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'He’s one of the best footballers I’ve ever seen playing' - Joyce on Walsh

Shane Walsh was at his magical best in yesterday’s Connacht SFC final.

Galway star Shane Walsh.
Galway star Shane Walsh.
Image: John McVitty/INPHO

IT WAS ONE of those days where you couldn’t take your eyes off Shane Walsh. 

He finished the Connacht final with 1-6 and though he drifted in and out of the game, his impactful moments were simply devastating here. 

Walsh is a magician when he’s in this sort of mood. His acceleration, balance and a ability to use either foot make him a nightmare for opposing defences. 

“He’s one of the best footballers I’ve ever seen playing, but Shane knows himself that he has to produce these performances in the big games and then he’ll get more national recognition,” said Padraic Joyce.

“But talent-wise, he has two feet, unbelievable talent, pace, he’s just such an enigma.

“He produced that performance today and we were saying all week that he was really sharp and training really well.”

Walsh played his football drifting out around the half-forward line, leaving the inside duo of Damien Comer and Robert Finnerty to make hay.

Comer set-up a host of scores in the first period and exploded into scoring form in the second, before his departure with injury on 65 minutes. Joyce confirmed Comer was forced off after getting a bang on the shin when he was fouled late in the day, but it’s not a serious problem.

He finished with a three-point haul and Finnerty chipped in with 0-5.

“The inside line was brilliant, Rob, Damien and Shane were all really good and that’s what we looked to do, to get the ball in as quick as possible to three great players.

“They contributed an awful lot. It’s great to see your main players play well in a final, that’s what finals are about.

“We lost the toss and Roscommon elected to play with the wind, we’d have done the same had we won it. But Shane’s goal was a bit of class. We had a cushion of three or four points all day so it was great, I couldn’t speak highly enough of the lads.”

Defensively, Galway are much improved since last year, even if they won’t be entirely happy with the concession of two late goals.

They used John Daly as a plus one at the back, while Sean Kelly held Conor Cox to two from play. 

“John Daly held the ship together really well at the back there, Seán Kelly was very good, really it was like that to a man,” added Joyce.

“Cillian McDaid took the ball forward numerous times there, particularly in the first half, so while Shane is an exceptional player and every team needs one or two exceptional players, you need the whole team playing as a group as well and they did that today.”

padraic-joyce-celebrates-winning Padraic Joyce celebrates after the game. Source: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

Galway were beaten in the last three provincial deciders, two of them under Joyce’s watch, and that was a source of motivation for them.

Joyce disagreed that his team were under pressure coming into the game.

“I wouldn’t be calling it pressure, it would mean I’m no good as a manager. When you win you’re mighty, when you lose you’re no good.

“It’ll be the same thing the next day, the pressure will be on because it’s a quarter-final and we haven’t won one in a while. Until we go and back this up with consistent results and consistent performances, that’s when people will talk about Galway as being a serious contender.

“It’s in our own hands, we know what we have to do, we know the pressure that’s there but the lads are brilliant, they enjoy training, they put in a huge effort all year long, and I can’t fault them today.

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“In fairness to the lads, they put in a huge effort all year, to have lost four Connacht finals in-a-row would have been devastating for us. It’s great to win it, now we’ll go and enjoy it, it’s mighty.”

Roscommon boss Anthony Cunningham felt their “energy levels were probably down a bit” from recent games. 

“We probably didn’t attack the game as much as we wanted to, early on in particular,” he said.

anthony-cunningham Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

“I thought the subs did extremely well when they came in, and that’s a plus as well. But early on I thought we could have done better and with the breeze in the first half to go in six points down was disappointing really. 

“We needed to have that bit more energy and drive in our game, that we had in the league. But Galway are a fine side, they are worthy champions but for us it’s back to the drawing board but it’s only tweaks.”

Having seen their season ended after defeats in Connacht over the past two Covid-affected years, Cunningham ended on a positive note.

“We’ve a fantastic chance of getting to an All-Ireland quarter-final, win the next day and we’re up there. That will be difficult but still looking forward to it.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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