Galway 1-05 Roscommon 0-13
Familiar rivals they may be after meeting in the last five FBD finals but there was no going through the motions this afternoon in Tuam, as Roscommon and Galway engaged out a feisty encounter that was decided by the brilliance of man-of-the-match Donie Smith.
The Boyle forward shot eight points from nine chances, three from play, the only blot on his copybook a low shot off the foot of the post with his (and Roscommon’s) only goal chance.
With Barry McHugh suffering through an uncharacteristic off-day at the other end, Roscommon were able to ease to victory and retain the title that they won last February in Dr. Hyde Park.
However while Smith’s shooting will capture the headlines, it was the remarkable defensive performance that Anthony Cunningham’s side produced that will really excite their supporters.
Under Kevin McStay, the Rossies were known for their swashbuckling, all-out attack style of play, which produced some wonderful games, but left them exposed in the unforgiving landscape of Croke Park last July.
Today’s Galway side was shorn of it’s attacking fulcrum with Damien Comer absent, but even allowing for that significant factor, and the plethora of missed frees from McHugh, Roscommon still made life very difficult for the Galway forwards.
Only Shane Walsh looked capable of picking the lock for the home side at any stage.
With a strong wind at their backs in the opening half, Galway needed to start strongly, but instead it was the Rossies who burst out of the blocks, with Shane Killoran kicking a wonderful score from left wing before Smith earned and scored a close-range free.
Shane Walsh kicked a majestic score off his right foot to halve the gap and Gary O’Donnell tied the game up before receiving a black card, but Roscommon held firm and moved three points clear, Ciarán Lennon posting two of the scores.
Neither side was willing to take a backward step and the tension spilled over shortly before half time with several players getting involved in a bout of pushing, pulling and dragging that resulted in referee Liam Devenney giving two yellow cards – two out of a total of 17 cards shown by the Mayo official on the day.
That seemed to rouse Galway and they came back within a point before Donie Smith fired over another wonderful kick to make it 0-6 to 0-4 at the interval.
The wind eased off slightly at half-time but that didn’t prevent Smith from adding to the lead with another fine strike from the terrace side of the field.
Galway were handed a lifeline nine minutes into the second half however when Gareth Bradshaw broke forward and after a quick give and go, he drew the keeper and set up Barry McHugh for an equalising goal.
Then, just when it looked as if a thrilling conclusion was on the cards, Roscommon produced a masterclass of disciplined, patient football – dropping deep and striking on the break to great effect.
Galway ran into brick walls as they tried to pick out the space to shoot, their best chance a 13 metre piledriver from Kieran Duggan that was well-saved by Darren O’Malley, while every turnover resulted in a fast break and a good Roscommon scoring chance.
Points from Ultan Harney and Colin Compton restored their lead before three late frees from Smith closed out the win and set Roscommon on the road to next Saturday night’s clash with Mayo in Castlebar in the best of spirits.
Roscommon: Darren O’Malley; David Murray, Conor Daly, Evan McGrath; Conor Hussey, Niall Daly, Ronan Daly; Tadhg O’Rourke, Enda Smith; Shane Killoran (0-01), Donie Smith (0-08, 0-05 frees), Niall Kilroy; Cathal Cregg, Ciarán Lennon (0-02), Colin Compton (0-01).
Subs used: Gary Patterson for Killoran (15), Ultan Harney (0-01) for Murray (35+3), Aenghus Lyons for Kilroy (55), Caoileann Fitzmaurice for Cregg (62), Hubert Darcy for O’Rourke (68)
Galway: Rúairí Lavelle; Declan Kyne, Seán Andy Ó’Ceallaigh, Eoghan Kerin; Gary O’Donnell (0-02), Gareth Bradshaw, Seán Kelly; Thomas Flynn, Kieran Duggan; Johnny Heaney, Johnny Duane, Fintan Cooney; Shane Walsh (0-02, 0-01 free), Michael Daly, Barry McHugh (1-01, 0-01 free).
Subs used: David Wynne for Kyne (26), Céin D’Arcy for Daly (half time), Peter Cooke for Cooney (50), Padraig Cunningham for Duane (64), Danny Cummins for Flynn (68)
Referee: Liam Devenney (Mayo