Roscommon 0-9 Galway 0-8
Long before Roscommon’s Richard Hughes curled over an injury-time winner, there was a sense the knee injury suffered by Damien Comer might ultimately prove the most sombre feature from a grey day for Galway in Salthill.
Roscommon scored the last five points of this Division One Football League encounter at Pearse Stadium, with Hughes clipping over the winner in the 75th minute following a rapid counterattack that had little in keeping with the pedestrian nature in which the game had generally unfolded.
Galway’s last score was Ian Burke’s 50th minute point, which put the Tribesmen 0-8 to 0-4 ahead. The impact of the Roscommon bench was significant, with three of their subs combining for 0-4 in that last quarter.
The victory comes just a week after Roscommon beat Tyrone at home and they celebrated the final whistle in Salthill with a fair degree of gusto.
Padraic Joyce will not be happy with how his side let the game slip away, but navigating a route back to an All-Ireland final is their primary goal this year and to achieve that they will need all hands on deck, not least Comer.
So, the sight of Comer getting carried off on a stretcher – having received medical treatment on the pitch – to the sound of melancholic applause is something that could have a far greater long-term impact on Galway’s season than losing a round-two league game to Roscommon.
“He has to go for a scan to see but it doesn’t look good,” said Joyce afterwards.
“We are disappointed to lose the game in the first instance, the injury to Damien probably had a downer really on the rest of the lads and we didn’t really recover much after that so, look, just a bad day all round for us with injuries and losing the game.”
Comer has been hampered by serious injuries in recent years, most notably ankle and hamstring issues, so it would be cruel luck if the All-Star forward was sidelined for another protracted period.
Rob Finnerty suffered ankle ligament damage in their drawn opener against Mayo, with Joyce saying he would be missing for between four to six weeks. “Another scoring forward gone,” he sighed. With Shane Walsh away on a pre-planned break, Galway are without their entire starting full-forward line from last year’s All-Ireland final. Add in a back injury to Patrick Kelly and it’s clear this hasn’t been a smooth opening to Galway’s 2023 season.
“We are down them guys but it gives other guys a chance to see can they step up,” added Joyce. “We have to keep at it, we can’t make excuses for the guys we don’t have. We were accused last year of having no depth in the squad, so this gives us a chance to develop some lads.”
But if this was a frustrating day for Galway, it was quite the opposite for Roscommon who, despite lacking penetration for much of the game, managed to win in Galway in the league for the first time in 20 years.
It has been an eye-catching start to the campaign for their new manager Davy Burke.
“If you had offered us four points before the league started, obviously we would have taken your hand off,” he said.
“League football is not championship football, I’m acutely aware of that. All I wanted to know was are we competitive at this level, which I think we are.”
And yet it is hard to know what can be taken from this contest overall. It was a lacklustre affair, perhaps the sixth-minute injury to Comer, who got hurt when landing after contesting a dropping ball kicked in by Peter Cooke, sucked the energy from the encounter.
Galway led 0-5 to 0-3 at half-time, Roscommon going 24 minutes between their second and third points. Large chunks of the game took place with the ball being moved laterally, neither team willing to engage in contact until the opposition entered the scoring zone. It was cautious, slow-paced stuff.
Cillian McDaid did try injecting energy into Galway a number of times, especially in the first half, while Ben O’Carroll – the hero from Roscommon’s win over Tyrone – added real impetus and zip when introduced off the bench midway through the second half. O’Carroll scored 0-2 in the closing stages.
“Ben’s 20, he’s learning. This is a project, I’m hoping to be here for two, three, four years and Ben O’Carroll is going to be a very important player in that,” added Burke. “He’s doing his apprenticeship too. He’s an exciting player, he’s lively.”
But the winning score came from another Roscommon sub, Hughes getting on the end of a rapid counterattack to earn the visitors a last-gasp victory. It’s now two wins from as many games for the team tipped by most for relegation.
“The yo-yo thing – it’s not fair on this bunch of lads, to get this title of a yo-yo team. I suppose it’s in black-and-white, but I think they’re better than that. What will you need (to stay up), five or six points anyway?” added Burke.
Roscommon haven’t lost a league game since 2021. Galway are still searching for their first win of the 2023 campaign.
“We are not going to press the panic button,” said Joyce. “It’s the second round of the league, we have one point out of four so it makes the next couple of games very important for us.”
But perhaps not ultimately as important to Galway’s year as getting Damien Comer back to lead their attack.
[ Division 3 football league: Offaly, Westmeath, Cavan and Down all secure wins ]
Roscommon: Conor Carroll; Conor Hussey, Eoin McCormack; Niall Daly, Brian Stack, Dylan Ruane; Tadhg O’Rourke, Keith Doyle; Robbie Dolan, Diarmuid Murtagh (0-3, one free), Ciarán Lennon (0-1); Enda Smith, Conor Cox, Daire Cregg (0-1). Subs: Ciaráin Murtagh (0-1) for Cox (ht); Ben O’Carroll (0-2) for Ruane (47 mins); David Murray for McCormack (47 mins); Richard Hughes (0-1) for Doyle (51 mins); Paul Carey for D Murtagh (72 mins)
Galway: Conor Gleeson; Jack Glynn, Eoghan Kelly, Neil Mulcahy; Dylan McHugh (0-1), John Daly, Seán Kelly; Paul Conroy, Cillian McDaid (0-1); Paul Kelly, Peter Cooke, Johnny Heaney (0-1); Matthew Tierney (0-1), Damien Comer, Eoin Finnerty. Subs: Dessie Conneely (0-3, three frees) for Comer (10 mins); Ian Burke (0-1) for Paul Kelly (ht); Owen Gallagher for Finnerty (51 mins); Cathal Sweeney for Cooke (55 mins); Matthew Barrett for Heaney (65 mins)
Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan)