There is a familiar ring to this fixture as these two sides meet for the fourth consecutive year in the Connacht Final. An impressive Roscommon win in Salthill in 2017 was sandwiched either side by Galway victories. Firstly Galway got the better of the Rossie’s after a replay in Castlebar in 2016 and then again in last years victory in Hyde Park.
Both sides progressed to the Super 8’s last year and competed in Division 1 of the National League this term. However, Roscommon lost all three of their Super 8 games and finished second from bottom in Division 1 this year, with only one win to show for their efforts. While Galway overcame both Kerry and Kildare, before disappointing at home to Monaghan in their final Sper 8 game. They then suffered a semi-final defeat to the all conquering Dubs. Their league form was a mixed bag, with the Tribesmen getting the better of Mayo and Monaghan on the road, but suffering a heavy defeat to the Dubs and collapsing in the second half in Omagh against Tyrone in their final league game having led at the break. So while there is undoubted quality in these two sides, consistency of performance has been a problem for both of these teams also.
Galway man, Anthony Cunningham, took over the post of Roscommon manager after Kevin McStay stepped away from the post last year. Cunningham’s managerial career began in the Roscommon with the St.Brigid’s club in the parish of Kiltoom, where he put down roots after moving to the Athlone area for work. His involvement with the club coincided with the most successful spell in the clubs history as Brigid’s have gone on to win ten county titles since 2005. He also dipped his toe in hurling management with Roscommon in the late 2000’s, before going on to take over at the helm of the Galway u21 hurlers, a side he led to All-Ireland glory, a feat which he also accomplished as a player when he captained Galway to victory over Wexford in 1986. He rose to national prominence as a coach when he led the Tribesmen to the 2015 All-Ireland Hurling final against Kilkenny, where the lost out to the Cats after a replay.
One main feature of Roscommon’s 2-12 v 0-17 win over Mayo in Castlebar last month was their intensity and work-rate, both on and off the ball, which has become a hallmark feature of Cunningham’s sides. Kerryman Conor Cox has been an astute addition to his squad and was very impressive while scoring 0-5 in that win over Mayo.
Damien Comer is the most high profile absentee for the Tribesmen and I’m sure Anthony Cunningham and his side will be grateful not to have to deal with his speed and physicality on this occasion, however, the tribesmen aren’t exactly short of scoring threats. Shane Walsh has been their main scoring threat over the last few seasons. He has registered 0-11 it this year’s Championship so far, 0-7 (5f, 1 45′) against London and 0-4 (3f) in their semi-final win over Sligo. Ian Burke has the ability to prise open the tightest of defences with his shrewd range of passes and Danny Cummins showed his eye for goal after being recalled in the squad during Galway’s National League campaign.
2001 was the last time Roscommon defeated both Mayo and Galway on route to lifting the Nestor Cup. The bookies’ odds reflect the fact that they have a tough task against them to overcome the reigning Champions. Form and firepower would suggest a Galway win on Sunday, however, if Roscommon can continue to play with the intensity and tempo which helped them overcome Mayo then they’ll be in with every chance of being Connacht Champions come Sunday night.