Coming into tonight’s League opener the bottom line for us was to get a win. Champagne football could wait, slick, well-worked movements could be kept in store for another day. A win, any old win, would do and that was what we eventually got tonight at MacHale Park.
It’s impossible to overstate just how difficult the conditions were at Castlebar tonight. It was cold, it was wet – sheeting bands of rain being driven across the pitch – and it was incredibly windy. The near-gale conditions were there from start to finish, the wind howling directly down the field into the Albany end where the one of the cable stays holding the netting behind the posts snapped just before throw-in.
We got the night’s opening score. Evan Regan won a soft enough free within range and he cleverly swung it into the teeth of the wind and over the bar.
That score – bagged with less than five minutes played – was our only one of the opening half. Within a minute, Compton – from play – had levelled the game and with Robbie Hennelly already having trouble with his restarts (not his fault, it was impossible to come up with a good restart strategy into the wind as Roscommon found out after the break) the visitors soon began to put us under pressure.
An Enda Smith free put them ahead and when the kickout was turned over out the field a speculative effort from them put the Rossies two clear.
They had a goal chance soon after. Cregg was played in and tried to lob Robbie but the keeper did well to paw it over the bar. Another pot shot soon after – this one from over 60 yards out – put them four clear.
While they had the benefit of the wind, we had to use necklaces of handpasses to make progress up the field. Roscommon frequently had fourteen men in their own half so it was no surprise that our attacking efforts repeatedly came to nought, as they eventually turned us over and broke forward.
So we went into damage limitation mode, opting to hold the ball out the field in order to put a lid on the amount of scores they’d get to rack up before the break.
This worked. We didn’t score again before the break but neither did they and that four-point half-time deficit didn’t look overly challenging.
Roscommon were lucky to have their full complement still on the field at that stage. TV replays showed that Donie Smith was involved in a nasty eye gouging incident on Keith Higgins and the Boyle clubman was a very lucky boy to escape sanction for it. That incident, and the schemozzle that followed, brought an ugly edge to the contest.
We withdrew Fergal Boland – who’d done well to link the play around the middle in the first half – on the resumption, with Andy Moran coming on. Conor Diskin – who was in the thick of the action all night – stayed inside with Andy, while Brian Reape came foraging further out the field.
We got off the mark straight away, with Diarmuid O’Connor firing over a cracking point. Ten minutes and a succession of wides later, though, we were still three adrift and the huge home following – which I felt could have done a lot more to get behind their team tonight – was starting to get a tad restless.
Then Keith Higgins was dragged down fifty yards from their posts and Jason Doherty rammed the free over. Two minutes later he did so again, this time from a free taken at least 60 yards out. Now we were – at last – starting to motor.
They lifted the siege via a Compton point but Donal Vaughan – a strong performer all evening for us – responded promptly from play at the other end.
Colm Boyle headed for the sin bin for a rash enough tackle. That could have handed Roscommon an advantage but by the time Boyler came back on ten minutes later we had surged decisively clear.
Paddy Durcan, after great work by Brian Reape, knocked over the equaliser. Then Andy gathered a long ball played into the corner, fed it back to Paddy who laid it across to the unmarked Brendan Harrison. The full-back wasted no time before blasting it over to put us back into the lead.
Seconds later Jason Doherty – lining out for the county for the 100th time tonight and in flying form – doubled our lead. A few minutes later Brian Reape found space inside and let fly with a thunderbolt of a shot that crashed to the net.
The jig was now well and truly up for the Rossies. They’d been wasting time at every opportunity while they were ahead but now time was running out and they were five in arrears.
We failed to score again before the finish but, as it turned out, what we’d racked up by then proved to be enough. Just about.
They pulled a point back just after the goal but their next score didn’t come until deep in stoppage time. That score was a goal – from our perspective a hugely maddening one to give away so late on, a trait we seemingly can’t eradicate – but that was the last scoring chance the visitors got, with the final whistle sounding seconds later.
A win is a win. It wasn’t pretty, the margin of victory could and should have been bigger but we got the result on what was a truly awful night for football. We did it largely thanks to the huge workrate the lads put in and the fact that they didn’t panic as they set about reeling Roscommon in over the course of the second half.
So, in terms of the result, we’ve got the start to this League campaign that we wanted. We’ve won at home, we are – if only for tonight – top of the table. That’ll do for now.
Mayo: Robbie Hennelly; Eoin O’Donoghue, Brendan Harrison (0-1), Keith Higgins; Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle, Paddy Durcan (0-1); Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1), Donal Vaughan (0-1); Fergal Boland, Aidan O’Shea, Jason Doherty (0-3, two frees); Evan Regan (0-1, free), Brian Reape (1-0), Conor Diskin. Subs: Andy Moran for Boland, Stephen Coen for Vaughan, Fionn McDonagh for Diskin, James McCormack for Boyle.
Who was our Man of the Match against Roscommon? Pick your top three performers
- Jason Doherty (30%, 368 Votes)
- Brian Reape (13%, 162 Votes)
- Paddy Durcan (11%, 136 Votes)
- Brendan Harrison (9%, 114 Votes)
- Donal Vaughan (9%, 107 Votes)
- Diarmuid O'Connor (5%, 63 Votes)
- Colm Boyle (5%, 57 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (4%, 54 Votes)
- Conor Diskin (4%, 45 Votes)
- Keith Higgins (2%, 30 Votes)
- Robbie Hennelly (2%, 22 Votes)
- Evan Regan (1%, 12 Votes)
- Fergal Boland (1%, 11 Votes)
- James McCormack (1%, 11 Votes)
- Lee Keegan (1%, 10 Votes)
- Eoin O'Donoghue (1%, 7 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (1%, 7 Votes)
- Fionn McDonagh (1%, 7 Votes)
- Andy Moran (0%, 6 Votes)
Total Voters: 781