Redemption for Galway, and a looming relegation play-off for Roscommon – that was the outcome of this afternoon’s Allianz Football League Division 1 South battle on the western front in Pearse Stadium.
here could be no doubting the merit of this victory for Padraic Joyce’s men, even if the game itself did little to set the pulses racing ahead of their Connacht SFC showdown at Dr Hyde Park on July 4.
The hosts here were still nursing the open wound of their trauma in Tralee, where they shipped a 22-point defeat with a performance that posed multiple questions about their status as genuine contenders in 2021.
But they grabbed the initiative early here, through a Paul Kelly goal after just two minutes, and never really relinquished it from there to the final bell.
The Tribesmen led by two at the break, with the wind to come, and proceeded to keep Roscommon at arm’s length for almost the entirety of the second half.
The closest we came to a grandstand finish came in the 62nd minute, when Shane Killoran’s through pass was met by Ciaráin Murtagh, who fisted it over Bernard Power with the Galway neteminder caught in no man’s land.
Suddenly, the margin was pared to two but – within two minutes – two Galway subs who were only just on the pitch combined for their team’s decisive second goal.
Dessie Conneely’s attempted point from the right fell just short, but Ros ‘keeper Colm Lavin succeeded only in pawing the ball out to the inrushing Tomo Culhane, who bundled it home from almost the line.
After a brief discussion with his umpires, referee David Coldrick allowed the goal to stand; and Galway duly added two of the last three points to seal a six-point victory.
Galway had made four changes from their calamity in Kerry, with Seán Kelly returning from the start and joined by three further late additions: Kieran Molloy, Finnian Ó Laoi and Robert Finnerty.
And it was the latter who made the biggest impression as Galway atoned for their day-one disaster, scoring three points from play while converting a mark in a first half which finished with the hosts 1-7 to 0-8 ahead at the break.
Given that Roscommon had played with the benefits of Salthill’s perennial stiff breeze, a two-point deficit looked deeply worrying, even more so in the context of their overall first half impression.
They had been far too cautious, and lateral, with the elements, failing to commit sufficient bodies into the attacking third.
All of this was reflected in their first half stats: just two points from play, via Ciaráin Murtagh and skipper Enda Smith, along with six scores from play shared equally by Murtagh and Donie Smith.
Galway’s morale had been boosted by the early tonic of Paul Kelly’s goal after just two minutes, the Moycullen tyro finishing low and smartly with his right foot after Dylan McHugh and Damien Comer had combined on the right flank.
Murtagh’s booming 50m free got Roscommon off the mark, but they were level by the 16th minute via a Donie Smith free. But then Finnerty skipped past two tackles for a point go edge Galway back in front, 1-3 to 0-5, at the first water break.
Shane Walsh threatened a second Galway goal soon afterwards but, after his low shot was repelled by Colm Lavin, Comer fisted over the rebound.
Enda Smith’s point on the run, capitalising on Tadhg O’Rourke’s fine fetch from a Galway kick-out, was an all-too-rare example of Ros playing on the front foot.
SCORERS – Galway: S Walsh 0-7 (5f), R Finnerty 0-5 (1m), T Culhane 1-1, P Kelly 1-0, D Comer 0-2, J Heaney 0-1. Roscommon: C Murtagh 1-5 (4f), D Smith 0-7 (5f), E Smith 0-1.
Galway: B Power; S Kelly, S Mulkerrin, J Glynn; K Molloy, D McHugh, L Silke; M Tierney, P Conroy; P Kelly, D Comer, F Ó Laoi; E Brannigan, R Finnerty, S Walsh. Subs: P Cooke for P Kelly (42), J Heaney for Brannigan (49), T Culhane for Tierney (63), D Conneely for Finnerty (63), R Steede for Comer (69), J Duane for McHugh (71), G O’Donnell for Molloy (71).
Roscommon: C Lavin; D Murray, G Patterson, N Daly; B Stack, R Hughes, S Mullooly; E Nolan, T O’Rourke; C Devaney, C Cregg, E Smith; D Smith, C McKeon, C Murtagh. Subs: D Neary for Patterson (29), C Hussey for Hughes (ht), D Murtagh for Devaney (ht), S Killoran for McKeon (47), N Kilroy for Nolan (51), C Cox for Cregg (51), H Darcy for C Murtagh (67).
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).