After three years waiting for a Connacht victory on Irish soil, it was like two came at once for Galway yesterday in this emphatic win over Roscommon on their home patch.
They’ll hardly be getting ahead of themselves as they continue to cut their way through wilderness but Alan Mulholland rightly said afterwards they will glean all of the positives from their 14-point win.
Among them, there was Paul Conroy’s 1-4 showing at full-forward, Michael Meehan’s warmly-embraced return to football after 10 months away from the game, and the dominance of Joe Bergin in the centre.
Like Leinster in Twickenham on Saturday, Galway’s play ers were able to savour the result long before the final whistle was blown.
“We are going to draw confidence out of this,” insisted Mulholland. “We are not going to say ‘look we have to pretend we didn’t play well’.
“It was fantastic to play well and hopefully we build on that and play better the next day.”
Mulholland’s only concern was the middle third of the game which saw Roscommon turn an 11-point deficit into six — they led 2-8 to 0-6 at the interval. But having put themselves on a pedestal so early in the game with goals from Hehir and Conroy, it was inevitable there was going to be a dip.
It didn’t last long, though, as the arrival of Meehan in the 47th minute and Joyce in the 52nd minute got Galway’s motor running again.
All in all, the would-be victors had gone 20 minutes without a score before Conroy lofted over his second of the game.
Meehan added a free after Conroy had been fouled and then the full-forward converted his third.
Starved of momentum, Roscommon’s revival was gone and Meehan and Joyce combined to give the former a second from play.
Bergin and corner-back Kieran McGrath stuck over scores to extend Galway’s lead to 11 until Joyce found Meehan at the edge of the square and his lay-off handed Gary Sice a simple finish from close range. The exchange of a point apiece afterwards was inconsequential. A lot of the Roscommon supporters had seen enough long before that third Galway goal.
“The first 20 minutes, I won’t say it was the game, but it definitely gave us a platform to see out the game after that,” said Mulholland.
“It was a bit worrying in the middle third of the game, they came back into it and we looked a bit ropey but we were able to bring in PJ (Joyce) and Michael Meehan off the bench and that seemed to calm us down a little bit and see out the last 20 minutes.”
It was also a good day for the two championship debutants in the corners of the full-back line, Kieran McGrath and Keith Kelly.
Roscommon’s Des Newton rued midfielder Michael Finneran’s early injury. He was adamant the performance wasn’t a true reflection of his team.
“We are not as bad as that game reflected. I know that and our lads know that. I have seen bigger teams than us take bigger beatings and they have come back from it so what we do next is the important thing.”
The truth was Roscommon handed their opponents far too much space from the outset. They took two early leads but the second of those was cancelled out by a passage of play that typified their problems.
Taking a quick kick-out, Galway’s restart lacked urgency until Finian Hanley was allowed kick straight into central midfield, where Gary O’Donnell was unmarked. His diagonal kick found Conroy and he did the rest. In just three kicks, Galway had covered three quarters of the pitch and scored with ease.
With plenty of support for the attacking players, Galway were also off-loading impressively but varying their play with long ball into Conroy.
He and Mark Hehir combined effectively in the 11th minute to punish John Rogers for an errant pass and Hehir finished coolly to the net.
Galway were then denied a legitimate penalty call in the 15th minute when Sean Purcell tripped Sice.
Joe McQuillan strangely awarded a free, which Sice pointed, and showed no yellow card but Galway were coming at Roscommon in waves and tagged on a few more points before Conroy broke down a ball and had the composure to beat Geoffrey Claffey.
Roscommon’s star forward Donie Shine had a day to forget with five wides and although he and Cathal Cregg were involved in their side’s mini revival either side of the break, Galway’s ace auxiliaries had the final say.
Scorers for Galway: P Conroy 1-4; G Sice 1-3 (2fs); M Hehir 1-0; G Bradshaw, J Bergin, M Meehan (1f) 0-2 each; S Armstrong, K McGrath 0-1.
Subs for Galway: M Meehan for Armstrong (47); P Joyce for Burke (54); T Fahy for O’Donnell (53); D Cummins for Hehir (64); M Boyle for Sice (66).
Scorers for Roscommon: S Kilbride (0-2 frees) 0-3; D Shine (0-2 frees); D O'Gara 0-2 each; K Mannion, C Cregg G Heneghan 0-1 each.
Subs for Roscommon: N Daly for Finneran (inj 10); D O’Gara for Rogers (24); G Heneghan for Keenan (48); K Higgins for McDermott (54); C Shine for Kilbride (64).
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).
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