Roscommon shock Galway to claim Connacht crown

Brian Stack of Roscommon celebrates after scoring his side's second goal. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

Galway 0-12 Roscommon 2-15

Roscommon are Connacht senior football champions for the first time in seven years after shocking a much-fancied Galway side in Salthill on Sunday afternoon, writes Brendan O’Brien, Pearse Stadium.

Relegated to the second division of the Allianz League only a few short months ago, Kevin McStay’s side lost a string of key men from the panel for a variety of reasons in the off-season and came to Galway unburdened by expectation.

In the end, they cantered away from a home side that was seeking to retain this provincial crown and one that will replace them in the top tier next spring.

It was a victory that was utterly deserved and brilliantly executed and the outpouring of fans onto the pitch as soon as referee David Gough blew the last whistle highlighted just how much it meant.

Galway were architects of their own downfall but it would be churlish not to stress the excellence of Roscommon’s defence, their superiority in midfield and the punch of their attack, particularly in the first and fourth quarters.

Roscommon played with the ubiquitous Pearse Stadium wind at their backs but the elements were only partially to blame for the atrocious first quarter endured by a home side that looked utterly out of sorts.

The visitors hemmed Galway in by pushing up on their kick-outs and the reigning champions coughed up ball whether they went short, as they did many times, or on those occasions when they went high and long.

The full-court press was aided and abetted by some superb attacking play. The first point, a sweeping move from defence and at pace that was finished by Ciaran Murtagh, was a portent of things to come for the next while.

The high point came on fifteen minutes with another length-of-field move that ended with Cian Connolly stroking home a gorgeous shot into the corner of Ruari Lavelle’s net to leave Roscommon holding a 1-6 to 0-2 lead.

Galway were in deep trouble.

Roscommon knew it but their attempts to turn the screw still further were shot through by half-a-dozen successive wides and the only saving grace was the fact that their opponents still couldn’t get their act together.

Michael Daly hit the butt of the Roscommon post 26 minutes in and Shane Walsh saw a point attempt ricochet back off the other pillar but neither side could buy a score between them at this stage, the drought extending to 16 minutes before it was broken by a Diarmuid Murtagh point.

Walsh claimed his third score, and second from a free, before the break to leave the gap at seven points. Not a lead to be sniffed at for the Rossies but there was the sense that this was a game still very much within Galway’s compass.

Brian Stack of Roscommon in action against Eoghan Kerin of Galway. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Brian Stack of Roscommon in action against Eoghan Kerin of Galway. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Two points in the opening minutes of the second-half suggested Galway had done their remedial work during the interval but Roscommon made their task all the harder by pouncing for a second goal, from Brian Stack, and it came straight from another Galway kick-out.

That was a recurring theme all afternoon.

Nine points down now, Galway needed a quick riposte and they duly responded with six points inside as many minutes. Roscommon were retreating into their shell, 15 men congregating inside their own ‘45’ more than once.

It looked ominous for them then, clinging on to a three-point lead with 20 minutes to play, but Kevin McStay’s side went on to claim seven of the last eight points against a Galway side whose defensive issues and kick-out profligacy continued to hurt them.

The game ended in a hubbub of scores and cards with Cian Connolly walking for a second yellow before a short melee in injury-time resulted in Galway losing Damien Comer to a second yellow, Michael Lundy to a straight red and Paul Conroy to a black.

An ignominious ending for them, the start of as glorious evening for the Rossies.

Scorers for Galway: S Walsh (0-6, 4 frees); D Comer (0-2); P Conroy (0-2, 1f); G O’Donnell and M Daly (both 0-1).

Scorers for Roscommon: D Murtagh (0-5, 3 frees); C Connolly (1-1); B Stack (1-0); C Devaney (0-3); C Murtagh (0-3, 2 frees); D Smith (0-2, 1 free); S Killoran (0-1).

Galway: R Lavelle; C Sweeney, D Kyne, E Kerin; G O’Donnell, G Bradshaw, L Silke; P Conroy, F O Curraoin; T Flynn, E Brannigan, J Heaney; M Daly, D Comer, S Walsh. Subs: G Sice for Heaney and D Cummins for Brannigan (both HT); M Lundy for Flynn (50); T Tierney for O Curraoin (66).

Roscommon: C Lavin; D Murray, J McManus, N McInerney; S McDermott, S Mullooly, C Devaney; T O’Rourke, E Smith; F Cregg, N Kilroy, B Stack; C Connolly, D Murtagh, C Murtagh. Subs: G Patterson for Murray (35-HT); I Kilbride for Cregg (48); D Smith for D Murtagh (53); C Compton for C Murtagh (65); R Stack for Kilroy and S Killoran for Stack (both 75).

Referee: D Gough (Meath).

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