Allianz FL D1: Mayo's unbeaten run continues
Allianz Football League Division One
Kevin Egan reports from Dr. Hyde Park
It was hard to tell if the prospect of a Connacht quarter-final clash between these two fierce provincial rivals on Easter Sunday was dulling the edge of this league tie in the first half of this afternoon’s game at Dr. Hyde Park, as Mayo burst out of the blocks and then cruised to half time with a wind-assisted five-point lead.
Muscle memory and competitive instinct wasn’t long about bubbling up to the surface after half-time however, as goals from Enda Smith and Conor Cox set up a dramatic finish in front of 12,491 enthralled supporters, before Matthew Ruane’s late score all but confirmed Mayo’s place in this year’s league final.
It didn’t look as if any such drama was in store as Mayo burst out of the blocks with a dominant first quarter, rattling off seven unanswered points with the breeze behind them. A series of sloppy errors in possession from Roscommon certainly didn’t help the home side’s cause, but there was plenty to be happy about from a Mayo perspective as well, with Cillian O’Connor exceptionally sharp up front, Jack Carney linking up the play incredibly well, while Sam Callinan and Jack Coyne more than justified their selection in the full back line.
Even as Roscommon mustered something of a kick coming up to half-time, with Diarmuid Murtagh kicking three points and Conor Daly bursting forward to split the uprights from 25 metres out, it still felt like Mayo had them easily contained. The powerful running of wing forwards Fionn McDonagh and Jordan Flynn was breaking tackles and creating overlaps, while Roscommon’s talisman players weren’t making anything like the same impression.
A gradual increase in the tempo of the play after half-time saw the two sides split six points evenly between them, with Cillian O’Connor and Enda Smith kicking the highlight reel scores for their respective sides, before Mayo suddenly surged eight points clear thanks to TG4 man of the match Jack Carney, who was first to pounce when Conor Daly spilled a pass from Colin Walsh.
Within six minutes of that concession, Roscommon were back within three points, their own goal coming from Enda Smith with a quarter of an hour remaining.
Initially, it seemed like Mayo steadied the ship, scoring three out of the next four points. They also had a glorious chance to kill the game entirely when Ryan O’Donoghue weaved his way through on goal from the left corner, floating a handpass in towards Tommy Conroy, who palmed it against the crossbar.
They paid the price for that miss when Ciaráin Murtagh chipped over a free, Brian Stack played in Conor Cox for a second goal, and suddenly Roscommon were one white flag away from parity.
A well-worked Matthew Ruane score, with O’Donoghue again assisting, forced the Rossies to chase a third goal, and it might have happened too, as Ben O’Carroll won possession in a crowd of players and then got his shot away on goal, only for Diarmuid O’Connor to make a decisive block.
So the fairytale finish didn’t happen, but Roscommon will feel a lot better about their prospects of turning over their neighbours next month, and certainly much better than they might have felt midway through the first half.
For Mayo, the bandwagon rolls on, and it would now take an exceptional set of results to prevent them from bringing it all the way to Croke Park in four weeks’ time.
Scorers for Mayo: Cillian O’Connor 0-7 (0-6f), Jack Carney 1-1, James Carr 0-3, Tommy Conroy 0-1, Fionn McDonagh 0-1, Rory Byrne 0-1 (45), Bob Tuohy 0-1, Matthew Ruane 0-1.
Scorers for Roscommon: Diarmuid Murtagh 0-4 (0-3f), Enda Smith 1-1, Conor Cox 1-1 (0-1f), Ciaráin Murtagh 0-2 (0-1f), Conor Daly 0-1, Daire Cregg 0-1, Tadhg O’Rourke 0-1.
Mayo: Rory Byrne; Sam Callinan, David McBrien, Jack Coyne; Paddy Durcan, Conor Loftus, Stephen Coen; Matthew Ruane, Diarmuid O'Connor; Fionn McDonagh, Jack Carney, Jordan Flynn; Cillian O'Connor, James Carr, Tommy Conroy.
Subs: Bob Tuohy for McDonagh (48), Aidan O’Shea for Flynn (55), Ryan O’Donoghue for C O’Connor (62), Jason Doherty for Conroy (68), Conor McStay for Carr (68).
Roscommon: Colm Lavin; Conor Hussey, Conor Daly, Colin Walsh; David Murray, Brian Stack, Niall Daly; Tadhg O'Rourke, Keith Doyle; Ciarán Lennon, Richard Hughes, Robbie Dolan; Ben O'Carroll, Enda Smith, Diarmuid Murtagh.
Subs: Ciaráin Murtagh for Dolan (23), Daire Cregg for Lennon (half-time), Niall Kilroy for Doyle (50), Donie Smith for C Daly (53), Conor Cox for D Murtagh (62).
Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare)