Roscommon 4-8 Galway 1-12
There is something astir in the Primrose County. John Evans stood in the drizzle in Kiltoom and made a strong appeal about not getting carried away about anything.
But when you chalk up a first competitive football win on Mayo soil for the first time since 1986 and follow that up with a silverware win against Galway a week later with four peachy goals, you can't deny it has been a bright January.
Yesterday, 1,927 watched Roscommon take their first FBD title since 1999 and if the celebrations were muted, then optimistic forecasts of the season ahead would have shortened the journeys home.
Granted, Kevin Walsh is still just at the getting-to-know-first-names stage of his tenure and wasn't unduly alarmed by the sudden second-half subsidence which saw Roscommon waltz home for three goals in the first ten minutes.
The first illuminated everything that is good about Roscommon football just now: slick handling, crisp interplay and a knowledge of one another's game. Mark Nally was patient enough to wait for the right pass to play through a thicket of maroon shirts and when he spotted Diarmuid Murtagh, Galway were in trouble. Senan Kilbride flicked a pass on to Ciarán Murtagh and the finish was cool.
Galway responded with three terrific individual points – the quality of the scores from distance were a surprising feature of the match, given the conditions and time of year – but Roscommon weren’t finished.
Ciarán Murtagh was given a generous degree of room to exploit the endline and flicked a pass across an open Galway goal for his brother Diarmuid to palm home.
The Roscommon crowd were still enjoying that one when Ciarán Cafferkey came hammering down the central avenue of Galway’s defence and finished with a beautiful shot. Just like that it was 3-9 to 0-9 for the locals. Given Roscommon had been held to five – quality – points while playing with the wind, it was a startling upsurge in scoring. But Galway will be hoping not to display such generosity in the league.
“There was poor defending and to be fair, what seemed to have happened was that we pushed up almost like a straight line in a soccer off side and then the ball was popped over the top and it is very hard to defend,” said Kevin Walsh.
“Look it, three weeks ago, possibly five or six of those guys never wore a maroon shirt before – and some of those were the best players on the field, which was a positive.”
The Galway manager clarified that the withdrawal of goalkeeper Manus Breathnach was nothing to do with the goal concession: it was decided before hand to give both goalkeepers game time.
Galway played some really attractive football on their own on the break, with Shane Walsh landing two sumptuous scores and the sharp Danny Cummins unlucky not to add a goal to his two points from play.
Enda Tierney sent a warning signal when he finished a furious Galway attack with an unstoppable goal shot and when they review the match, the nine wide balls could have been used more judiciously.
But Roscommon were organised; they are a strong, meaty -looking team and they are very comfortable on the ball.
Ronan Stack and Cafferkey led from the back while Senan Kilbride has a buzzing attacking unit around him.
Both teams, Galway in particular, fell into all-out defensive zones in the first half but even in January, it was obvious that the instinct to attack is still central to the DNA of both counties.
“We are learning. They are a young team,” said John Evans. “At half-time there was some serious questions asked. I think they were a little nervous going in. When you are playing with a team that hasn’t won too much silverware, it can be hard to get going.
“So I am just delighted for the team in the second half – into the wind, turning around, things not going right . . . I think we hit the post three times in the first half and these things can knock the stuffing out of a team but these guys, mentally they are good.
Division Two football looms. The FBD may have had the run of Roscommon town on Sunday night but will find itself locked in a cupboard before too long.
ROSCOMMON: D O'Malley; S McDermott, N Carty, N Collins; R Stack, N Daly, G Cafferkey (1-0); I Kilbride, C Shine (0-1); M Nally, E Smith (1-2), D Smith; D Murtagh (1-3, 0-2 frees), S Kilbride (0-1), C Murtagh (1-1). Subs: C Cregg for M Nally (44 mins), U Harney for D Smith (46 mins), C Daly for I Kilbride (48 mins), B Murtagh for S Kilbride (56 mins), O Milton for C Murtagh (57 mins).
GALWAY: M Breathnach; T Fahy, D Walsh, C Sweeney; J Heaney (0-1), G Bradshaw (0-1), G O'Donnell; F O'Curraoin (0-1), E Tierney (1-0); S Denvir, M Martin (0-3, 2 frees), S Walsh (0-2); E Hoare (0-2 frees), D Cummins (0-2), M Coady. Subs: T Dolan for M Breathnach (42 mins), K Kelly for T Fahy (46 mins), T Flynn for S Denvir (52 mins), P Sweeney for M Martin (58 mins).
Referee: J Gilmartin (Sligo).