A perfect evening for football under the lights of MacHale Park turned out to be just that for the large Roscommon following in the 3,100 attendance, as their much heralded U21 side backed up all the hype with an outstanding display of football. For 45 minutes of this game they were totally dominant in every facet of the game and cut through Mayo at will, for the other 18 minutes they were just happy to let their tigerish and suffocating defence deal with whatever Mayo threw at them.
Playing a snappy direct style of football, founded on a very solid midfield base, they moved the ball quickly through the lines to their devastating two-man full-forward line of Murtagh and Smith and they helped themselves to a total of 4-5, 3-2 from play, out of Roscommon’s total of 4-10. Mayo never quit and managed to hold the Rossies scoreless for 12 minutes of the second half but in truth the damage was done by then.
Roscommon opened the scoring after just 45 seconds as Murtagh started his exhibition of corner forward play with a point. However, two minutes later Mayo responded as Evan Regan won a long ball in, held off his marker and turned on to his right foot to finish smartly and low in the corner. Both sides had goal efforts saved over the next five minutes as they went about exchanging points and wides, and there didn’t appear to be much between the sides.
However, all this was to change from the 17th minute to the 29th as Roscommon rattled Mayo for 3-3 in a blistering spell of football where they went through the gears, found their range of passing and movement and, completely destroyed Mayo as we only managed a solitary point in reply. This 11 point difference was the cushion that allowed Roscommon to display the full array of their talents and that gap reflected on the final scoreboard as they ran out winners by 11 points in a 4-10 to 1-8 mauling.
And yet, that 12 minute spell in the first half all started with a misplaced Roscommon pass that was falling short and straight to O’Hora. However, as happened on a few occasions tonight to Mayo when we needed a bit of luck it just didn’t go our way; the ball fell in front of O’Hora but took a terrible bounce that looped up over the Mayo defender and straight to the Roscommon wing-forward behind him. Two quick handpasses later and Flanagan in the Mayo goal was taking the ball from the back of the net after Murtagh finished clinically.
Three more Roscommon points followed with O’Connor pointing for Mayo. But thirty seconds after the Mayo score a high ball into Murtagh saw him easily round Butler and finish beyond Flanagan again. Evan Regan missed a free two minutes later but a minute after that Murtagh, so often the danger man this evening, was pulled to the ground and the Leitrim referee Eamon O’Grady had no option but to award the penalty. Smith duly dispatched it and the half, and in truth the match, was over.
Mayo were living off scraps for a lot of the first half and were soundly beaten at midfield where Corcoran excelled. We were beaten also in almost every 50/50 contest. The Roscommon lads looked far bulkier and certainly were quicker over the ground than Mayo. They had a game plan, stuck to it and always had willing runners and men in space to pick out.
In contrast, too often Mayo were guilty of overplaying the ball through hand passing, going sideways instead of forwards, delaying the ball into our most potent line of attack in the full-forward line where Regan, Shaughnessy and O’Shea had the beating of their men but, like their senior counterparts, they too were taking the ball into contact where they were constantly outnumbered and outmuscled.
Mayo opened the scoring in the second half with an Evan Regan free but, yet again, Roscommon responded immediately with another goal. This time Smith winning the high ball, rounding his man and finishing low to the back of the net. He had a handier point on offer as soon as he won the ball but such was his confidence he knew he had the beating of his man and that a goal was on. The sides exchanged wides and points over the next ten minutes but Healy and the excellent Enda Smith were coming into their own.
Roscommon nearly goaled again as Stephen Coen lost Healy and allowed him to run 30 yards straight down the middle where he offloaded to Smith. On this occasion Flanagan got down and pushed it wide for a ’45. Roscommon were happy to play counter-attack at this stage and their watertight defence never left a Mayo man in space unattended and, try as Mayo did, they could never work a goal scoring chance. High balls in were cleared, overlapping runs were marked, runs through the middle were closed down and even an effort back off the crossbar was cleared out the field. Regan scored a beaut of a point from out wide, bringing his tally to 1-3, and Collins, on after just 24 minutes for the unfortunate O’Hora, pointed also.
However, fresh Rossie legs added to their superior skills and they finished that game with two points and two wides over the closing six minutes. Michael Hall came on for the black carded Cian Burke midway through the second half and Stephen Conroy and Anthony Jordan were introduced at half-time. Sean Regan came on with three minutes to go but, to be honest, such was Roscommon’s superiority throughout the field that after that 12 minute first half spell it was all about damage limitation.
From a Mayo perspective while it was a disappointing performance and a hiding on the scoreboard it must be remembered that the midfield diamond of numbers 6, 8, 9 amd 11 were all out of the minors from last year and in fairness O’Connor battled throughout. Conor O’Shea in truth was the only Mayo player that Roscommon could not handle, even more so when he moved from the corner to midfield at half time. He looks like he could handle the step-up to the seniors.
Adam Gallagher was very tightly marked and had to work very hard for any space he got. He took a fair bit of punishment too but two dummied solo/side-steps where he wrong-footed three Rossie defenders was the pick of his skills, and even then, wouldn’t you know it, when he bounced the ball it hit a divot and never came back up to him!!!
As for the name that must not be mentioned, Evan Regan? Well he certainly has bulked up but he was starved of quality service tonight so it is hard to fault him. 1-3 of Mayo’s total of 1-8 came from his boot and he had a goal effort saved also. I imagine he would do serious damage given good quality ball.
For us, it’s over. But for the Rossies, it will take a damn fine side to stop them. Best team won and best of luck to them for the remainder of the championship.
Mayo: Matthew Flanagan; Kevin Lynch, Liam Kitterick, Aidan Butler; Cian Burke, Stephen Coen, Padraig O’Hora; Padraic Prendergast, Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1); Gareth O’Donnell, Michael Plunkett, Adam Gallagher (0-1); James Shaughnessy (0-1), Evan Regan (1-3, two frees), Conor O’Shea (0-1). Subs: Eoghan Collins (0-1) for O’Hora, Steven Conroy for Plunkett; Anthony Jordan for Prendergast; Michael Hall for Burke (black card), Sean Regan for Shaughnessy.