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Cox and Murtagh fire Roscommon to Connacht glory after Galway's second-half collapse

Anthony Cunningham’s side trailed by five at half-time and powered to victory from there.

Roscommon 1-13

Galway 0-12

Kevin O’Brien reports from Pearse Stadium

SUCH WAS THE eagerness of Roscommon supporters to celebrate their 23rd Connacht title, they enveloped the field before the final whistle had sounded in Salthill.

Diarmuid Murtagh celebrates after scoring a goal Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

The stadium announcer called for the fans to leave the playing area, which they eventually did, and there was enough time for Conor Cox to curl over his fifth point of the afternoon to seal a famous victory. 

Cox and Diarmuid Murtagh (1-3) did the bulk of the scoring for Roscommon, who defeated Connacht’s big two in the same season for the first time in 18 years.

After sealing their third Nestor Cup since 2010, it’s Roscommon’s most fruitful decade in Connacht since the 1970s. Anthony Cunningham became the first manager to win provincial titles across two different codes in two separate provinces, following his Leinster hurling success with Galway in 2012.

They looked in an extremely precarious position at half-time, trailing by five points. And yet they were a different animal after the break. A typical Cunningham side, full of aggression and desire, they outfought the defending champions and outscored them by 1-8 to 0-2 in the second-half.

Roscommon, coming off the back of a seismic win over Mayo, were cute enough to slow the game down in the final quarter. Galway scored just once from play in the entire second period as their attack malfunctioned and Roscommon dominated Ruairi Lavelle’s kick-outs. 

Ruairi Lavelle and Seán Andy Ó'Ceallaigh with Diarmuid Murtagh Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

The Tribesmen were without star full-forward Damien Comer who continues to battle an ankle injury, and they badly missed his presence up front. Galway’s best forward was Shane Walsh, but outside of him and Antaine O Laoi they held little scoring threat.

By the end of the game, four of Galway’s starting six forwards were replaced. 

Kevin Walsh has persisted with this defensive approach and while it yielded a rise in Galway’s fortunes – Division 1 final and All-Ireland semi-final appearances in 2018 – their performance levels have dipped this season.

His negative tactics will come under further scrutiny following this defeat. Galway’s attack scored just two points in the second-half, yet Martin Farragher wasn’t introduced until the 70th minute.

Farragher and Kieran Molloy, a 75th minute substitute, were two of the best players in Corofin’s recent run to the All-Ireland club title, although the latter was struggling with an ankle injury in the lead-up to the game.

This was the fourth year in succession they’ve met in the Connacht decider and they played like two teams well acquainted with one another in front of 17,639 in Salthill.  

Galway played a 2-2-2 system in attack. They left Ian Burke and Shane Walsh as their inside forwards, Michael Daly and Antaine O Laoi operating on the half-forward line, with Johnny Heaney and Peter Cooke further back.

Both teams pressed right up on the kick-outs and just seven of the 18 restarts in the first period went short, meaning the midfield was a warzone. 

Galway had five points on the board by the 12th minute and then went 16 minutes without another score. They were happy to work high percentage shots, converting 10 of their 12 shots in the first period.

Eamonn Brannigan and Ian Burke with David Murray Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

As expected Sean Andy O Ceallaigh picked up Conor Cox and the Kerry native edged the dual in the opening period, curling over an exquisite effort off his left foot from the wing after 11 minutes.

At the far end Walsh was giving an exhibition of free-taking, stroking over a free off either foot. The teams were level at 0-5 apiece after 28 minutes, but the hosts finished the half with a flurry of scores to lead by five.

Roscommon bagged 1-2 within six minutes of the restart to haul themselves back on level terms. Diarmuid Murtagh slotted the goal into the bottom corner after a fine run and pass by Cathal Cregg, while Kilroy and Cox provided the white flags. 

It took Galway 21 minutes of the second period to get a score – via Daly – and their attack was badly faltering. Niall Daly and Shane Killoran popped up with scores to push the visitors further clear.

In a tense finale, Walsh curled over a 45 but the Rossies finished in style through two efforts of the highest quality from the boot of Cox.

Scorers for Roscommon: Diarmuid Murtagh 1-3 (0-2f), Conor Cox 0-5 (0-2f), Niall Daly, Ronan Daly, Shane Killoran, Conor Devaney and Niall Kilroy 0-1 each.

Scorers for Galway: Shane Walsh 0-4 (0-2f, 0-1 45), Michael Daly (0-1f) 0-3, Antaine O Laoi 0-2 each, Gareth Bradshaw, Fiontain O Curraoin and Eamonn Brannigan 0-1 each.

Roscommon

1. Darren O’Malley (Michael Glaveys)

2. David Murray (Padraig Pearses)
3. Sean Mullooly (Strokestown)
4. Conor Daly (Padraig Pearses)

5. Niall Daly (Padraig Pearses)
6. Conor Hussey (Michael Glaveys)
7. Ronan Daly (Padraig Pearses)

8. Tadgh O’Rourke (Tulsk
9. Shane Killoran (Elphin)

10. Conor Devaney (Kilbride)
11. Cathal Cregg (Western Gaels)
12. Niall Kilroy (Fuerty)

13. Diarmuid Murtagh (St Faithleachs) 
14. Conor Cox (Listowel Emmett’s)
15. Enda Smith (Boyle) 

Subs

19. Hubert Darcy (Padraig Pearses) for Devaney (25, inj)
22. Colin Compton (Strokestown) for Smith (57)
24. Cian McKeon (Boyle) for Cregg (62)
21. Andrew Glennon (Michael Glaveys) for Murtagh (67)
18. Brian Stack (St Brigid’s) for Killoran (75) 

Galway

1. Ruairi Lavelle (Bother na Tra/Cnoc na Cathrach)

2. Eoghan Kerin (Annaghdown)
3. Seán Andy Ó Ceallaigh (Leitir Mór)
4. Liam Silke (Corofin)

5. Gary O’Donnell (Moycullen)
6. Gareth Bradshaw (Maigh Cuilinn)
7. John Daly (Mountbellew-Moylough)

8. Thomas Flynn (Athenry)
9. Fiontán Ó Curraoin (Michéal Breathnach) 

18. Peter Cooke (Moycullen)
11. Michael Daly (Mountbellew-Moylough)
12. Johnny Heaney (Killannin)

13. Antaine Ó Laoi (An Spidéal)

14. Ian Burke (Corofin)
10. Shane Walsh (Kilkerrin-Clonberne)

Subs

17. Eamonn Brannigan (St Michaels) for O Curraoin (23, inj)
23. Sean Kelly (Moycullen) for Cooke (53)
26. Cillian McDaid (Muine Mhea/Mainister) for Heaney (62)
25. Adrian Varley (Cortoon Shamrocks) for Daly (63)
21. Martin Farragher (Corofin) for Burke (69)
24. Kieran Molloy (Corofin) for O’Donnell (75)

Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry) 

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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