Just another championship day for us, wasn’t it? Ever since we decided to go all batshit loony tunes, this is the way it is with us. Another game we should have won but didn’t, another one we could easily have lost but didn’t either. No extra-time today, though, so the crazy caravan gets another outing, this time on August Bank Holiday Monday in Croke Park at a time to be decided.
First off, let’s pay tribute to Roscommon (though I’ll come back to a section of their fans anon). By drawing with us today they became the first Connacht champions since 2001 – besides us – to avoid defeat at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage. Their young team played with heart and guts and they could quite easily have won it. Well done to them.
Congrats too to Kevin McStay and Liam McHale. They won the tactical battle pretty much hands-down today, which, on our side, only serves to underline the real concerns so many of us – myself included – now have as to the logic of some of the big calls we’re making on the line.
Joe McQuillan. What can you say about him? All I’ve ever wished for in a match involving us is a ref who’ll give us something approaching a fair shake in his decisions. It’s clear, if it wasn’t already, that we’ll never get anything approaching that from the Cavan official. Once more in a game involving us he was truly abysmal.
Equally so were those moronic Roscommon “supporters” who booed Andy Moran every time he touched the ball. Shame on you – it’s a pity you didn’t save your voices to give positive support to your brave young team. You idiots have no place in the GAA.
And what of the game itself? As I said at the top, it was all a bit crazy.
We made our expected two changes prior to throw-in, with Tom Parsons not starting and Conor Loftus not on either. Instead Jason Doherty was named as Tom’s nominal replacement and Paddy Durcan started for Conor but neither acted as like-for-like stand-ins.
Lee Keegan picked up Enda Smith from the start, which I guess meant he was operating in midfield (ish) and Diarmuid O’Connor also foraged deeper than normal. Paddy took up station a bit further advanced than usual. See, even I’m confused.
Man, were we all at sea early on. We did exactly what we shouldn’t have done by allowing them to settle into the game, as they posted their opening score, a point from out on the wing by Fintan Cregg, right from the throw-in. Enda Smith belted over a second soon after but we responded to this via a nice Lee Keegan point.
Then came Roscommon’s first goal. Cregg gathered a swift probing ball in but there was no real danger until Diarmuid O’Connor’s mistimed tackle spun Cregg around and left him in the clear facing David Clarke. Whether he meant the top corner chip or not is neither here nor there but in it went and the Rossies were now in the driving seat.
By now, Roscommon were running confidently at us, our defence parting in the alarming way it’s been doing all summer. Less than five minutes after the first goal, they found the net a second time. This time it was Ciaran Murtagh who supplied the finish to send the Connacht champions seven points clear.
Our response was immediate. Jason Doherty claimed a smashing mark, Lee Keegan charged forward and once he got in sight of the posts he let off a rocket. The shot took a wicked deflection off Niall McInerney and ricocheted to the net.
Gradually we reeled them back in from there. As we did so the huge Primrose and Blue support in the stands seemed to shrink back into themselves – apart from the Andy-booing troglodytes – in the same way that their callow team were doing out on the pitch.
Roscommon didn’t score again until a minute before half-time – enduring a 21-minute barren spell – but we added five points after Lee’s goal to turn what had been a seven-point deficit after their second goal into a two-point lead. Lee was leading the charge, having posted 1-3 of this salvo.
The Rossies finally broke their duck via a close-in Murtagh free but Jason Doherty had the last say of the half and we went in two points to the good. After that backline meltdown we’d suffered, we had to have been the happier at that stage.
But then we went out and played like we were in a trance until the end of the third quarter. Right from the throw-in they got a point back and a poor kick-out provided the platform for them to win a free and bag the equaliser.
From then right to the end, neither side managed to crawl clear of the clutches of the other. They went ahead, we pegged them back, they pulled clear again and again we restored parity. And on it went.
They went back in front but when we came with a mini-surge, with points from Cillian O’Connor and Paddy Durcan, we’d got our noses in front as the match approached injury time. Cillian then missed a chance to put us two clear.
Donie Smith’s leveling free was, by any measure, a ballsy effort. But, of course, it should never have happened as Stephen Coen didn’t appear to pick the ball off the ground but he was adjudged to have done so by the ref.
We still, though, had chances to win it. Cillian missed a free and then another chance from play. The last few seconds was all pure helter-skelter stuff but neither side could break the deadlock and so we ended up all square.
I really felt as if all those back door matches caught up on the team today. Several of our lads – Sheamie, Aidan, Diarmuid and Cillian amongst them – looked truly knackered and I think all that physical and mental tiredness contributed hugely to our flat display today.
In that regard, I think we erred badly in not freshening things up more, both as regards the team we named and the substitutions we made. It’s unfair and counter-productive to place all the responsibility on the same bunch of players, day after day after day.
We’ve got a big enough panel to choose from and now is the time to use some of the lads who haven’t got much game time but who have enough experience to play a telling part in proceedings. In my view, there’s a strong case to be made for at least three or four changes to our starting team the next day.
In terms of players who performed well for us today, clearly Lee Keegan stands out as he was the one who dragged us back into it after that haywire opening ten minutes. Keith Higgins had an absolute stormer, so too did the mysteriously substituted Colm Boyle, while Chris Barrett was solid and strong as well.
Kevin McLoughlin was his usual busy self, while Jason Doherty put in another hard-working shift. Paddy Durcan was a real live-wire and bagged two great points. Andy Moran was prominent in attack too, also notching two points, even if it at times looked like he was trying to beat the Rossies on his own.
Aidan came into it more as the game went on. That Rossie lad who poleaxed him was lucky Joe McQuillan was reffing as otherwise it would surely have been a straight red card and one of McQuillan’s worst decisions was when he pulled Aidan for over-carrying when he had two Rossie players climbing all over his back. On a day of tight margins, Aidan’s interception close to our posts near the end was, literally, game-saving.
So, it’s onto Bank Holiday Monday, back at Croke Park once more. Sadly, another one I’m going to miss due to long-standing alternative plans for then but, in any event, I’m not sure my ticker could take too much more of this.
Roscommon will, no doubt, be emboldened by the fact that they’re still standing. But, you know, so are we. And so on goes this remarkable summer, onto our next date with destiny. Onto the next chapter of craziness and maybe, just maybe, onto a place in the All-Ireland semi-finals too.
Mayo: David Clarke; Brendan Harrison, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Lee Keegan (1-3), Chris Barrett, Colm Boyle (0-1); Seamus O’Shea, Jason Doherty (0-1); Kevin McLoughlin, Aidan O’Shea, Diarmuid O’Connor; Paddy Durcan (0-2), Cillian O’Connor (0-3, two frees), Andy Moran (0-2). Subs: Donal Vaughan for Boyle, Conor Loftus for Moran, Tom Parsons for Seamus O’Shea, Stephen Coen for Diarmuid O’Connor, David Drake for Doherty.
Who was our MOTM against Roscommon?
- Lee Keegan (76%, 711 Votes)
- Keith Higgins (7%, 66 Votes)
- Colm Boyle (4%, 34 Votes)
- Paddy Durcan (2%, 16 Votes)
- Jason Doherty (2%, 16 Votes)
- Brendan Harrison (1%, 14 Votes)
- Ger Cafferkey (1%, 14 Votes)
- David Drake (1%, 12 Votes)
- David Clarke (1%, 10 Votes)
- Chris Barrett (1%, 10 Votes)
- Kevin McLoughlin (1%, 9 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (1%, 9 Votes)
- Andy Moran (1%, 7 Votes)
- Seamus O'Shea (0%, 2 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (0%, 2 Votes)
- Diarmuid O'Connor (0%, 1 Votes)
- Cillian O'Connor (0%, 1 Votes)
- Donal Vaughan (0%, 1 Votes)
- Tom Parsons (0%, 1 Votes)
- Conor Loftus (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 936