GALWAY GAA (Preview): ROSCOMMON vs GALWAY (Sunday, 4pm Dr. Hyde Park) 

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For the third consecutive year, Galway and Roscommon go head-to-head in the Connacht Football Final with so much at stake and questions about the Tribesmen’s credentials needing to be answered. 

There’s a ‘Groundhog Day’ feeling to 2018’s first provincial decider.  Galway are red hot favourites (4/9) against outsiders Roscommon (9/4) and expectations among the maroon and white faithful are at fever pitch.

A place in the new look Super 8s is also on the line; the teams have shared one Connacht title each; and Galway will be anxious to atone for their demoralising 2-15 to 0-12 loss in Pearse Stadium in 2017.

Kevin Walsh’s side seem to have improved since.  They were unbeaten in the National League before falling in the decider to Dublin, they beat Mayo for the third year in succession, walloped Sligo when expected and have only conceded two goals all year.

Whispers in the background have them as All-Ireland championship dark horses.  Even if those are premature, they are expected to be at the business end.  And they are expected to reclaim the Connacht crown.

But anybody discounting Roscommon need to have a serious think.  It’s all set up again like last year.  They dispatched Leitrim and could have planned for this game for months.  And they are in a winning habit in 2018 with seven wins from nine including the Division Two league title.

Diarmuid Murtagh is their main attacker but how corner forwards Donie Smith and Niall Kilroy fare could determine Kevin McStay’s team’s fate.  Ciarain Murtagh is another to watch while David Murray and Brian Stack will lead the defence.

We need to remind ourselves that Roscommon are defending champions!  The game is in Dr. Hyde Park and after fighting hard to ensure they hosted the fixture, the primrose and blue will be determined to leave their mark.

That’s the challenge for Galway.  Under normal circumstances, a Connacht title wouldn’t define them but they need to win this match.  After choking against Tipperary (2016) and Roscommon (2017), they need to prove they can handle the role of favourites more than just one productive afternoon against Sligo.

Damien Comer is one of the country’s current top players; Eamonn Brannigan, Shane Walsh and Johnny Heaney are a quality half forward line; Paul Conroy’s influence in midfield will be beneficial; and Sean Andy O’Ceallaigh and Sean Kelly have helped secure their defensive frailties.  However, corner backs Declan Kyne and David Wynne could hold the keys against Smith and Kilroy.

Whether Galway are All-Ireland contenders won’t be answered over these 70 minutes but they could be ruled out.  It must be a professional effort, whether defensive or attack orientated.  And they must be victorious with no doubt near the finish.

Roscommon will have similar thoughts setting this up to be a massive battle.  But surely Galway have learned from seasons past and will be holding the Nestor Cup again on Sunday evening.

Verdict: Galway