Roscommon are Connacht champions for 2019 and they won it the hard way.
It started with a trip to Castlebar where they defeated Mayo on their home turf for the first time since 1986. Their attention then turned to Pearse Stadium and Galway and despite the fact that the Rossies defeated the Tribesmen in the same fixture at the same venue two seasons ago, not many were giving them a chance.
However, Anthony Cunningham’s men prevailed following a strong second-half performance that saw them restrict Galway to just two scores in 40+ minutes of football.
There is so much we can dissect from Roscommon’s win. Their second-half turnover count, Diarmuid Murtagh’s crucial goal or the performance of the three Daly brothers at the back, but the big difference in this Roscommon side is that they’ve finally found a full-forward of real quality who is able to shoot the lights out every time he steps on the pitch.
Conor Cox was magnificent against Mayo in Castlebar and it was remarked last week on one of Ireland’s top sports shows that ‘he wouldn’t be able to kick Hollywood scores every time’. Turns out he just might be able to do that, as he kicked three scores from play yesterday that were not just amazing given the quality of the score taking, but also because of the timing of them.
The Roscommon full-forward is our focus on this week’s edition of Spotlight.
The first of Cox’s three from play came in the tenth minute. Galway had settled into the game and adapted to the conditions quicker than their neighbours. Galway could have had a penalty following Darren O’Malley’s challenge on Johnny Heaney but the referee waved play on (for what’s worth it would have been a harsh penalty in my book).
Roscommon turn the ball over with Niall Daly coming out of defence and kick passing to captain, Enda Smith who proceeded to carry the ball from inside his own half deep into Galway territory before executing a beautiful punt pass into space for Cox to gather possession.
He didn’t have it easy, however, as Seán Andy Ó Ceallaigh was all over him like a mosquito at a bare ankle before Peter Cooke joined in on the act but Cox showed great determination to shrug off the challenges and kick quite simply an outrageous score from the tightest of angles.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) June 16, 2019
We all know the story by now. Roscommon and Galway traded the next few scores before Kevin Walsh’s men turned the screw in the final ten minutes of the first half to lead 0-10 to 0-5 at the break.
However, Roscommon came out in the second half like a new team. The sun was now shining and so were the Rossies. Diarmuid Murtagh finished to the net to bring them back to within one point and as the old saying goes; ‘the next score is crucial’. It proved just that as Roscommon levelled the game for the fourth time before going on to grab hold of a lead and never let go.
Again, Cox’s score was ably assisted by Smith who once again drove at the Galway defence and was able to make space for the Kerry native to come out, collect the ball and take on a shot with his ‘weaker’ left foot straight away.
Conor Cox’s third point from play was the icing on the cake that Roscommon needed.
There are 90 seconds left in the match and Galway are behind by two and had just missed a goal opportunity. Had they got a goal now it would have spelt heartbreak for Roscommon. However, that wasn’t going to happen.
From the Rossies next attack, Cox comes deep to collect a pass before playing it inside to Andrew Glennon. Cox follows the pass and gets the return from Glennon before using a dummy bounce to create an inch of space between him and Thomas Flynn and fire over an inspirational score.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) June 16, 2019
Three massive scores from Conor Cox. Roscommon have been on the cusp for the last few seasons. Having appeared in four Connacht finals in a row coupled with winning two of the last three yesterday’s win should come as no great shock.
However, even with their success in Connacht, they have been found out on the grander stage. Their new full-forward might just be the lynchpin this side need to progress to that next level.