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Sunday 25 August 2019

Ros rally to leave Galway on rocks

TURNING POINT: Roscommon’s Diarmuid Murtagh hits the net past Galway goalkeeper Ruairí Lavelle during the Connacht SFC Final at Pearse Stadium in Galway. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
TURNING POINT: Roscommon’s Diarmuid Murtagh hits the net past Galway goalkeeper Ruairí Lavelle during the Connacht SFC Final at Pearse Stadium in Galway. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Barring the mother of all Leinster final shocks this Sunday, Roscommon will have another 'Super 8s' examination against the all-conquering Dubs next month.

But it promises to be a different Roscommon than the team that lost heavily in a high-scoring dead-rubber last August.

The county's 23rd Connacht SFC crown, achieved in stunning comeback fashion against an imploding Galway at Pearse Stadium yesterday, was significant on so many levels.

They have done it the hard way, beating Mayo and now Galway - two supposed All-Ireland contenders - in the same summer for the first time since 2001. Not since 1972 have they scalped both of their arch-rivals away from home.

They have done so without conceding a solitary goal, keeping three clean sheets. Proof of a new hard-nosed edge under Anthony Cunningham: this much-changed team leaked four goals apiece to Tyrone and Dublin in last year's Super 8s.

Emboldened

But now they're heading back there through the front door, emboldened by the thrilling nature of this victory.

At half-time, trailing 0-10 to 0-5 having leaked five unanswered points from the 28th minute, they appeared in deep trouble. By full-time, having survived nine minutes of injury-time prolonged by a premature pitch invasion, they were four up and in dreamland.

"You would have to use the word courage," said Cunningham, when asked to explain it all afterwards. "They really went for it. It was looking a bit rocky ten minutes before half-time. We dropped off and Galway punished us."

But, he expanded, "the Mayo match was a great confidence boost and, when we were in trouble there today, they went back to that reservoir and said, 'We have done this before.'"

Improbably, they were all-square within six minutes of the restart, as points from Niall Kilroy and Conor Cox either side of Diarmuid Murtagh's 40th minute goal turned this see-sawing decider on its head.

Enda Smith provided the assist for both points; Cathal Cregg's penetrating run and perfectly weighted handpass released Murtagh for his poacher's finish.

What followed was an indictment of a Galway team that shot just 0-2 after half-time. Appearances can be deceptive, but they resembled a team pre-programmed to believe they were still defending a lead instead of caught in a battle for their provincial lives.

Where Roscommon were ravenous, their spikiness epitomised by Niall Daly and their driving ambition encapsulated by Cregg, Galway were passive, ponderous and far too lateral.

Rubbished

Afterwards, Kevin Walsh rubbished any inference that they had played with too many men in their own half.

"Do you think so?" the Galway boss batted straight back. "I don't think it was one of the reasons, because there's a lot of guff out there about that. At the end of the day we didn't get our hands on the ball when we needed to get our hands on the ball. There was no different structure in the first half compared to the second half."

Just a world of difference in performance.

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