THERE are no great expectations around Connacht for the 2008 crop, and Galway, for one, are not much wiser this morning.
A crowd of 11,086 turned up in Pearse Stadium yesterday, but, apart from a brief Roscommon flurry before half-time, they were granted few opportunities for animation. Staying awake was the peak of their ambitions at times.
A 16-point margin may flatter Galway just a touch, but let’s not split hairs. Roscommon were shapeless, generous to a fault, and, in a number of instances, way off the level of fitness required for championship football.
Toss some indiscipline into the mix and the picture becomes even bleaker. Centre-back Gary Cox’s misguided flintiness eventually caught up with him when he was given his second yellow card in the 44th minute for carrying through on Barry Cullinane. Cox had been booked as early as the 4th minute, and shown the black card 13 minutes later, which made his lunge all the more injudicious.
In the circumstances, Roscommon manager Mike Ryan presented an impressively calm face afterwards, vowing that his team would benefit from the work they’ll do in the nine weeks leading to the Qualifiers. If there’s any real comfort for him — and we’re not sure there is — it lies in the fact that at least he knows the extent of his problems: his Galway counterpart Liam Sammon has to sort the real and from the illusory in a game of almost uninterrupted dullness.
His team raced into a five-point lead before Roscommon opened their account in the 21st minute. Bizarrely during that early period of Galway dominance, Roscommon were able to steal upfield for two clear-cut goal chances — Jonathan Dunning kicked wide from the first, and Cathal Cregg was denied by a point-blank Paul Doherty save.
Emboldened by these incisions into the Galway half, Roscommon took over completely for the second quarter and out-scored Galway 0-4 to 0-1 before the break. Senan Kilbride enhanced his growing reputation with three superb points, and there was still some optimism in the Roscommon ranks as they retired just two adrift — 0-6 to 0-4.
In the dressing-room, Sammon reminded his men Roscommon had “more to take out of that first-half than us” and talked about the need for early scores to “dent their confidence.” We know this because he told us this afterwards.
Galway were good to their manager’s reported exhortation. Padraig Joyce, man-of-the-match Matthew Clancy, Michael Meehan, debutant Paul Conroy and Clancy again all kicked points in a devastating 17-minute spell, and, at 0-11 to 0-4, the game was over. “I had 20 minutes on the sideline to prepare training for the next match in nine weeks’ time,” said Ryan.
Galway put on an exhibition, but surely no-one was getting too excited about it all. Those 20 minutes came with a Disregard All That You See Here warning.
They must be chronicled all the same. Clancy finished to the net beautifully after a pin-point Fiachra Breathnach pass on 59 minutes, and, as the crowd streamed away, Niall Coleman poked home another goal in injury-time. A scatter of points heaped salt upon Roscommon’s wounds.
It would be remiss not to name-check both ‘keepers — Doherty and Geoffrey Claffey — for some acrobatics that kept two further goals off the scoreboard during the slow rundown to the final whistle.
There was enough evidence to suggest the question-marks over Galway’s midfield remain as relevant as ever. It was the switch of Karol Mannion to midfield which propelled Roscommon before the break, while, even in their loneliest stretches, Roscommon were always able to pick up some ball in that sector.
Garrett Bradshaw — another of three Galway newcomers — was not equipped to cope with Senan Kilbride’s physical power, and Kilbride punished with those three fine points. They just couldn’t ply him with enough ball to continue inflicting damage, and Galway will be hoping regular corner-back Damien Burke makes a speedy recovery from injury.
Up front, Clancy combined his usual attempt to push his respiratory organ beyond breaking point with an improved level of efficiency. Michael Meehan didn’t threaten the goal — for once — but he was always competent, while Padraic Joyce contributed intelligently without ever fully running the show. But, overall, we’re not reading too much into anything.
Ryan was adamant Roscommon would make full use of the nine-week hiatus, and doesn’t feel he will lose young players to the eclectic delights of The Bronx. Getting his team to focus on the Qualifiers will be an exacting test of this young manager’s suitability for one of the game’s most difficult postings.
Scorers for Galway: M Clancy 1-3, P Conroy 0-6 (4f), M Meehan 0-5 (3f, 1 45), N Coleman 1-0, P Joyce 0-2.
Roscommon: S Kilbride 0-3, G Heneghan 0-2 (2f), K Mannion 0-1.
GALWAY: P Doherty; K Fitzgerald, F Hanley, G Bradshaw; D Meehan, N Coyne, G Sice; B Cullinane, M Lydon; D Dunleavy, P Joyce, P Conroy; M Clancy, M Meehan, F Breathnach.
Subs: C Bane for D Dunleavy, half-time; N Joyce for M Clancy (64); N Coleman for B Cullinane (68); D Mullahy for G Sice (68); B Cullinane for M Lydon (71, inj).
ROSCOMMON: G Claffey; P O’Connor, S McDermott, D Keenan; J Rogers, G Cox, D Hoey; S O’Neill, M O’Carroll; C Devaney, C Cregg, J Dunning; S Kilbride, K Mannion, D Shine.
Subs: D O’Gara for M O’Carroll (20); G Heneghan for D Shine (half-time); D Connellan for J Dunning (55); M Finneran for K Mannion (67).
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan)
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