Walsh leads Tribe to edge battle of the west
Galway 0-16 Roscommon 2-6
The evolution of this Galway team that promised so much through spring and early-summer has taken another landmark step - the first team to reach the 'Super 8s'.
But yesterday's intriguing Connacht SFC final was no routine ride in the park, even if the final scoreline - 16 scores for Galway, just eight for Roscommon - might suggest a battle of unequals.
Rather, it was a battle of two halves. A far-too-cagey Galway looked a distant cousin of All-Ireland contenders for the opening 35 minutes. On the restart, facing the elements, a three-point deficit that quickly became four, and a growing army of doubters among the 18,864 attendance at Dr Hyde Park, they outscored their hosts by 0-11 to 1-1 (and none from play).
As Galway upped the ante, Roscommon had their chances but frittered most of them away as dreams of replicating last year's Connacht final ambush turned to dust.
"We really felt that we just didn't perform last year. I know Rosocmmon were very good but a nine-point defeat isn't where this team are at," Galway manager Kevin Walsh reflected.
"So it was important here to show who we are ... now we're the first team to make it to the 'Super 8s' so maybe it's a bit of legacy in itself."
Bar a few notable exceptions, none more effortlessly obvious than Shane Walsh, Galway were unrecognisable in the first half from the team that blazed a trail through Division 1.
They were mixing cheap turnovers with Hail Mary wides; and even their famously frugal defensive system imploded on 22 minutes.
There appeared little danger when Ciaráin Murtagh gathered possession near the left corner but, faced by Galway forward-cum-auxiliary back Barry McHugh, he spotted a mismatch and burned him for pace. In a flash, Murtagh was in on goal and fizzed a low shot past Ruairí Lavelle.
The other Murtagh sibling, Diarmuid, was inflicting his damage through points and thus Roscommon led by 1-5 to 0-5 at the break, having played against the wind.
All Ros needed to do was stay patient, keep the ball when required and execute their chances. But they couldn't. And with every wasted chance in the third-quarter, you could sense the tide turning.
Galway gained a stranglehold off either kickout, the injury-enforced loss of Cathal Compton on the half-hour leaving Roscommon compromised at midfield as Tom Flynn grew in influence.
The errors that had so infuriated Walsh in the first half disappeared. And, crucially, they missed very little.
Having tallied eight wides in the first half, they added just two more. And having leaked a 39th minute free from Diarmuid Murtagh, they hit six on the bounce.
Walsh led the comeback with a sweet curling effort (his third from play) followed by four frees, edging Galway ahead for the first time in the 59th minute.
Seán Kelly quickly doubled their lead ... but then Ros were given renewed hope when Diarmuid Murtagh was hauled down by Flynn for a 64th minute penalty. Conor Devaney's left-footed finish wouldn't have been out of place in Moscow and Roscommon led by one.
Galway's response was the stuff of champions.
Lively sub Seán Armstrong equalised within a minute; then Damien Comer came alive with a quickfire brace as the clock hit 70. Two more points at the death, from Adrian Varley and Ian Burke, iced the Connacht cake.
SCORERS - Galway: S Walsh 0-8 (5f), I Burke 0-3, D Comer 0-2, S Kelly, S Armstrong, A Varley 0-1 each.
Roscommon: D Murtagh 0-5 (2f), C Murtagh, C Devaney (pen) 1-0 each, D Smith 0-1.
GALWAY: R Lavelle 7; SA Ó Ceallaigh 7, D Kyne 6, D Wynne 6; C Sweeney 7, G Bradshaw 7, S Kelly 7; P Conroy 6, T Flynn 7; J Heaney 6, S Walsh 9, E Brannigan 6; B McHugh 5, D Comer 6, I Burke 8. Subs: K Duggan 7 for Conroy (46), S Armstrong 7 for McHugh (49), E Kerin 7 for Wynne (51), P Cooke for Heaney (65), A Varley for Brannigan (70), G O'Donnell for Ó Ceallaigh (inj 73).
ROSCOMMON: C Lavin 6; P Domican 6, N McInerney 7, D Murray 6; J McManus 6, Fintan Cregg 6, C Devaney 6; C Compton 7, T O'Rourke 6; C Murtagh 7, E Smith 7, B Stack 5; N Kilroy 6, D Murtagh 8, D Smith 6. Subs: U Harney 6 for Compton (inj 30), F Lennon 6 for Murray (BC 53), C Cregg 6 for Stack (57), Finbar Cregg 6 for C Murtagh (61), C Daly for O'Rourke (63), R Stack for Kilroy (71).
WIDES: Galway 10 (8+2); Ros 13 (6+7).
YELLOW: Galway 2 (Comer 45, Flynn 61); Roscommon 1 (R Stack 74). BLACK: Roscommon 1 (Murray 53).
REF: D Coldrick (Meath).
MAN OF THE MATCH: Shane Walsh