Shane Walsh injury, future of Roscommon boss and Galway's fresh faces

5 talking points after Galway’s Connacht SFC semi-final win over Roscommon.

1. Galway bounce back from poor league

A NIGHTMARE START to the league saw Galway ship 4-21 in a 22-point hammering to Kerry and they concluded it by surrendering a winning position against Monaghan before losing the relegation play-off after extra-time. 

paul-conroy-and-damien-comer-celebrate Galway’s Paul Conroy and Damien Comer celebrate after the game. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

They did perform better against Dublin and Roscommon, but demotion to the second tier was a blow for the Tribesmen.

Joyce stated after the game that he didn’t “want to talk about Division 2 until next January or February.” In the meantime, Galway have a final against Mayo to look forward to, unless Leitrim can pull off a seismic upset in the other semi-final.

The league is firmly in the rear view mirror, though the manager didn’t feel it was as bad as some made out.

“Overall I’d be very happy with our league campaign and the way it went, but at the same time when we lost to Monaghan I would have been happy enough with the performance but we probably missed around 4-10 that day when we totted it up.

“But we still played well, we are still creating chances but we are probably not taking enough of them. We’ll just put the heads down and concentrate on three weeks.”

2. Cunningham’s uncertain future in Roscommon

anthony-cunningham-with-padraig-joyce-after-the-game Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham with Galway boss Padraig Joyce after the game. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Last November, Roscommon GAA announced that Anthony Cunningham was reappointed on “an additional two-year term to the end of 2022″.

However, the former Galway hurling boss was noncommittal about his future in the wake of the game and it remains to be seen if the appetite is there from both parties to continue for a fourth year. 

That’s not to say Cunningham’s reign hasn’t been a successful one. Any Roscommon manager that delivers a provincial title, as he did in 2019, deserves respect.

He’s been unlucky in that the lack of a backdoor in 2020 and 2021 meant their championship ended after losses to Mayo and Galway.

3. Shane Walsh injury concern

There were pre-game doubts over Shane Walsh’s involvement due to injury and he succumbed to a late hamstring complaint after a trademark burst up the sideline.

“He nicked his hamstring running down the sideline,” said Joyce. “We’ll have to get it assessed and see. He is able to walk, which is a good thing.

“Hopefully it’s not bad but as we know hamstrings can be anything from three weeks to six weeks, and we only have three weeks [to the Connacht final].”

shane-walsh-takes-a-free Shane Walsh takes a free. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The Galway skipper didn’t score from play but his influence on the game grew as it went on. He sent the ball in for Tierney’s late goal, earlier assisted Robert Finnerty’s point and carried the ball upfield at pace during the second period when Galway’s grip on the game tightened.

Joyce was also pleased to get a full game into Damien Comer, who made his first championship start since 2018.

“That was the whole dilemma for us – would we start him or bring him on? We decided to start him and get him into the game because he hasn’t played much championship football, even league football, he hasn’t played a whole pile over the last couple of years.

“But he grew into the game, he was blowing and it is hard. It’s a fine line between getting fit and getting strong, but you won’t beat match fitness when there’s a marker up your backside the whole day.

“That game will bring him on an awful lot. He needs to get the head down now and work hard again for the next three weeks and get fitter again for the next day.”

4. Weather made conditions difficult

It was by no means a classic and the monsoon of rain that fell before the game and after half-time made conditions extremely difficult for both sets of players. On radio commentary for Shannonside FM, Willie Hegarty noted that there would be no need for the water break as all the players needed to do was open their mouths to get a drink. 

Both teams dropped back in numbers but it was Galway who had the greater goal threat and at the back they had a good handle on the Rossie forwards. The home team scored just four points in the second half and only twice from open play.

Galway’s scores came more regularly and the goal in either half meant there was always daylight between them and their rivals.

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5. Fresh faces stand out

kieran-molloy-celebrates-wining-a-free Galway’s Kieran Molloy celebrates wining a free. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Some new faces showed well for Joyce in this Connacht semi-final win over Roscommon. Dylan McHugh was composed at centre-back and Sean Mulkerrin held Conor Cox scoreless before the Kerry native’s 58th minute withdrawal.

Paul Kelly and Robert Finnerty scored 1-4 up front, wing-back Kieran Molloy was involved all over the field and looks to have finally established himself on the starting team.

“I always said when I came into Galway that if you are good enough your are old enough, and in fairness those two guys in particular, Dylan McHugh, Sean Mulkerrin, they are all great young lads,” said the Galway boss.

“Paul has three goals in the last four games now. They are great lads, they train hard and are well up for the battle and they are coming with a bit of pedigree from the U20s and set the standards high at training.

“They bring a great energy to the older fellas and we are delighted with them.”

Matthew Tierney deserves a special mention after scoring 1-3 in his man-of-the-match display from midfield. He’s a fine athlete while his striking of dead balls off the ground is exceptional with his left foot. It takes some of the pressure off Walsh, who still takes frees from the left side off his right.

“The two of them would be at training every night and they would be challenging with their left foot and their right foot,” smiled Joyce, a noted free-taker in his day.

“Matthew can kick them with his right as well from 45s. They do it as a bit of craic. He is a brilliant free-taker, always was. We had him with the U20s as well, he was excellent kicking frees. It’s great on a wet day like that, you can put the ball down and guarantee a 45 is going to be scored, so it’s great.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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