) for Conneely (HT ), C Sweeney (0-2 ) for Ó Laoi (45 ), T Culhane for Gallagher (50 ), D Canney for Finnerty (55 ), K Molloy for S Kelly (63 ), J Glynn for P Kelly (66 ), L Costello for Canney (69 ).
Roscommon: P O'Malley (0-1, 45 ); E McCormack, C Walsh, R Hughes; C Lawless, U Harney (0-1 ), D Ruane; E Nolan, S Cunnane; C Heneghan (0-1 ), E Smith (1-3 ), D McGann; A Glennon (0-1 ), D Smith (0-3, 2fs ), C Cox (0-5, 2fs, 1m ).
Subs: K Doyle for Cunnane (40 ), C McKeon for Glennon (44 ), B O'Carroll for Heneghan (48 ), T O'Rourke for McGann (51 ), B Derwin for Nolan (53 ), C Kenny for Lawless (56 ), C Sugrue (0-1 ) for D Smith (61 ), E McGrath for Walsh (63 ), A McDermott for E Smith (63 ).
Referee: John Gilmartin (Sligo ).