Padráic Joyce: The Day Cake Took The Biscuit
I remember the day that Cake took the biscuit.
It was the 2003 Connacht quarter-final at Pearse Stadium, and the famous Roscommon goalkeeper Shane ‘Cake’ Curran was up to no good as usual! Just after the national anthem, I was standing beside our own ‘keeper, Alan Keane, and Shane came running up towards the goal.
He went to shake hands with Alan before the throw-in — but it came with a twist. I could see him busting out laughing as he jogged away from Alan, and I knew he did something funny — surprise, surprise! He was wearing big white gloves, but had another pair stuck in the back of his shorts, which seemed odd.
As it transpired, Cake had slathered his big soccer-style gloves in Vaseline, and was transferring the slippery substance onto Keane’s gloves by shaking his hand. Clever idea! His hope being that Alan would end up letting in a soft goal because of a greasy ball. Luckily, Keane copped what had happened, and got a spare pair sorted before throw in.
There was great craic in those games with Roscommon down through the years. Galway’s last Connacht final win in Dr Hyde Park was two decades ago when we beat the Rossies after extra-time of a replay by 1-17 to 0-17 — and I remember a roar from a colourful Roscommon defender that day saying, “you’ll never get anything soft in the Hyde”. He was right, in fairness.
The weather is due to break this weekend, which could be a factor with this Connacht final, because my memory of playing at this venue is that the surface there tends to hold water. We’ll wait and see how this new surface gets on, but the weather could add a bit of a lottery to the game.
Based on what we’ve seen so far this year, you’d expect Galway to win. They’ve hit 5-36 over two championship games against Mayo and Sligo, and had the latter more or less buried after ten minutes. Roscommon caught Galway on the hop last year so that surprise factor is gone this time around, and I think Kevin Walsh won’t have a whole pile to do on getting players focused because of that. Last year, Cian Connolly hit the net for Roscommon but the biggest thing was that he was in 40 yards of space, which won’t happen this Sunday.
No one gave the Rossies a chance last year, and they are coming into this game very fresh after a handy win over Leitrim, who had beaten New York. A couple of years ago, Kevin McStay got a lot of criticism in the county because he’s a Mayo man, but he’s been living in Roscommon for a large part of his life. He tries to play football the right way, and he’s got a good record at club level too having led St Brigid’s to the an AIB All Ireland club title in 2013. Liam McHale is with him, and is a very good coach, and no doubt his basketball background will be a huge help with developing the agility of the Rossies. Mind you, I’d say their men would still prefer to go through you for a shortcut.
Funnily enough, I think Roscommon enjoy beating Galway more than Mayo. It’s not quite a hatred for Galway, but it’s borderline. They have a very potent forward line, as Galway do, and both teams will feel they can put up a decent score.
There was a big fallout after last year’s Connacht final, simply because the public here expected us to come through the game. The team then found it hard to lift themselves against Kerry, as they had a year earlier against Tipperary at Croke Park.
A year on, I think Galway are serious All-Ireland contenders. The defence is sound and not giving up many goal chances, and we have four or five forwards now who are as good as what we’ve produced in years. Shane Walsh has the talent but needs to find consistency, and then you have the likes of Ian Burke, Eamonn Brannigan, Sean Armstrong, and the main man Damien Comer.
If Walsh plays well, Comer seems to come to life. Whenever I see Comer roam, it concerns me. We have enough lads out the field who can run around after the ball, so our full-forward should conserve his energy for when he gets it close to the goal. It’s a similar scenario for Donegal and Michael Murphy. I feel as though Comer’s roaming upsets the system and the shape of the team.
I must admit, there’s part of me that feels the Super 8s are taking away from the excitement of this game. Your season isn’t going to be a success unless you get to those All-Ireland quarter-final groups.
I was in an early-morning business meeting on Monday at 8.30am, with a staunch Carlow man and a Mayo man. Believe it or not, they made me call a halt to proceedings to hear the qualifier draw! The Carlow man nearly flew out the window when he heard Tyrone come out alongside Carlow.
There are huge consequences for winning and losing at the Hyde on Sunday. The winners will qualify for the Super 8s alongside the Munster champions (Cork or Kerry), and two more teams to come from the clashes of qualifiers against the losers of the Ulster and Leinster finals. Win, and you likely avoid Dublin, who should see off Laois. So, for these reasons, this is a huge game for both teams in their development. Win, and you can really knuckle down and get ready for the Super 8s. Lose, and you could have to face a rampant Mayo, Tyrone or Monaghan to qualify for the quarter-finals.
However, back to this Sunday. Enda Smith was exceptional in last year’s Connacht final, and I know his parents well. They are a great GAA family. He goes up and down the field all day and can kick a score or give the killer pass, and Galway failed to keep a tight rein on him last year. He’s definitely a very talented player, and I wouldn’t worry about him struggling in the quarter-finals last year against Lee Keegan — he is not the first that happened to, and won’t be the last! But he needs to kick on in the big games to be ranked among the very best.
In my final opinion, midfield is going to be key this weekend because it gives you a platform to attack on the front foot. Both teams have good forwards but I think Galway got their fingers burnt last year, and they’ve learned from it. They have the pace, they have the scorers, they have the solid defence. Galway by four or five.