Gaelic GamesMatch Report

Galway respond to Roscommon surge to seal their place in the Connacht final

The hosts hit 1-3 in four minutes to take control at Dr Hyde Park but Damien Comer’s goal proved decisive

Connacht SFC semi-final: Galway 1-13 Roscommon 1-9

After the Roscommon surge, came the Galway pushback.

The final scoreline shows Galway, having led at the interval by four points, ultimately won this Connacht SFC semi-final at Dr Hyde Park by the same margin.

But what it doesn’t tell is of the wave Roscommon rode immediately after the break, having not scored from play during the entire first half they hit 1-3 in four minutes to rip apart the pattern of a game that had been very much dictated by Galway until that point.

Galway of not too long ago might have reacted differently to such a momentum swing than this current vintage did here in front of 16,917 spectators at the Hyde. This is a very experienced and battle-hardened bunch, so when the Roscommon brought the fire, Galway brought the brimstone.


And, not for the first time, it was Damien Comer doing so much of the heavy heaving for Galway, finishing the game with 1-4, winning kickouts and making two late interceptions in his own defence, including an injury-time block that eventually ended with the All Star full forward popping over the insurance score.

“He was outstanding, in fairness to him,” remarked Galway manager Padraic Joyce. “He probably carried us there on his own, he might have a bit of a sore back going home from all the carrying.”

Comer’s 53rd minute goal was the score that really halted Roscommon’s gallop. There was an element of good fortune about it, but it was yet another example of his sheer strength and power. Dylan McHugh’s high shot hit the far upright and dropped down in front of the Roscommon goal where Comer was waiting to pounce. Before the ball reached land, you knew.

Despite David Murray’s efforts to disrupt, dispossess, foul the Galway forward, Comer was able to win the ball and place it beyond Conor Carroll, 1-11 to 1-7. The goal drained much of the energy from Roscommon’s challenge.

A challenge that for the first half had never materialised as Roscommon were unrecognisable from the team that had pinned Mayo a fortnight ago. Galway led 0-7 to 0-3 at half-time and should have been further ahead as they dictated the tempo and turned Roscommon over for five scores in the opening period.

Roscommon failed to score from play in the entire first half with their three-point interval tally all coming from Ciaráin Murtagh frees, the last of those coming in the 18th minute. Roscommon’s first legitimate shot from open play on the Galway goal was a 26th minute wide from Ben O’Carroll.

“I wouldn’t say we let ourselves down, but we were very disappointed in (the first half),” said Roscommon manager Davy Burke. “They were playing with us in the first half. We’re better than that, we know we’re better than that.

“Emotionally, two weeks ago we were very up for it and it’s very hard to get to the pitch of it again so quickly. I think in the second half we flushed out our legs, whatever was holding us back. I thought we expressed ourselves and we showed our better side.”

Enda Smith was completely shut out of the game at midfield in the first half but when moved further forward after the break he immediately created two goal chances, one which was somehow palmed wide by Conor Daly with the goal gaping and the second which was netted by Ciaráin Murtagh.

Carroll was faultless from kickouts all afternoon, the Roscommon goalkeeper’s 23 restarts were all retained. However, they didn’t have enough scoring options and were too reliant on Murtagh. Crucially, during Roscommon’s surge after the break, Galway did not succumb to the momentum.

“That’s the big thing for us, we didn’t panic or get too excited,” added Joyce. “While we were under the cosh a little bit, it was only a matter of us minding the ball and play the way we play, move around, keep it wide and keep it deep and keep up our scores.

“That’s the pleasing part of the day for me, the players have gained experience of last year, winning big games, and it was great that bit of experience showed on the pitch the last 12-15 minutes.”

Burke rued a number of goal chances Roscommon squandered during the second half, but Comer had a point-blank shot saved by Carroll during the opening period and overall the better team won. Roscommon’s search for a first championship win over Galway at the Hyde since 1990 continues.

Galway will now face Sligo in the Connacht final in Castlebar on May 7th, which will be the eighth successive year they have advanced to the provincial decider. The Tribesmen last retained the Nestor Cup in 2002-2003 and Joyce is not about to join the chorus of those calling for the provincial championships to be decommissioned.

“To me, Connacht medals are very important,” he said. “Look at our dressingroom there – some lads have none, some have one, some have two. So, we’re not falling out the door with them.”

But chances are there will be a few more in there very soon.

GALWAY: Bernard Power; John McGrath, Seán Kelly, Jack Glynn; Cathal Sweeney (0-1), John Daly, Dylan McHugh; Paul Conroy, John Maher (0-2); Matthew Tierney (0-2, 0-1 mark), Peter Cooke, Johnny Heaney (0-1); Ian Burke (0-1), Damien Comer (1-4), Shane Walsh (0-2 frees). Subs: Robert Finnerty for Heaney (61 mins); Cillian McDaid for Cooke (67 mins); Daniel O’Flaherty for Sweeney (72 mins); Dessie Conneely for Burke (72 mins).

ROSCOMMON: Conor Carroll; Brian Stack, Conor Daly (0-1), David Murray; Niall Daly, Conor Hussey, Eoin McCormack; Keith Doyle, Enda Smith; Dylan Ruane, Ciaráin Murtagh (1-6, 0-3 frees), Ciarán Lennon; Ben O’Carroll, Diarmuid Murtagh, Donie Smith. Subs: Cian McKeon (0-2) for Smith (ht); Conor Cox for D Murtagh (47 mins); Cian Connolly for O’Carroll (60 mins); Richard Hughes for Daly (62 mins); Daire Cregg for Ruane (65 mins).

Referee: David Gough (Meath)

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times