Diarmuid Murtagh’s final flourish seals title for Roscommon in full-on encounter

Galway had come back from five points down in the final quarter of Division Two decider

Roscommon’s Diarmuid Murtagh scores a late goal past Galway goalkeeper Conor Gleeson during the Allianz Football League Division Two Final at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Roscommon 1-20 Galway 0-22

You can say these games don’t amount to a hill of beans and probably, ultimately, you are right. You can remark that this was Roscommon’s fourth Division Two title in eight years and ask what good the other three were to them and maybe that’s fair enough too. “There are worse things going on in the world than losing a Division Two final,” said Pádraic Joyce afterwards.

Here’s the thing though. When the clock ticked into the 70th minute here, the teams were level on 0-19 apiece and everything was dialled up to 11. Galway had closed a five-point gap in the final quarter, the lead had changed hands twice in the final six minutes and nobody was pretending this didn’t matter. The fourth official put up his board and announced six minutes of stoppage time and everyone in the stadium leaned forward. Six more minutes of this? Yes, please.

As it turned out, we got about 30 more seconds of it. That's all the time it took for Rossie sub Diarmuid Murtagh to tear open the fabric of the afternoon, slaloming his way past two Galway tackles to scud the game's only goal into the top corner of Conor Gleeson's net. The other Roscommon forwards wheeled away, arms aloft, fists clenched. It will mean what it will mean as the months tick by. But there was no mistaking how much it mattered in the moment.

Roscommon celebrate their victory over Galway in the Allianz Football League Division Two Final at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

"We were up five, they came back to level it, and it was a great strike by Diarmuid," Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham said afterwards. "It's testament to the man. He is fighting to get back on the team, he had a great run with his club, St Faithleach's, and wasn't in for the first half of the season. He is working very hard on his game – as are all of the players. I'm just delighted for the work the lads have put in."

Whatever the stakes, these two teams conjured up a royally entertaining game of ball. The sides were level 10 times and between them they put together 1-29 from play. The latitude involved in giving up that kind of scoring obviously screams spring rather than summer but nonetheless, plenty of the shooting was eye-catching.

Nobody did it better than Paul Conroy, the Galway midfielder who ended the day with six points from play. He flitted in and out of the afternoon like subliminal advertising. Roscommon had periods of control around the middle and then, apparently out of thin air, Conroy would materialise to swing over another point. He helped himself to five in the first half alone, whistling them up from a variety of distances and angles.

That first half was a game of tick and tock, with Galway haring from the blocks and Roscommon doughtily playing tortoise to be level by the quarter-hour. Both sides had a viable pop at goal along the way too. Ultan Harney ploughed through the Galway cover to draw a falling save from Conor Flaherty on 13 minutes; Dessie Conneely rattled the Roscommon bar not long after. Ciarán Murtagh and Cian McKeon were lively for the Rossies, Damien Comer and Seán Kelly threw into the pot for Galway.

Cathal Heneghan of Roscommon gets to the ball ahead of Galway’s Damien Comer during the Allianz Football League Division Two Final at Croke Park. Photograph: Evan Treacy/Inpho

After going in level on 0-9 apiece at the break, it was Roscommon who opened the throttle soon after the restart. McKeon scythed through to draw another smart save out of Flaherty, Donie Smith swished a point of his own and fed Ciarán Murtagh for another. Conor Cox landed a couple of frees – one of them from an outrageous distance – and by the 48th minute, Cunningham's side were four clear, 0-15 to 0-11.

Despite Conroy stopping the bleeding with his sixth of the day, Roscommon kicked on further into the distance. Ciarán Murtagh was on song now, sprinting past newly-introduced Shane Walsh to set Smith up for a point on 50 minutes before nailing one of his own soon after with a brilliant finish. It meant that Roscommon were 0-17 to 0-12 ahead in the 53rd minute. If Galway were going to do anything, they had to do it sharpish.

It helps when you have Walsh on the pitch. A late addition to the panel, he was everywhere now, first setting Conneely up for a sweet point before landing a Walsh special on the run. A couple of frees from Conneely and Robert Finnerty and third of the day from Comer drew Galway level and when a Conroy shot dropped short soon after, Comer fisted them into the lead for the first time since midway through the first half.

Roscommon’s Eddie Nolan competes with Galway’s John Daly during the Allianz Football League Division Two Final at Croke Park. Photograph: Evan Treacy/Inpho

The Rossies weren’t done yet though. Or rather, Diarmuid Murtagh wasn’t done yet. He swung over a gorgeous point with his first touch off the bench and all but pierced the net soon after to win it.

It mattered and it didn't matter. They'll take it, one way or the other. ROSCOMMON: 1 C Lavin; 2 D Murray, 3 B Stack, 4 E McCormack; 21 N Kilroy, 6 N Daly, 7 R Daly; 8 U Harney, 9 E Nolan (0-2, free and 45); 10 C Murtagh (0-4, one free), 11 E Smith, 12 C Heneghan; 13 C McKeon (0-2), 14 D Smith (0-5, three frees), 15 C Cox (0-5, four frees).

Subs: 23 K Doyle (0-1) for McKeon (61 mins), 26 D Murtagh (1-1) for Cox (64), 24. A Glennon for D Smith (69), 19 C Hussey for Heneghan (75). GALWAY: 1 C Flaherty; 2 J Glynn, 19 S Fitzgerald, 4 L Silke; 12 J Heaney (0-1), 6 J Daly, 3 K Molloy; 8 S Kelly (0-1), 9 P Conroy (0-6); 10 M Tierney (0-3, one free), 11 N Daly, 25 F Ó Laoi (0-1); 13 R Finnerty (0-3, one free), 14 D Comer (0-4), 15 D Conneely (0-2, one free).

Subs: 17 J McGrath for J Daly, 7 S Walsh (0-1) for Glynn (both 48 mins), 16 C Gleeson for Flaherty (52), 21. J McLoughlin for N Daly (54), 23 P Kelly for Finnerty (70). Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh).

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times