expert view

Analysis: Quality of Galway's Walsh, Roscommon's shooting woes and second-half midfield battle

The42′s analyst Sean Murphy takes a closer look at yesterday’s Connacht final.

WHEN KEVIN MCSTAY and his backroom team sit down to analyse this Connacht final, they will have a very sour feeling. This was a game that got away from them.

In the 23rd minute Roscommon were leading by five points and with a strong wind to come in the second half, this game looked like a repeat of the 2017 Connacht final.

John McManus with Shane Walsh Shane Walsh fires over a point for Galway against Roscommon. Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

Roscommon Chances

I have looked previously at how Galway setup using an arc-shaped defensive setup and how they try to hold the opposition out and wait for the mistake and counter-attack.

Roscommon, particularly in the first half, played a very patient game, moving the ball through the hands quickly and consistently trying to change the point of attack, waiting for that opportunity to find a gap in the Galway arc.

The key to this working was there was no Roscommon player taking the ball static, they continued to move and create runs off the shoulder. For the first time all year, there was evidently holes in the Galway defence – Galway previous to this game had conceded two goals in ten games (between league and championship).

The Ciaran Murtagh goal in the 21st minute showed this to perfection.

The patient build up and constant movement worked well for Kevin McStay’s team to the point of creating chances. Roscommon had a total of 25 shots yesterday, scoring 2-6 – that’s a shooting efficiency of 32% overall.

To break this down further, at half-time Roscommon had a shooting efficiency of 43% but their second-half shooting efficiency was 18%. On the other hand Galway had a shooting efficiency of 33% at the break and 85% in the second half making a full time total of 57%.

Another frustrating point for McStay and his management was the shot selection by his troops. At times, especially in the second half the Roscommon forwards seemed to force the play and took shots that were not on and this was really the losing of the game for them.

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Shane Walsh

When Galway needed a leader yesterday, Shane Walsh stood out from the crowd. He gave a display of shooting from play and placed kicks that was of the highest quality. He finished the day with eight points – three from play and five from frees.

Shane broke the Roscommon 45’ metre line on 15 occasions – this accounted for 36% of Galway’s attacks. He also contributed largely to Galway’s intensity levels, making three tackles and winning two turnovers.

Below is a summary of all Shane’s contributions to the game:

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Midfield Battle

In the 2017 decider between these teams, Enda Smith received man-of-the-match for a fine display in the middle of the park. It was one of the killer blows to Galway.

For the first 30 minutes of yesterday’s affair, it seemed Cathal Compton was on his way to a man-of-the-match performance as he lorded the centre of the park. An injury however would force him off and give Kevin Walsh’s side a massive lifeline.

Galway pushed up on Colm Lavin’s kickouts throughout the game and it paid dividend with Galway coming away with 54% of the Roscommon restarts. A crucial stat that came from this was Galway scored four points directly off winning
Roscommon kickouts. The winning margin at the final whistle was also four points.

Credit where it’s due, Tom Flynn gave a superb second-half performance in the middle finishing the day after winning six kickouts overall. This was by far Tom’s best game for Galway and he delivered fully when the pressure was on.

This is an area that Galway will certainly look to dominate going forward with a choice of midfielders in Flynn, Paul Conroy, Ciaran Duggan and Peter Cooke. Galway ended up winning a total of 64% of the overall kickouts – 76% of Ruairi Lavelle’s kicks and 54% of Colm Lavin’s.

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Galway’s Bench

Similar to Galway’s win over Mayo, the Galway substitutions made a massive contribution to the game when entering the action. This was an area that the Rossies just couldn’t match them in. The Roscommon subs looked flat and not at the pitch of the game while the Galway changes seemed primed and ready for battle.

Kevin Walsh again used his changes to perfection. From the introduction of Ciaran Duggan to the middle, Eoghan Kerin – who steadied the back line considerably, Peter Cooke to the half forward line, and the pair of Sean Armstrong and Adrian Varley inside – who both scored a point each. Gary O Donnell was also introduced late on.

Roscommon did not get any score from their replacements.

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This was a hard fought victory for Kevin Walsh with his side displaying great resilience and determination to come through with a victory. Galway adapted well to how they approached the Roscommon kickouts in the second half, a sign that they are gaining in in-game tactical awareness. This was a well-earned Connacht championship.

Galway have now booked their place in the Super 8s, the system that I think is going to suit Galway as there is no doubt now that they have a very strong panel, possibly second to Dublin. Their first game out will be against the Munster champions in Croke Park. I would be backing Galway at this stage to top their group and progress to the semi-finals at a minimum.

For Roscommon, they will have three weeks now to regroup. Before yesterday I would have been certain that they would have made the Super 8s regardless of winning or losing, but I’m not as certain
of that now.

I feel they had a very off day with their shooting yesterday but they seem to lack that killer instinct at times. This was evident yesterday and also in their championship quarter-final versus Mayo in 2017.

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