Galway footballers suffered their second defeat to Roscommon in the space of a week when they fell short of the finishing line in Croke Park on Sunday.
The game, which also acted as the division one curtain-raiser, saw Anthony Cunningham’s Roscommon get their hands on the cup in the division two final with a 1-20 to 0-22 victory over Padraic Joyce’s men.
It was disappointing for Galway, who had rested many key players in the previous game in preparation for a big performance last Sunday. Unfortunately it did not materialise.
Now players and management will need to regroup quickly with the enormous challenge of facing Mayo in Castlebar in three weeks' time. All focus must now turn to that game, though one would argue there was already an eye on the championship battle last Sunday as Shane Walsh was only used from the bench.
Galway appeared to be the stronger side in the opening exchanges, looking more fluid and precise in attack. Paul Conroy, as always, was central to Galway’s attacking play. The St James clubman found Robert Finnerty with a pinpoint pass and the corner forward took his mark excellently for Galway’s first score after Conor Cox had opened Roscommon's tally with an early free.
Roscommon’s first five scores came from placed balls. Cox, Donie Smith and Eddie Nolan all took advantage of Galway’s indiscipline in defence to split the posts for the Rossies, while Paul Conroy was keeping the scoreboard ticking for Galway with an exhibition of point taking off both feet from distance. Johnny Heaney also struck a sweet score with the outside of his right boot from way out on the right wing.
With the game tied at five apiece, Roscommon’s first point from play came from Cian McKeon in the 26th minute. McKeon was Galway’s tormentor in Hyde Park two Sundays ago and his pace caused problems for the Galway backline again in Croker.
Ciaran Murtagh soon stretched Roscommon’s lead to two before Galway captain Seán Kelly, playing at midfield, pulled the deficit back to one after punching a hole in the Rossie’s defence.
Damien Comer scored his first point of the day to level the game when he collected the ball on the ’45 and burned full back Brian Stack before a cool finish over the bar. After Cox and Nolan pointed for Roscommon again before the break, Paul Conroy scored his fourth and fifth point from play before the sides entered the break level pegging at nine all.
Off the pace
The third quarter of the game saw Galway fall well off the pace as Roscommon raced into a commanding 0-17 to 0-12 lead. Enda Smith began to run the game from centre forward, winning kickouts at will and drawing free after free from lazy Galway tackling, while corner forward Donie Smith was on the end of every attack.
Galway coughed up numerous goal chances in this period as well and were lucky to be only five points in arrears. This deficit prompted the entry of Shane Walsh from the bench, and Galway then rattled off six points in succession as Finnerty, Dessie Conneely (twice ), Walsh and Comer (twice ), all pointed during a spell which seemed to place Galway in a good position heading into the final stretch of the game.
However the sucker punch came in the 71st minute while the game was level when substitute Diarmuid Murtagh, already with a point to his name, danced around the Galway defence before sending the ball to the top corner of the net with a superb left-footed strike.
Galway pushed in added time for a goal, but ultimately they could not force an equaliser or winning score as the Rossies managed the last few minutes of the game extremely well.
The Tribesmen have shipped some big scores in a few games despite gaining promotion to division one. The tightening of the defence will be the prioritiy ahead of visiting Mayo in three weeks' time.