It was a case of third time lucky for Padraic Joyce, who won his first Connacht final as the Galway senior manager on Sunday in Pearse Stadium.
After two disappointing finals in 2020 and 2021, Galway secured the win over Roscommon by 2-19 to 2-16 to capture their 48th title after a four-year wait.
In an entertaining contest, Galway's Shane Walsh and Robert Finnerty were the two standout performers, combining for 1-11 of Galway’s scores, but it was the second-half performance that received plaudits.
Despite Damien Comer having taken a bang to the shin just before half-time and looking unlikely to reappear, he proved a real threat in the second. Stationing himself closer to the goal, he scored twice after winning hard ball, while also setting Shane Walsh up for a delightful score before leaving the field with 10 minutes to play.
Having come in three years ago promising to play attractive football, Joyce will be happy to see how Galway transitioned the ball from to defence to attack seamlessly, while also putting up a large score. Whether it was a long ball in, or Shane Walsh or McDaid storming down the wing, Galway were consistently doing the right thing with the ball and never looked like losing this game.
A black card for Kieran Molloy just before half-time might have spelt danger, but Galway quickly reorganised and within two minutes had the ball in the back of the Roscommon net, thanks to a fine drop kick from Patrick Kelly on his first championship start.
Walsh, who scored a total of 1-6, had first rattled the net after selling two dummies and rifling the ball into the bottom corner of Colm Lavin’s net. This left Galway with a healthy five-point lead going into the break.
Galway stayed in control, totting up a nine-point lead before two late Roscommon goals put some respectability on the score board. Of the 4-45 combined score, there were 4-36 scored from play, which looks even more impressive.
Despite conceding 2-16, the Galway management will once again be happy enough with its defensive structure set up which worked throughout the match. Liam Silke and Kieran Molloy were given the duties of marking the Smith brothers who were kept to a single score each, and both were replaced in the second half with the Corofin duo having nullified Roscommon's central threat.
The defensive structure prevented quick ball from being played in to Donie Smith allowing Silke and all the Galway defence the chance to swarm him and get turnover ball. Molloy was stuck to Enda everywhere he went, and despite his black card, he never allowed Smith to get the run on him or risked having to foul again.
Galway’s attacking prowess, through their half back and half forward line, was pivotal right throughout the game with McHugh, McDaid, Heaney and Patrick Kelly all getting forward just as quickly as they were getting back for the full 70 minutes. Gleeson looked more assured than ever in goal, comfortable when needed on the ball and his kick-outs continue to improve.
Jack Glynn continues to impress in his debut season, keeping Conor Cox to just two points from play. While not scoring until injury time, Conroy showed his leadership skills, winning numerous kick-outs and important frees. Seán Kelly and Matthew Tierney’s solidity throughout the match showed why Joyce has named them captain and vice-captain this year, while the touch of class up front was continually shown by Robert Finnerty (0-5 ) and man of the match Shane Walsh (1-6, 2 ’45, 1f ).
Galway will now have to wait four weeks to play their all-Ireland quarter-final and will have to wait for two weeks before they know their opponents.
Galway: C Gleeson; L Silke, S Kelly, J Glynn; D McHugh, J Daly, K Molloy (0-1 ); P Conroy (0-1 ), C McDaid (0-1 ); P Kelly (1-0 ), M Tierney, J Heaney (0-2 ); R Finnerty (0-5 ), D Comer (0-3 ), S Walsh (1-6, 0-2 '45, 0-1f ). Subs: N Daly for Tierney (59 ), F Ó Laoi for Comer (66 ), O Gallagher forFinnerty (70 ), Paul Kelly for Patrick Kelly (70 ), C Sweeney for Molloy (74 ).
Roscommon: C Lavin; DMurray, B Stack, C Daly (1-1 ); C Hussey, N Daly, R Daly; U Harney (0-3 ), E Nolan; C Murtagh (0-1 ), E Smith (0-1 ), C Heneghan (0-1 ); C McKeon (0-1 ), D Smith (0-2, 0-1f ), C Cox (0-5, 0-3f ). Subs: N Kilroy for C Heneghan (ht ), R Hughes for D Murrary (48 ), D Murtagh (1-1, 0-1f ) for D Smith (49 ), K Doyle for Eddie Nolan (58 ), A Glennon for C McKeon (58 ).