Galway announced their arrival once again as a formidable force on the inter-county football scene with a significant victory over, albeit a very lethargic looking, Roscommon side. I have met Alan Mulholland on quite a few occasions throughout the winter months through my involvement with NUI Galway and I always came away with the impression that this young manager knows what he is about.
He proved his mettle a few weeks ago when he dispensed with Nicky Joyce who, apparently, was not adhering to team discipline. Galway were 33/1 to win this year’s All-Ireland prior to last Sunday week’s match, and unbelievably were freely available at 7/2 to win a Connacht title. These odds have been shortened considerably after the Roscommon victory as people begin to realise that Galway look to have the complete package. Many on the team have had success at underage level. Also, they have strengthened their resolve with a good league campaign, finishing third in division two with three good wins and two draws against quality opposition. They were very unfortunate to lose out to a late Kildare goal in their final match of the group stages, which denied them promotion and a place in the division two final. However failure to win that match has not dampened their enthusiasm in the slightest. Roscommon, on the other hand, played their football in division three and mixed the good with the ugly throughout the campaign, never really catching the eye with their mediocre form. For that reason alone, I was slightly perplexed to listen to a number of astute football men who suggested that Roscommon had a right good chance of upsetting the odds last Sunday week. Des Newton, the Roscommon manager, came in for a lot of criticism in the post match commentary. I found it quite astonishing that he took his charges away for a weekend training camp to Donegal on the very same weekend that their u21s played Dublin in the All-Ireland final in Tullamore. This was one of the biggest matches in Roscommon’s recent history, involving a number of young talented up and coming players and the senior manager was not even there to see them play?! Not to mention that a few of the senior players had brothers playing with the under 21s? I cannot imagine this would have done much for the morale of the senior squad. On the other hand a large number of the Dublin senior players were over close to the Dublin dressing room door in Tullamore encouraging the young Dublin players to a great victory.
The unfortunate thing, from a Galway point of view, is that this result may not be a great indicator for them. It was so easy for Galway that in fact it was not like a real championship contest. Roscommon did not look fit, were devoid of passion, and just did not appear to have any fighting spirit that would normally be associated with the Rossies. It will be a difficult number of weeks between now and the end of June before Roscommon discover who they will play through the back door. That back-door campaign should be used as an exercise to start afresh with as many of the u21s who gave a great account of themselves in the u21 campaign. Galway would have probably learned more had they played an A v B challenge match in Tuam stadium. Might they be the potential dark horses of the 2012 summer campaign?