I doubt I was alone in feeling that it would be tough for us to come away from Dr Hyde Park with a result this afternoon. How wrong can you be? We almost strolled to victory over Roscommon this afternoon, the match won well before David Gough finally blew for full-time.
We made one change ahead of throw-in, opting to add a bit more experience to our ranks from the outset. Kevin McLoughlin was the man to come in, with Bryan Walsh dropping out.
With the wind behind us as we played into the town goal, we got the day’s opening score. Tommy Conroy was pulled around and Cillian O’Connor slotted over the free from twenty yards out.
Cillian got another chance from a placed ball soon after. Tommy Conroy’s shot was blocked down but flew out for a ’45. Cillian drove his attempt off the floor wide.
Roscommon then opened their account, when Conor Cox got out in front of Chris Barrett to claim the forward mark and tapped it over. We responded well, though, as Paddy Durcan went on a run through the middle of their defence. He was fouled but kept going and belted it over.
Our next score came from a Cillian free. Their ‘keeper Lavin was turned over by Kevin McLoughlin and Kevin was then fouled by the goalie and one of their defenders. Cillian obliged with the free.
Roscommon may not have been making much of an impact on scoreboard but already they were winning most of the clean ball at midfield. They got the next score, though, O’Rourke bagging that one.
But we were the ones keeping the guy perched in the elevated scoreboard box busier. Diarmuid O’Connor let fly with the outside of the boot from distance, a score we’d worked straight from our kickout. Then Kevin McLoughlin caught his marker napping as we restarted quickly from a line ball and knocked it over to extend our lead to three.
The O’Connor brothers got our next two scores. Cillian, once more in irrepressible mood today, claimed a loose ball that broke from a long delivery in and he hooked it over.
Diarmuid’s score was, though, of greater significance. Eoghan McLaughlin created the opening with brilliant, aggressive running, offloading at the perfect moment to the Ballintubber man. The old Diarmuid was back in evidence in how he finished it, waiting until just the right moment before pulling the trigger and then placing it beyond the ‘keeper’s reach into the far corner.
As the Roscommon lads trooped off for the first water break just after they already looked a disconsolate group. They weren’t beaten yet but that was clearly the direction of travel for them.
We got the next score, Aidan languidly stroking it over off his left following good approach work by Ryan O’Donoghue. Now we were eight clear.
When McKeown responded for them soon after it was their first score for almost fifteen minutes. We went through a mini trough at this time, however, failing to raise a flag for ten minutes, a barren run ended when Tommy Conroy pointed following great work by Conor Loftus.
We had a few chances during that scoreless period but hit three wides in quick succession. Our wide count was up to eight at the break at which time we were six to the good, leading by 1-8 to 0-5.
Roscommon simply had to make some impact on the scoreboard early in the second half or else they knew the game and their season would be at an end. Instead, though, it was our lads who upped it, with three points on the spin – all from Cillian – effectively putting the result beyond doubt.
He got the first one from play, ending a downfield move that had involved a necklace of a few dozen passes. He then converted a free after Ryan O’Donoghue, impishly taking off with a burst of speed, was hauled down. Another from play followed soon after.
When we didn’t have the ball, we dropped deep and worked hard to keep Roscommon well outside the scoring D. They were visibly labouring now, our lads looking more comfortable with each passing minute.
Donie Smith and Cillian, once again, traded frees before we made our first switch. Jordan Flynn had come on for a few minutes as a blood sub for Conor Loftus but Conor – who I thought was really solid for us today – was back on before Mark Moran, our latest Championship debutant, replaced Ryan O’Donoghue.
Roscommon then enjoyed a decent spell, shooting three points – two frees from Cox and one from play by Niall Daly – before Paddy went on another blistering run, landing the point as we took a seven-point lead into the second water break.
The match was all but over as a contest now. The pace dropped down a few notches, the home team increasingly looked devoid of ideas and when we got the ball we opted to knock it around, sucking ever more life out of their challenge.
Cox – our tormentor at MacHale Park last year – departed just before the 60-minute mark, having failed to find the target from open play in this game. We were changing our forces too, with Diarmuid O’Connor coming off to be replaced by Jordan Flynn.
Two more frees from Cillian followed. Mark Moran was fouled, the defender wrapping the two arms around the Westport man who had been nicely fed by the energetic Eoghan McLaughlin. Cillian converted with ease.
Our next score was great. We pressured Roscommon hard on the restart – you could hear James Horan looing like a bull, “Pressure! Pressure!”, as his players obliged, forcing Roscommon over and back inside their own ’45. When they eventually played it out, Eoghan McLaughlin pounced and he was joined by three teammates as we forced the Roscommon man to foul the ball. Cillian fired the free over from near the sideline.
McKeown converted a free for them before we got our final score of the day. The impressive Conor Loftus gleefully let fly from distance and over it sailed.
Conor Loftus clips over another score as @MayoGAA progress to the Connacht final – watch the conclusion and post-match analysis on @rte2 – watch highlights on @TheSundayGame at 9.30pm pic.twitter.com/eAhXuvWkEY— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) November 8, 2020
They got the game’s final three points but those scores were inconsequential to the result. We’d won playing well within ourselves and you got the impression that, had we not eased up a good twenty minutes before the finish, we could have won it by a lot more.
It was another good team performance by the lads today. The injection of experience in the form of Chris Barrett and Kevin McLoughlin certainly steadied us, Diarmuid rediscovering his mojo in the first half was a truly heartwarming sight, while Eoghan McLaughlin boosted his reputation with another strong showing.
Stephen Coen was steady in the backline, Paddy Durcan was full of dash and drive, while Conor Loftus was full of running in the middle.
Up front, Cillian was once more in imperious form. He added another nine points to his tally as the all-time top scorer in the Championship today, bagging three from play. With Cillian in this kind of mood, we have the potential to trouble any team.
But, of course, we cannot afford to think beyond the next team that’s facing us. Today’s win secures for us a very welcome place in the Connacht final – for the first time since 2015 – where Galway await us next Sunday. After today’s surprisingly comfortable dethroning of last year’s Connacht champions, we can now start to think about the Nestor Cup decider in earnest.
Mayo: David Clarke; Oisin Mullin, Chris Barrett, Lee Keegan; Paddy Durcan (0-2), Stephen Coen, Eoghan McLaughlin; Matthew Ruane, Conor Loftus (0-1); Kevin McLoughlin (0-1), Ryan O’Donoghue, Diarmuid O’Connor (1-1); Tommy Conroy (0-1), Aidan O’Shea (0-1), Cillian (0-9, three from play). Subs: Jordan Flynn (blood) for Loftus, Mark Moran for O’Donoghue, Jordan Flynn for Diarmuid O’Connor, Rory Brickenden for Ruane, James Carr for Conroy, Michael Plunkett for Coen.
Who was our Man of the Match against Roscommon? Pick your top three performers
- Paddy Durcan (31%, 780 Votes)
- Cillian O'Connor (29%, 733 Votes)
- Eoghan McLaughlin (10%, 253 Votes)
- Conor Loftus (6%, 158 Votes)
- Kevin McLoughlin (6%, 144 Votes)
- Diarmuid O'Connor (5%, 135 Votes)
- Chris Barrett (4%, 100 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (2%, 44 Votes)
- Lee Keegan (1%, 33 Votes)
- Tommy Conroy (1%, 27 Votes)
- David Clarke (1%, 23 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (1%, 22 Votes)
- Oisin Mullin (1%, 20 Votes)
- Mattie Ruane (0%, 10 Votes)
- Ryan O'Donoghue (0%, 9 Votes)
- Mark Moran (0%, 9 Votes)
- Jordan Flynn (0%, 8 Votes)
- Rory Brickenden (0%, 7 Votes)
- Michael Plunkett (0%, 7 Votes)
- James Carr (0%, 5 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,326