Galway may yet rue one that got away

Galway manager, Kevin Walsh, will be frustrated this morning that a few self-inflicted, late mistakes cost his squad a first Connacht title since 2008, at Pearse Stadium, yesterday.

Galway may yet rue one that got away

Roscommon were very poor up-front in this decider and the Galway players will know that they should have closed-out the game.

The hosts were in a terrific position to win this disappointing game (it was played in horrible conditions), when they led by 0-13 to 1-08 with three minutes of normal time to play.

And when you have not won a provincial title for eight years, any management team will take the victory and plaudits, regardless of the lack of entertainment value for the 24,324 plus supporters in attendance.

Perhaps the Galway players were fearful of making a mistake. And, instead, of pushing on and going all out for a win, they allowed Roscommon to gain possession from a few short kick-outs and Cathal Cregg hit a super point to put one between the sides.

After that score, Galway had a glorious opportunity to go two ahead and win the game. Big Tom Flynn, who had scored the crucial goal in the win over Mayo in the semi-final, was bearing down on the Roscommon goal and in a tremendous position to get a point, when he irrationally passed the ball to Shane Walsh.

Walsh did not take the right option in possession, either, and, instead of stealing a yard with a dummy or shimmy, to get his shot off, he was blocked down.

In that few seconds of play, Roscommon’s neck slipped out of the hangman’s noose.

They rallied and raced up the field, where corner-back, Eoghan Kerin, who is in his debut season, committed a rash and silly foul to allow Donie Smith to tie the game and set up a replay next Saturday, in McHale Park.

Looking at Roscommon, in the first-half, when they had the wind at their backs, it was hard to believe that they had been averaging 20 points per game in the first five rounds of the Allianz Football League.

They looked toothless up-front and had no real shape to their forwards.

They never kicked any long ball into their full-forward line, despite having the elements at their backs. And perhaps their management team made a mistake in not having the likes of Senan Kilbride in around the square, as a target man, in that opening 35 minutes. The Roscommon goal came from a dreadful hand-pass by Paul Conroy to Tom Flynn. That mistake handed possession to Roscommon and they moved the ball fast — for once — with a cross-field, kicked pass that caught the Galway defensive shield out of position and they were rewarded with a three-pointer.

It was the only time in the full 74 minutes that either side looked like scoring a goal.

Galway have worked extensively over the past nine months on getting their defensive structure right and on creating a shield to stop the opposition getting in for easy scores.

Many of those defensive tactics were developed and honed in the basketball court of the Jes secondary school, in the city, by Walsh, who was a youth international basketballer.

In the main, that defensive shield, or line, worked very well in nullifying the Roscommon attack and, at stages, they looked completely devoid of options in their efforts at finding a way past the Galway bodies.

Only for some terrific scores from distance, by impressive midfielder, Niall Daly, and a great point by captain, Ciarán Murtagh, and Roscommon would have been beaten.

Kevin McStay and Fergal O’Donnell were not pleased with their forwards’ contribution, yesterday, as evidenced by the fact that four starters were substituted.

There was a view amongst some Roscommon supporters, after the game, that perhaps they finished with a better forward line than that which started.

Expect changes for next week.

While Kerry manager, Eamonn Fitzmaurice, was in attendance, it is impossible to believe that either he, Jim Gavin, or Mickey Harte will be giving any time to studying the DVD of the game, in case they meet either side in the coming months.

The replay, next Saturday, will, hopefully, be an opportunity for both sides to redeem the reputation of Connacht football, after an error-ridden and poor match.

Admittedly, the conditions were challenging, but, that said, it was not a good advertisement for modern-day Gaelic football.

Or Gaelic handball, as the game could have been called: there were more than 450 handpasses in the 70 minutes of play.

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