It’s a long way from the business end of the year, but the determination shown by Mayo to dig out what looked like an impossible victory as the game moved towards the end of normal time and they trailed by five points is something that will warm the spirits of the Mayo faithful ahead of their league opener against Monaghan in a fortnights time.
The sun hung low over Kiltoom all afternoon as a healthy crowd took up residence around the St Brigid’s GAA Club grounds for what was a fascinating and very entertaining encounter between Mayo and Roscommon on the second last Sunday in January.
With four minutes left to go on the clock, Mayo trailed by eight and had been reduced to 14 men after Conor O’Shea had been shown his second yellow 53 minutes in and they were further short handed when Paddy Durcan was shown a black card five minutes after O’Shea had been sent for an early shower.
Things get a bit personal during the first half between Mayo and Roscommon. Photo: Sportsfile
But they kept plugging away and Jason Gibbons was upended just inside the large rectangle and referee John Gilmartin awarded the spot kick. Up stepped Cillian O’Connor who drove it high to the net past Colm Lavin to cut the gap back to five points and looked like putting some respectablilty on the scoreboard after Mayo had gone 20 minutes without scoring and Roscommon had kicked seven points on the bounce to go into a deserved and commanding lead.
Four minutes later Andy Moran who had been introduced just after O’Connor’s penalty was found by the Mayo captain close into goal and he rounded Lavin to roll the ball to the net and the gap was back to just two with five minutes injury time to play. Plenty of time for Mayo to reel in their hosts with a couple of points, but Mayo went for goals and Shane Nally cracked one for the target two minutes into injury time and Lavin did well to put it out for a 45’ that dropped short from O’Connor and the Roscommon keeper ended up getting injured in the process of fetching the ball adding on a few more seconds to the overtime and Mayo used it to their advantage right at the death.
Three Mayo subs combined to hit the fatal blow with Cathal Carolan and Tom Parsons working the ball to Moran who was tight to the endline on the right hand side under pressure, but the Ballaghaderren man rode a tackle before firing the ball to the back of the net from a very acute angle to raise the green flag and he wheeled away in jubilation, jumping for joy as he made his way back to down the field just before Gilmartin blew the final whistle after the kick-out from the goal.
Man and ball: Robert Hennelly breaks the ball away from a Roscommon attacker. Photo:Sportsfile
It was a hectic end to a frantic game, Mayo went in leading on a scoreline of 1-9 to 1-8 at the end of the first half with the goals coming from Liam Irwin for Mayo and Enda Smith for Roscommon. Smith’s goal came five minutes into the game after he was picked out by Donie Smith on the break after the Roscommon corner forward had got in behind the Mayo cover. With 12 minutes gone Roscommon led 1-5 to 0-4, but a minute later Irwin found the back of the net after some excellent link play involving Kevin McLoughlin and Cillian O’Connor to set the Breaffy man free in space. There then followed a scuffle that took a few minutes to be sorted out with four men, two from each side being shown yellow cards after a bout of pulling, dragging and jostling near the sideline. Both sides tagged on a number of points before the break as the game moved at high speed form end to end, with Mayo’s midfield pairing of Jason Gibbons and Danny Kirby putting in a particularly good showing.
A O’Connor free two minutes into the second half had Mayo two clear, but it was all about to become about Roscommon for the next 25 minutes as they took complete control of the game. Enda Smith danced through the Mayo rearguard to finish the ball past Robert Hennelly for the second time of the afternoon after Kevin Higgins, who’d hit two beauties of points in the first half had been involved in the move to set him free. Smit added two more points one from a free and another from play along with four points from Donie Smith and one each from Tadhg O’Rourke and Niall Kilroy as Kevin McStay’s side pushed themselves into what looked like a winning lead. But it wasn’t to be as Mayo somehow found the resolve to battle back and hit the back of the net three times down the home straight.
Mayo: C O’Connor 1-5 (1-0pen, 5f ), A Moran 2-0, L Irwin 1-1 (1f ), F Boland 0-2, P Durcan, D Kirby, C O’Shea 0-1
Roscommon: E Smith 2-3 (2f ), D Smith 0-4 (2f ), C Connolly 0-3; K Higgins, C Murtagh 0-2 (2f ), T O’Rourke, N Kilroy 0-1.
Mayo: R Hennelly; D Newcombe, R O’Malley, P Durcan; M Plunkett, S Coen, D Drake; J Gibbons, D Kriby; F Boland, K McLoughlin, J Doherty; L Irwin, C O’Connor, C O’Shea. Subs: E Regan for Irwin, K Higgins for O’Malley; T Parsons for D Kirby, S Nally for P Durcan (BC ), A Moran for F Boland, C Carolan for J Gibbons.
Roscommon: C Lavin; D Murray, T Featherston, N McInerney; R Stack, U Harney, C McManus; T O’Rourke, K Higgins; F Cregg, C Murtagh, E Smith; C Connolly, T Corcoran, D Smith. Subs: N Kilroy for C Murtagh, G Paterson for Harney, S Killoran for Cregg, H Walsh for Connolly, B Murtagh for Stack 60,C Shine for D Smith.