IT certainly wasn’t in any of the pre-season scripts . . . a Galway versus Roscommon Connacht final . . . but on Sunday next at Pearse Stadium (2pm), a window of opportunity opens up for two counties seriously craving to perform on bigger stages.
Both teams will have reason to look forward to this match with ripples of optimism – Roscommon’s hoped based primarily on their highly credible Division 1 league campaign, while Galway will have been invigorated by their shock semi-final success over Mayo.
Conversely, both management teams will feel that they have yet quite a road to travel before being in a position to slug it out with the Dublins and Kerrys of the Gaelic world, but the team leaving Salthill on Sunday afternoon with a Connacht title under their belts, won’t be lacking in confidence for the summer ahead.
Galway do have the edge in terms of fielding a settled team with Kevin Walsh announcing on Wednesday an unchanged fifteen from the side that defeated Mayo by 1-12 to 0-12 in Castlebar in mid-June . . . with a clean slate also on the injuries front.
Roscommon look set to be without influential full back Neil Collins due to a serious hamstring tear that could require surgery, but there seems to be more optimism regarding the fitness of a number of other players, most notably Diarmuid Murtagh.
The advance of Fergal O’Donnell’s and Kevin McStay’s charges through the Connacht championship has been chequered to say the least, being highly fortunate to come back from New York with a win, while they were pretty awful in the first half against Sligo.
As against that, when Roscommon got going in the second half against Sligo, they were devastating, winning that latter 35 minutes, by a 4-10 to 0-5 margin. Therein lies the strength of Roscommon – going forward in full flight, they can do an awful lot of damage.
From midfield back though, problems have arisen . . . they conceded 2-6 in the first half against Sligo; Kerry rained in 3-15 in the league semi-final and New York fired over 17 points against them in Gaelic Park.
However, Roscommon’s Division 1 league form has to be taken into account. Regarded by many at the start of the campaign as relegation favourites, they pulled off four great wins over Kerry, Cork, Down and Donegal, while also running the Dubs to a point in the last game of the series.
Galway’s Division 2 campaign was reasonably solid but a lot more modest with their promotion bid snuffed out in the final game at Breffni Park against Cavan. A Connacht semi-final exit at the hands of Mayo seemed inevitable.
The fallout from the June 18, Saturday evening showdown in Castlebar though was dramatic. A Mayo team, right on the cusp of All-Ireland glory over recent seasons, were beaten fairly and squarely.
Full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune.