Shane Walsh inspires Galway to end Connacht SFC final with win over Roscommon

A first Connacht final win for Galway at the Pearse Stadium since 2005 and avoiding a fourth consecutive loss in a provincial tie-breaker provide the fine print.

ut for the 21,419 spectators and those watched from further afield, the magic of Shane Walsh will live on far beyond these statistics.

On his day, Walsh has the explosiveness and balance in every foot that makes him virtually unplayable. But those days are not always summoned and even in games he will have his drift periods, even having them here.

But at the right time he is a joy to watch and really set the tone for a Galway performance that was far more decisive than the scoreline would suggest.

It’s a team that goes everywhere. That may not be the statement Dublin made in reasserting their authority over the Championship, but after a few years of uncertainty there is more clarity for them now.

And to Walsh and his sidekick Damien Comer, who had another thunderous hour before being injured, they have players who can transform any game and against any opposition.

Both have had their injury issues but fit, well and focused, they are up to the task.

Between them and fellow striker Rob Finnerty, they were 1-14 of Galway’s 2-19 aggregate, although three of Walsh’s 1-6 came from set balls. But even inside that were two 45s that he effortlessly put down, just like he did against Mayo.

But everywhere there was a vibrancy about Galway that Roscommon struggled to live with.

From half-backs Dylan McHugh, John Daly and Cillian McDaid they had real momentum and once they got things on pace Roscommon didn’t really stand a chance.

And Galway is also smarter. When they had to slow down the game, they did, even if they got a bit out of sorts at the end.

But a first Connacht title since 2018 and the first under Padraic Joyce’s management could well be the rocket fuel for further progress.

Walsh’s best moments were another highlight, his 18th-minute goal a sublime fusion of magical footwork, power and precision.

He was a game breaker. So far Roscommon had given as much as they had, maybe even a little more and seemed to be finding a rhythm even though they were locked at 0-4 apiece.

Enda Smith had half a chance after finding a rare opening in a disciplined Galway defence.

But then Walsh weaved his magic. After scoring a point earlier, exploding from a standing start to leave Ciaran Murtagh for dead and each time executing two sidesteps at the Roscommon defenders on the wrong foot and planted low and decisive past Colm Lavin.

Roscommon had wind in their favor but it looked like a killer blow.

Kieran Molloy and Finnerty, who had far too much freedom, opened up a five-point gap in the follow-up before midfielder Ultan Harney offered resistance with the first of his two points in the half.

Roscommon had its moments, Enda Smith’s point after a quick rally with Donie Smith among them to make it 1-7 to 0-7 on 32 minutes and with Molloy off the pitch for a black card after needlessly dragging Murtagh down, they were not without reasonable hope.

But then Patrick Kelly scored for Galway’s second goal and despite a fluke his build was still admirable with Walsh and McDaid combining to put Finnerty back to his left.

The corner striker hit a post and Kelly reacted quicker than Ronan Daly under it, a replica of Cormac Costello’s goal for Dublin the night before, and Galway’s 2-7 0-8 lead looked unassailable in the conditions.

They continued after the break with Comer really coming out on top but Harney was resilient and to their credit Roscommon never stopped the chase.

But they were too heavy in their construction and that worked in favor of a Galway defense that was content to flood the ‘D’ with numbers knowing that against the wind their options were limited.

Galway led by nine points twice in the second half, but Roscommon’s goals in the final quarter changed the scoreline.

First, Conor Daly completed some good approach work close to Enda Smith and Diarmuid Murtagh before Murtagh then applied the throw-in to reward the efforts of fellow substitute Andrew Glennon.

By then the Galway bench and back room were in party mode on the sidelines, a big step in their completed evolution.

Scorers – Galway: S Walsh 1-6 (0-2 45s, 0-1f), R Finnerty 0-5, D Comer 0-3, Patrick Kelly 1-0, J Heaney 0-2, C McDaid, P Conroy, K Molloy all 0 -1 each. Roscommun: C Cox 0-5 (3fs), C Daly, D Murtagh (0-1f) 1-1 each, U Harney 0-3, D Smith 0-2 (1f), E Smith, C Murtagh, C McKeon, C Heneghan all 0-1 each.

Galway: C Gleeson; J Glynn, L Silke, S Kelly; D McHugh, J Daly, C McDaid; P Conroy, K Molloy; Patrick Kelly, M Tierney, J Heaney; R Finnerty. Subtitles: N Daly for Tierney (59), FO Laoi for Comer inj (66), O Gallagher for Finnerty (70), Paul Kelly for Patrick Kelly, C Sweeney for Molloy (74)

Roscommun: C Lavin; B Stack, C Daly, D Murray; C Hussey, N Daly, R Daly; U Harney, E Nolan; C Murtagh, E Smith, C Heneghan; C Cox, D Smith, C McKeon. Subtitles: N Kilroy for Heneghan (ht), R Hughes for Murray (47), D Murtagh for D Smith (48), K Doyle for Nolan (58), A Glennon for McKeon (58).

Arbitrator: J McQuillan (Cavan).

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