Checking out the Rossies

So, regardless of what has happened on the other side of the provincial draw, on Sunday we’re back in Championship action once again. This time we’re up against defending Connacht champions Roscommon with the match taking place at Dr Hyde Park. Throw-in on Sunday is 1.30pm and the game is being broadcast live on RTE2. Meath’s David Gough will ref it.

Like ourselves, the Rossies were supposed to play a provincial quarter-final this year. Their trip to Ruislip to play London was, however, one of the first Championship matches to be axed once Covid struck and complications since then with international travel meant there was simply no way the Exiles could be included this year. Because of this, Sunday marks the start of Roscommon’s defence of a provincial title they won so impressively last summer.

Let’s start there when looking at what Sunday’s opponents have been up to in the recent past.

In the spring of last year Roscommon – having been promoted as Division Two champions the year before – fell back down out of the League’s top tier. Because of this they weren’t fancied to go well in Connacht last summer and we certainly felt we’d have more than enough in the tank when we met them at the provincial semi-final stage. After all, we were then the newly-crowned League champions.

But on that wet and windy Saturday evening in late May at MacHale Park, we discovered that Roscommon were well up for the fight. They beat us by a single point, 2-12 to 0-17, to record their first Championship victory over us since 2001 and their first at the Castlebar venue since way back in 1986.

Fair play to them, they went on to back up that win by claiming the Nestor Cup a few weeks later. Their margin of victory over Galway was four points as they battled back from five points down at the break that day in Pearse Stadium. They were full value for the win, which landed them their 23rd Connacht title.

The Super 8 campaign didn’t, though, work out well for them. An opening round defeat to Tyrone at Hyde Park meant that, with Dublin still to face, they were dead men walking in the group after just one game. The Dubs duly hammered them the following weekend but two weeks after that they finished their summer on a positive note by beating Cork down at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

This spring Anthony Cunningham’s team were faced with what’s now a familiar task for them – get out of Division Two. Critics might sniff that the Rossies aren’t good enough for Division One but one could equally argue that they’re too good for the game’s second tier. Twice they’ve been demoted from Division One in recent years and on both occasions they’ve bounced back up straight away. It’s a trait we’d do well to learn from as we start to think about the Division Two League campaign that will face us at some point next year.

In actual fact, Roscommon started this year’s Division Two schedule rather badly. A home draw, 2-14 apeice, against Laois was followed by a one-point defeat, 0-13 to 0-12, to Fermanagh at Brewster Park that left them glancing a bit nervously in the direction of Division Three.

From then on, though, it was victories all the way. They won five on the spin, three before Covid struck and the other two after the League’s resumption a few weeks back, to top the table and so claim the Division Two title.

Those wins were a 1-8 to 0-4 success over Clare at Hyde Park, a 2-11 to 0-13 victory at Newbridge over Kildare, a 1-16 to 0-12 win over Westmeath back on home turf and then those two wins in Ulster in October to finish off. The first of these was a highly impressive 3-10 to 0-15 win over Armagh up at the Athletic Grounds, while the Division Two title was secured at Breffni Park as they bested Cavan by 1-12 to 0-13.

Notice anything about those scores? That’s right – it’s six games now since the Rossies conceded a single goal. That’s a decent defensive record.

Despite this and notwithstanding too the fact that we’ve failed to reach a Connacht decider since way back in 2015 (still less win one), we’re apparently favourites to win on Sunday. I find that hard to credit, not least given the difficulties we often encounter to eke out a result at Sunday’s venue – we last beat Roscommon there in the Championship in 2014. But, apparently, favourites we are.

Despite the levity with which I dealt with this question on the last episode of the podcast – where I made light of the Rossies’ challenge and predicted a 3/4 point win for James Horan’s team – I honestly think this one is no better than a 50:50 shot for us. While I’d be very hopeful we’ll do it, it wouldn’t be the greatest shock either if we didn’t.

What do the rest of you reckon, though? Let’s end with a vote on that.

Will we beat Roscommon on Sunday?

  • Yes (62%, 567 Votes)
  • No (38%, 349 Votes)

Total Voters: 916

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51 thoughts on “Checking out the Rossies

  1. Hello Willie Joe and Co

    Looking forward to the battle on Sunday in the Hyde, I cannot understand how the bookies have us as such hot favourites on Winter football and away from home against an inform team full of confidence.

    2 things that will have a huge impact on the outcome of the game is the team selection , Mayo will require a physical presence in the middle third, it will be a scrappy dogfight and we need to win that battle, i include playing Aidan O Shea At 11 to bulk it up,

    the other point is , well you will just have to listen to the podcast to figure that out

    https://open.spotify.com/episode/4LwM3WrvMlHjxrEvvyt5IH

    https://anchor.fm/ah-ref/episodes/Roscommon-preview-Leitrim-Review-elvoj7

    RSS feed

    https://anchor.fm/s/f0039a8/podcast/rss

    Enjoy the game everyone and up mayo

  2. Don’t buckle now WJ!
    That 3 to 4 point Mayo win is what I expect on Sunday. People forget that last time we played them it took a last minute winner from them to take the spoils, and McLoughlin missed a free to draw after that.
    I don’t believe they will have the firepower to pull away from us (they are taking an average of 13 scores per game) and that is against division two defenses. Cunningham is a cautious coach and his teams play cautious football so they will not run up a big tally. They will be very efficient in their shooting so whatever they create they will most likely score from, but they won’t create a huge amount.
    We deservedly were relegated but our form and shooting boots have been hugely improved since we returned from lock-down e.g. 3-23 v Galway, 1-19 v Tyrone and 2-15 v Leitrim (with their keeper also making two brilliant saves). I think a 3 to 4 point win is very achievable.

  3. I think we probably deserve to be slight favourites but a lot depends on the 15 chosen, their positions and the subs. I would bring AOS out for this one as he’s ideal for winter conditions so the closer to the action the better. Also Kevin Mc should play, fine give new guns a chance vs Leitrim but we need a very strong starting 15. Bringing AOS out allows space for Darren Coen or James Carr to start, both lads with scoring boots.

  4. In the armagh game I think the rossies got lucky. From what I remember around the 30 minute mark they had only 3pts on the board then scored a penalty and another goal within minutes that really changed the look of the game (maybe I’m not giving them enough credit).Having said that I’m very wary of them for Sunday. They seem to have a settled team, good subs and playing at home and it all means mayo needs to be on top form from start to end. I’d like to see O’Shea cf or mf for this game with boyle 6 Barrett in corner and move keegan out. No point bringing in old players firefighting, get couple of them in from start settle down and newbies in when game opens up. Think we’ll have enough to win but like you Willie Joe I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes wrong.

  5. I’m quietly confident. Complacency was a factor last year in my view when they caught us, I don’t see that being an issue this time round. They’ll rightly fancy their chances of having a serious cut off us, but, whilst we may be at our most vulnerable when complacent, they’re at their most vulnerable when expectations are high. Swagger has never suited them and they’ve not been shy in celebrating the recent reversal in league statuses either. If we can introduce a bit more physicality with some experienced heads coming back in, we have the firepower up front to hurt them and I’m confident we’ll do just that.

  6. Another interesting trend from those league results WJ, is that they scored a goal in all but one of their games. And in 3 out of the 7 games they scored 2 or more goals. Also, as you pointed out above, last year the Rossies scored 2 goals to our zero which effectively won them the match in Castlebar. The only game we scored 3 goals in was v Galway. Even against Leitrim we missed a number of clear chances for goals. I will say our FF line is much better this year than it was vs. Ross last year. Conroy and Cillian are major upgrades on Regan and Coen.

    Weather looks decent for Sunday. It’ll be a wet ball but wind will be slight enough and conditions underfoot should be much better, especially given how good the pitch in the Hyde is (regularly reminder to those on the Mayo GAA board to get the finger out and lay a new pitch in Castlebar). I know others have pointed our Horan’s sets up teams with very little concern for defense but if we can stop the Rossies scoring goals, some how break even at mid-field we should create enough scoring chances to win the game.

    Also, any chance WJ of ED/Ger asking Horan where Fergal Boland and Hennelly are gone? I think the journalist wasted a good chance of getting answers on missing players from him when he asked about why Brickenden didn’t start and Horan then lost the head!

  7. I agree that they caught us on the hop last time out and even then, we should at least have gotten a draw out of it.
    We were also missing Seamie, Boyler and Cillian and gifted them daft goals.
    That said, there is a huge difference between this year and last year in terms of personnel.
    I agree with Ah Ref and the comments made on both podcasts. I fear for us in terms of physical presence around the middle 8. Think Roscommon are huge price to beat us – I don’t know how we’re such heavy favourites.
    Both podcasts make reference to how Mayo beat Roscommon comfortably in 2017 with a gulf in conditioning between both side. Definitely feel the tables have turned in that regard!
    It’s hard to know what team Horan will put out and whether he’ll go back to some of the older crop for a finish. Diarmuid will definitely start and I think McLaughlin will definitely feature also.
    We’ll see what team takes to the pitch Sunday if it’s similar to last Sunday’s and Aidan doesn’t have the legs for midfield, I can only see one winner and it ain’t Mayo.

  8. @willie Joe, Just to point out the Rossies margin of victory over Galway in the Connacht final last year was 4 points.

  9. Clarke

    Mullin
    Coen
    Keegan
    Durcan
    Plunkett
    Eoghain

    Ruane
    Loftus

    K mac
    Cillian
    Diarmuid

    Carr
    O shea
    Conroy

    Keegan to pick up Cox. Coen on Smith. Not much point talking about sweepers as horan thinks they belong on the roads !!

  10. That’s an excellent piece, Catcol.
    I think it’s more about a lack of options than anything else though. I haven’t forgotten last year’s semi final against Dubin where, for 12 solid minutes, we couldn’t win any kind of ball at midfield, resulting in the meltdown.
    Hard to see any serious team not targeting this.

  11. I wish i could be as optimistic as some of the posters above. I was hoping to see some form of a defensive plan against Leitrim, but again it appeared to be one v one in the backline. A repeat of the first 15 minutes of that game and we’ll be out of the championship. Roscommon will target goals as early as possible, they’ll flood their defence and turn us over in the expected wet, and blanket defence friendly weather. They’ll provide super quick ball to Cox and Co our else run straight through our centre channel creating over-laps. We dont have any sort of Physical presence around the middle, and don’t seem to be learning our lessons about committing so many bodys forward in attack.

    Roscommon are limited, but have a good manager with a settled system of play, and they know exactly what they are doing. We seem to be trying to find our feet with a ‘new’ team so to speak. To have any chance of winning this one, we need Aido at MF….its not 27 degree heat on Sunday, so Aido would flourish in these conditions around the middle. We lack physicality in this sector.

    If we don’t start Kevin, Barrett/O’Hora , and Aido around the middle, we won’t win this, not a chance. Im losing confidence in Horan to shore up our defence, so an early exit is extremely likely unfortunately.

  12. I wish i could be as optimistic as some of the posters above. I was hoping to see some form of a defensive plan against Leitrim, but again it appeared to be one v one in the backline. A repeat of the first 15 minutes of that game and we’ll be out of the championship. Roscommon will target goals as early as possible, they’ll flood their defence and turn us over in the expected wet, and blanket defence friendly weather. They’ll provide super quick ball to Cox and Co our else run straight through our centre channel creating over-laps. We dont have any sort of Physical presence around the middle, and don’t seem to be learning our lessons about committing so many bodys forward in attack.

    Roscommon are limited, but have a good manager with a settled system of play, and they know exactly what they are doing. We seem to be trying to find our feet with a ‘new’ team so to speak. To have any chance of winning this one, we need Aido at MF….its not 27 degree heat on Sunday, so Aido would flourish in these conditions around the middle. We lack physicality in this sector.

    If we don’t start Kevin, Barrett/O’Hora , and Aido around the middle, we won’t win this, not a chance. Im losing confidence in Horan to shore up our defence, so an early exit is extremely likely unfortunately.

  13. I wish i could be as optimistic as some of the posters above. I was hoping to see some form of a defensive plan against Leitrim, but again it appeared to be one v one in the backline. A repeat of the first 15 minutes of that game and we’ll be out of the championship. Roscommon will target goals as early as possible, they’ll flood their defence and turn us over in the expected wet, and blanket defence friendly weather. They’ll provide super quick ball to Cox and Co our else run straight through our centre channel creating over-laps. We dont have any sort of Physical presence around the middle, and don’t seem to be learning our lessons about committing so many bodys forward in attack.

    Roscommon are limited, but have a good manager with a settled system of play, and they know exactly what they are doing. We seem to be trying to find our feet with a ‘new’ team so to speak. To have any chance of winning this one, we need Aido at MF….its not 27 degree heat on Sunday, so Aido would flourish in these conditions around the middle. We lack physicality in this sector.

    If we don’t start Kevin, Barrett/O’Hora , and Aido around the middle, we won’t win this, not a chance. Im losing confidence in Horan to shore up our defence, so an early exit is extremely likely unfortunately.

  14. I wish i could be as optimistic as some of the posters above. I was hoping to see some form of a defensive plan against Leitrim, but again it appeared to be one v one in the backline. A repeat of the first 15 minutes of that game and we’ll be out of the championship. Roscommon will target goals as early as possible, they’ll flood their defence and turn us over in the expected wet, and blanket defence friendly weather. They’ll provide super quick ball to Cox and Co our else run straight through our centre channel creating over-laps. We dont have any sort of Physical presence around the middle, and don’t seem to be learning our lessons about committing so many bodys forward in attack.

    Roscommon are limited, but have a good manager with a settled system of play, and they know exactly what they are doing. We seem to be trying to find our feet with a ‘new’ team so to speak. To have any chance of winning this one, we need Aido at MF….its not 27 degree heat on Sunday, so Aido would flourish in these conditions around the middle. We lack physicality in this sector.

    If we don’t start Kevin, Barrett/O’Hora , and Aido around the middle, we won’t win this, not a chance. Im losing confidence in Horan to shore up our defence, so an early exit is extremely likely unfortunately.

  15. It’s a big risk Catcol. Loftus needs to seriously bulk up in order to survive the physicality of the middle third. He’s not at that level yet. Look at the limerick hurlers…the conditioning of some of them now versus where those same players were 3 years ago. That’s what Loftus needs to get to. He doesnt have the height to win many aerial duels so to compensate he needs to get much stronger.

  16. But it’s not only Loftus; on whom all the focus seems to be.

    I was shocked at the way Leitrim pushed us around last Sunday. We won well on the scoreboard, but I felt that we weren’t at the races physically – all over the field, and the includes the subs who came on.

  17. The point about the pitch in Castlebar is well made. There are a number of better pitches in Mayo and that should not be. The Castlebar pitch should be pristine. There should be less club matches on it also. It should be reserved for semi finals and finals. Put a bit more majesty back in it. Places like Charlestown, Ballina, The Neale and an improved Westport should be used more often

  18. Actually, Mayonaze, I think the physicality thing is missing the point. It’s all about hunger and fight to win ball around the middle, Loftus doesn’t bring that. He’s not that much smaller than Parsons but when Parsons came back playing for Mayo in 2014 he brought this drive/determination (along with natural good fielding ability and pace) that he previously lacked. For example, James McCarthy is an excellent midfielder and he is not a very big guy, but he is tough as nails.

    As you mentioned, Loftus doesn’t bring an ability to win aerial ball (which is not a strength of Ruane’s either) so I’m really not sure how Mayo are going to win ball around the middle, especially with Clarke’s kick-outs.

  19. I think there is a strong case for starting Seamus o Shea midfield and Boyler centre back. SOS had a very good championship with Breaffy and looked in great shape. Has he lost the fitness since??
    If we start a similar middle 8 to the Leitrim game – the Rossies will destroy us physically around the middle. Guaranteed they will pressure Clarkes short kick outs and force him to go long. We need a few ball winners around midfield.
    James McCarthy is physically very well built. and would brush past most of our middle third from the Leitrim game as if they weren’t there.

  20. The conditions will play a big part on Sunday. Mayo can’t let Roscommon get a 4 point lead like they did with Leitrim. I like Loftus at midfield, he has a good range of kick passing and it suits him more to be facing the goal rather than having his back to it. Yes, he doesnt have the physicality. It would probably be better for him if he had the experience of Parsons or Seamie alongside him rather than Ruane who is still inexperienced at county level.

    Mayo need to go back to the tactic from kickouts that they used against Galway where everyone bunches into the middle and then split to each wing. It gives Clarke many more options.

  21. Seamus o Shea played CHB in the club championship and probably cant get up and down the field as in days past. Murray and McCormack both off the panel thought one of these may have came through, next year we need to try and blood the likes of Barry Duffy, Nathan Moran tall and athletic type players for the middle, Sean Walsh Kiltimagh outplayed both Jordan Flynn and Loftus in the club championship has the height but mobility might be an issue but if not tried we will never know. Evan o Brien is another young player that might be worth bring in, They are around the right age for a young midfielder 22-24. The intermediate championship has brought a lot of young players on more as they are getting more game time than at senior clubs. Conor o Shea probably outshone his clubmate more around the middle this year but have he wasted all of his chances. Next year we will have Jack Carney and Frank Irwin in our U20’s both have bright futures.

  22. We are going into winter championship football with less physicality than we have had for years.
    Ruane and Loftus are not a good midfield partnership, neither are physical, good fielders or defensive minded
    Ruane and Aiden were a good partnership in 2019 League, Ruane has not achieved the same form since but his role was different.Maybe we should start SOS Aiden at full forward and bring Aiden out for the second half. Aiden expends a lot of energy and in the 16 and 17 All Irelands faded in the later stages. I do not think he can go at full pace for the full game and he always plays the full game.Other alternative is his usual 11 spot where he is basically a third midfielder. Good to see Carr back, a great talent and I assume his absence has been injury related. Hard to reach your potential if you miss so much. Remembe Coen was brilliant against Roscommon last year. We have plenty of options for the full forward line. Very interested to see who is top 15 and bench for Sunday.Experimentation is over for now and we will see if the old guns are still in the picture come Sunday.
    We have to improve at midfield and in defense and we can not be stretched out and exposed like we have been or we will concede goals. Against Throne for the second goal both defenders on the back line were well in front of their men, 2 long passes from defense and Tyrone had a clear path to goal and despite his speed Oisin could not catch his man.We saw Roscommon do similar last year and get a decisive goal with Keith caught out.

  23. Good article catcol. I think our midfield pairing might just come unstuck in the heavy Hyde.
    Leitrem swamped us for the first fifteen mins in carrick. We cant afford such a slow start against stronger opposition. I think we need more physicaliy in midfield to prevent this happening

  24. That midfield the last 2 days will defo be targeted in the Hyde. So will David Clarke’s lockouts. Ros will want us to have to build slowly from defence tackling hard in the middle third and hoping to catch us on the break. If Horan doesn’t pick the right team for this game It could be a very long day and a v short championship.

  25. I don’t understand why people are questioning loftus and Ruanes credibility to this team no it’s not our best midfield pairing but it’s likely the midfield pairing we will see on Sunday
    Don’t underestimate the talent loftus and Ruane have ,I feel that mayo need to bring back AIDO guarding the middle of the field and more so the centre half back area I feel he can be effective here as he is such a big unit and is a very good tackle of the ball
    Diarmuid o connor and fionn mcdonagh to start on the wings winning dirty ball
    And a full forward line of Cillian o connor Tommy conroy and James carr

  26. Everyone seems on the same page re our midfield, just seems physically impossible if we go in with the same personnel as last couple of games .

  27. Am looking forward to seeing that surface in action Rossieman. Don’t think Mayo have actually played on it. Shouldn’t be affected by the weather I presume?

  28. Team I’d reckon will start.

    D Clarke
    O Mullin C Barrett S Coen
    P Durcan L Keegan E McLaughlin
    M Ruane C Loftus
    K McLoughlin D O’Connor J Carr
    C O’Connor A O’Shea T Conroy

  29. @Catcol, no rain doesn’t affect it, once game is over Sunday you would be able to play another game straight away if you wanted.

  30. I think you’re very close with that team Spectre. I think there might be one more change with Barrett to come in for Plunkett.

    We’re getting awful giddy about the midfield battle. We’ll have a plan to manage that area.

  31. I heard they let their sheep graze on the Hyde? Or maybe that’s just the fella that won the freedom of Roscommon town. Anyway hope the pitch is as good as being claimed!

  32. @Mayonaze.
    Re: Look at the limerick hurlers…the conditioning of some of them now versus where those same players were 3 years ago.

    Not disagreeing re their conditioning, but they won the All Ireland 2 years ago. I’ve heard alright that they look unbeatable this year, but surely they must have been in fair shape 2 years ago to win it.

  33. If we dont concide silly goals. I’m quite confident we’ll out score them by 5. In my opinion it’s the goalkeeper’s job to see no Roscommon forwards are free inside the 30 metre line. He should be the most vocal Mayo man in the Hyde.Shout, scream, until the fullback line is sick of you would be my advice to Clarke.

  34. @mayomessi don’t forget young Connall Dempsey when talking of young upcoming midfielders. mobile, athletic, can score and field ball. And has county senior medal starting in midfield 18 years.

    Team and bench will tell alot the next day as to managements intentions. I’d agree with lot of posters that some older heads should come back into fray.

  35. @Revellino, I got a good look at the Limrick hurlers the day of the Hurling and Football League finals last year.. Limrick having easily defeated Waterford and won the National Hurling League Final, were still on the Pitch when The Mayo and Kerry footballers took to the pitch for their own League Final… Not alone did it look like the Limrick men versus the boys of Waterford, they looked big and very well conditioned in comparison to both the Mayo and Kerry Football teams, and there’s nothing feeble about either Kerry or Mayo..

  36. Yep I heard that too on radio this morning. A lot of people fancy the rossies and I’m very friendly with two former captains of their seniors…they are confident about Sunday. Feel they are in form. No one talking about them, well that’s gone now with O’Se saying they’ll beat us.

    Roscommon haven’t knocked us out of championship in a long time. It should be a tough encounter and wet conditions generally acts as a leveller. But Mayo need to believe that if they play to their potential they’ll win. We were horrible last year in Castlebar that day. Sure, ros have a chance on Sunday but I would view it as a serious set back if we aren’t coming away with a victory. This is knockout football.

  37. *and please James Horan. Do not start Diarmuid on the wing. Being there frustrates him. He doesnt see the ball and his performance is effected. It’s an utter waste of talent. To get the best out of Diarmuid O’Connor you throw him directly into the heat of the battle and just let him play his natural ‘box to box’ game. He absolutely must be played in midfield or at 11. If he gets into his groove there’ll be no player on the pitch on Sunday who can match him.

  38. Done deal, Ethan Henry will be with the U20s next year as will Conell Dempsey and Adam Naughton still all only 18-19 years old, Ethan was a minor this year still to young to be a starting midfield in the Mayo senior setup. Post was about midfielders that could be tried at senior level next spring around the 22-24 year old mark. You are right about Ethan Henry, he is for the future but not the immediate one.

  39. Very hard for us on the blog to predict a team as we don’t know the extent of knocks , injuries and form in training. I too would worry about mid field physically. Would start Aiden out there with Carr coming into the full forward line ..
    Clarke.
    Barrett , Cone ,Mullen
    McLaughlin, Keegan, Durcan
    Aiden and Ruane
    Kevin Mc , loftus, Diarmuid
    Conroy ,Carr , Cillian.
    Really nervous about this one .Think we should start defensively and use quick ball into our full forward line .. All capable of causing damage

  40. Must be something I’m obviously missing here cause I just can’t fathom how we will cope physically in the middle with that team . Best of luck to them I’m sure they’ll give it their best , tis a long time since a mayo team were found wanting for giving it their all into battle and I’m sure this will be the same .

    Hope I’m so wrong but I just can’t see a victory on Sunday though .

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