Galway seek revenge on Rossies, Dr Hyde Park factor and tactical battle awaits

5 talking points as Galway and Roscommon meet in the Connacht SFC final for a third straight year.

1. Galway seek revenge for 2017

ROSCOMMON ARRIVED INTO Salthill last July as huge underdogs and executed the perfect coup to stun favourites and holders Galway for their first provincial title since 2010.

Enda Smith and Donal Smith celebrate with supporters in the crowd after the game Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Before that, the Tibesmen were on a steady trajectory having lifted the Division 2 league title and promotion to the top flight before they dispatched Mayo in the Connacht semi-final.

Galway enjoyed six wins on the trot heading into the decider but Kevin McStay’s side pummelled in 1-6 inside 15 minutes and ran out comfortable nine-point winners with a free-flowing display of attacking football.

With that defeat still fresh in the minds, Galway will be hoping to right a few wrongs later tomorrow afternoon.

2. Are Roscommon undercooked?

A kind draw meant the Rossies had only Division 4 opponents Leitrim between them and the Connacht final, while Galway needed to overcome Mayo and Sligo to reach this stage.

The Tribesmen had a severe test of their credentials in the quarter-final against a Mayo outfit desperate to avoid another long slog through the qualifiers. A victory like that would have left Kevin Walsh’s charges brimming with confidence.

Roscommon’s last competitive game before the semi-final was the Division 2 league final against Cavan where the sides shared eight goals in an extremely open game at Croke Park on 1 April.

But McStay showed last year he was able to have his side bouncing off the turf for the provincial decider after a win over Leitrim, so Galway will have to be on their guard for another ambush.

Damien Comer celebrates scoring a goal Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

3. Kevin Walsh’s well-oiled machine

Galway have clearly made a significant leap forward in 2018. A primary reason for that has been Walsh nailing down a solid central spine in the team with Sean Andy O’Ceallaigh a critical addition at full-back.

Paul Conroy and Thomas Flynn are named at midfield in an area the Tribe are well stocked with Peter Cooke and Ciaran Duggan on the bench. Shane Walsh should line out at 11 with Damien Comer at 14 – on their day they’re undoubtedly two of the best forwards in the country.

Walsh took some flak for his poor shooting display against Mayo but he’s clearly been working on his accuracy and posted 0-5 the last day out.

Comer, Galway’s battering ram, has 2-4 to his name so far in the competition, while Corofin ace Ian Burke is also likely to spend time at full-forward to keep the Roscommon defence guessing.

A view of Dr. Hyde Park ahead of the game Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

4. Dr Hyde Park factor

McStay was adamant after the semi-final that Roscommon would have home advantage, despite Connacht Council concerns over the ability of Dr Hyde Park to stage the game.

“It will be played in the Hyde, I have no doubt it will,” he declared. “We’ll certainly be turning up in the Hyde. I hope someone else is there to meet us on the day.”

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After travelling to Pearse Stadium last year it was Roscommon’s turn to host the provincial final in accordance the rota system and McStay made it clear that the Rossies would fight tooth and nail for the right to host the game.

The Roscommon county board released a statement to say they would fully accept the Connacht CCC’s decision on the venue, but McStay’s conviction paid off when ‘the Hyde’ was awarded the game. He was well aware that playing at home could be worth a point or two to the reigning champions, who go in as big underdogs.

Tempers flare during the match Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

5. Tactical battle awaits

Like the majority of inter-county sides, both Galway and Roscommon defend in numbers and like to employ a quick counter-attacking game going forward.

Roscommon typically drop Niall Kilroy from the half-forward line to a sweeping role when they defend, while wing-forwards Enda Smith and Conor Devaney will filter back to help out their backs.

Galway are not quite as defensive as some pundits would have you believe, but their half-forward line do work back past midfield to help protect the scoring zone.

It could be a battle of the counter-attacks, with the pace of Walsh, Eamonn Brannigan, Comer and Burke on one side, while Roscommon have speed merchants in Donie Smith, Devaney and the Murtagh brothers.

Both sides will be hoping to maintain a presence on the half-forward line and transition from defence with long kick-passing. Whichever team can pull that off and make the most of their scoring opportunities should be celebrating with the Nestor Cup tomorrow evening.

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Kevin O'Brien

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