Roscommon U20’s storm to victory

May 4th, 2024

EirGrid Connacht U20 Football Final


Kevin Egan at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park

The Allianz League final between Derry and Dublin has been hailed as the game of the year so far, but this evening’s Eirgrid Connacht U-20 final will certainly be spoken about in the same vein among anyone who tuned into TG4 to watch it. Even more so in Roscommon, who now advance to meet Tyrone next Saturday evening in Kingspan Breffni Park after second half goals from Niall O’Donnell, Shane McGinley and Ryan Dowling saw them through a classic encounter in Castlebar.

At half-time, the contest was still in the balance with Galway holding a narrow two-point lead, but the wind was set to favour the Tribesmen in the second half, and since they had responded brilliantly to the concession of the first four points of the game to build up that 0-8 to 0-6 advantage, it felt like momentum might also be enough to push Derek Savage’s side over the line.

However this year’s Connacht U-20 championship has been a rollercoaster ride from start to finish, and it was never going to be as simple as that. Roscommon ended the first half with man of the match Shane McGinley turning his man and pushing a goal chance just wide of Eamon McGrath’s far post. When he got turned and facing for goal from the left corner in the first minute of the second half, this time he floated the ball across to the far post, where Niall O’Donnell was waiting to slam the ball into the net.

So began a thrilling 30 minutes of play, in which both sides produced some outstanding scores, but Roscommon’s ability to find the net proved to be the difference. The points that Galway struck from players like Matthew Thompson, Fionn MacDonnacha and in particular Jack Mullen were right out of the top drawer, but Roscommon’s bench impact was crucial, with Ethan O’Reilly and Ryan Dowling making match-winning impacts.

The injection of energy from O’Reilly was palpable on the field and as the game teetered on the edge with Galway drawing level but never hitting the front, he helped set up some vital scores for Shane McGinley and Rob Heneghan.

Ryan Dowling, just like Galway’s Ross Coen before him, turned his first possession into a magnificent solo point, and he also finished off the match-clinching third goal in the first minute of injury time, a score that turned a three-point lead into six, forcing Galway to chase Hail Mary high balls into the Roscommon box for the last four minutes of added time.

In between, Shane McGinley crowned his man of the match display with a neat finish giving Roscommon just enough breathing room to hold on.

McGinley was also on the scoresheet when Roscommon exploded out of the blocks in the opening minutes, firing over four points with their first five possessions, while denying Galway a shot on goal with each of their first five. Rory Hester and Senan Lambe also hoisted excellent kicks over the bar, but when Galway struck back, they did so with speed and precision.

Jack Mullen, fresh from his heroics in the semi-final against Sligo on the same field duly split the uprights with two tricky attempts from out on the right hand side, while Colm Costello also struck twice to level up the game.

Roscommon hit the next two points but again Galway struck four in a row before the interval, and it seemed like the foundations were laid for Galway’s first provincial title since 2020.

Little did we realise, things were just getting warmed up.

Scorers for Roscommon: Shane McGinley 1-6 (0-3f, 0-1m), Ryan Dowling 1-2, Niall O’Donnell 1-1, Rory Hester 0-1, Senan Lambe 0-1, Bobby Nugent 0-1m, Rob Heneghan 0-1.

Scorers for Galway: Jack Mullen 0-4, Matthew Thompson 0-4 (0-2f), Fionn Mac Donnacha 0-3 (0-1m), Colm Costello 0-3 (0-1f), Mark Mannion 0-1, Shay McGlinchey 0-1, Ross Coen 0-1.

ROSCOMMON: Seán Allen; Eden Kerins, James Connolly, Eoghan Carthy; Senan Lambe, Dan Casey, James McGreal; Conor Harley, Conor Ryan; Rory Hester, Dan Hagney, Rob Heneghan; Shane McGinley, Niall O’Donnell, Bobby Nugent.

Subs: Ethan O’Reilly for McGreal (half-time), Ryan Dowling for Hagney (46), Oisín O’Flaherty for Harley (51), Shane Walsh for O’Donnell (57), Rory Carthy for Hester (60).

GALWAY: Eamon McGrath; Darragh Costello, Brian Noone, Shane Canavan; Mark Mannion, Jack Lonergan, Jack Folan; Shay McGlinchey, Conor Heneghan; Ciarán Mulhern, Matthew Thompson, Cian Murphy; Jack Mullen, Fionn Mac Donnacha, Colm Costello.

Subs: Pádraic Godwin for Noone (28-29, temp), Daithi Kilcommons for Heneghan (half-time), Ross Coen for Folan (41), Ronan Colleran for C Costello (temp, 46-47), Luc O’Connor for Mannion (49), Ronan Colleran for Murphy (54), Niall Mannion for D Costello (60).

REFEREE: Liam Devenney (Mayo).

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