What a game, there are some out there who want to see the u21 grade eliminated from a congested inter-county calendar, to the doubters out there the clash of Mayo and Roscommon in Charlestown showed that them why this competition should be maintained. Mayo came out on the right side of
of a thriller. The two thousand or so who paid in, were taken on a rip roaring ride of emotions as Mayo looked to have thrown away an seven point lead at half time to be three points down with injury time almost up. A Mayo free was floated into the area from out on the right hand side tight to the sideline. As the ball dropped a scrum of players went up to contest it, the bouncing ball dropped six yards out legs and limbs flailed at it. Jason Doherty got a foot to it, and a deflection off the inner thigh of a Roscommon defender saw it deflect past Mark Miley in the Roscommon goal and level it up at the death on a score of 3-10 to 2-13.
For the 80 minutes the contest lasted there were hero's all over the park for both sides, Tom Parsons, Kevin McLoughlin, Aidan O'Shea, Jason Doherty and Conor Jordan were all top class. While for the visitors substitute Conor Devanney turned the game on it's head when he was introduced at half time, he was ably assisted by David O'Gara, Kevin Higgins and Donal Shine.
When the game got to half time it looked like Mayo had it in the bag leading by 2-5 to 0-4 with the goals coming from Jason Doherty (who bagged 1-3 in the first half ) and Neill Douglas and the other scores from Parsons and Cathal Freeman who was forced out of the game midway through, due to injury. Roscommon kept in touch thanks to three pointed frees from Cathal Shine and a single effort form the magnificent Kevin Higgins. Both sides seemed to be affording each other to much respect in the opening half an hour standing off each other, but when the ball was thrown in to start the second half we were treated to a different animal of a game that ebbed and flowed with tension and drama. Jason Doherty looked to have Mayo ticking over nicely when he opened the scoring in two minutes into the half with a sweeping effort from out on the right. But with Mayo seemingly cruising Roscommon kicked up another the gears at pace. Fintan Cregg landed an effort from a tight angle out on the stand side, then Connor Devanney picked the ball up on the opposite side of the park, threw his man a dummy and cut in for a fine point.
Then Mayo hit back with one of the finest efforts of counter attacking, Kevin McLoughlin rose tall to field a ball on his own 21 yard line, shipped two tackles and burst on to the Roscommon 50' he laid it into Mikey Sweeney who had the presence of mind to see Donal Vaughan breaking at pace who fisted it over the bar. From end to end in seconds.
Then disaster struck for Mayo, two goals in side a minute for the side in primrose and blue turned the game on it's head. Connor Devanney dropped a ball in that the Mayo defense couldn't contain it fell on the floor to Fintan Cregg who lashed it to the net with authority. Then almost straight from the kick out the ball ended up in the arms of Donal Shine on the stand side of the field, he drove a cross field ball into the danger area, Mayo goalkeeper Robert Hennelly and full back Kevin Keane got their timing wrong for the jump and David O'Gara punched the ball to the back of the net. Mayo were now up 2-7 2-6, it was game on and the momentum seemingly with Roscommon. But Mayo hit back with a brace of quick fire points, Cathal Carolan won the ball from the kick out after the second Roscommon goal and charged down field to nail a fine point. The Robert Hennelly made his way forward from goal to have his third crack at a '45 and this time landed a point, Mayo were back in a three point lead with 18 minutes left on the clock. But in a seven minute spell from the 47th minute till the 55th minute, Roscommon literally hit Mayo for six. The visitors landed half a dozen unanswered scores in a time period where Kevin Higgins and Cathal Devanney looked to have ripped the heart out of the Mayo challenge. First up Fintan Cregg shot over on the turn, then Higgins hit a massive score from well over 50 yards out on the right hand side, then Devanney chipped in with a free to draw it level as the Mayo management struggled to get a man on Devanney who could curb his influence. Devanney then hit two in a row as he ran down the Mayo rearguard before Higgins added another from the right hand side of the field. It was total football from Roscommon during this period, their forwards pulled defenders in all directions freeing up space for the man on the ball and creating space for the men who wanted it, Mayo were on the ropes and expecting the knock out punch. With time almost up Mayo had to call on all their reserves and Mikey Sweeney hit a point when on 26 minutes after all other avenues of attack were closed down to him. But the thoughts of it signaling a come back looked to be short lived when Higgins scored Roscommon's 13th point of the game and ninth of the half, with the egg timer down to it's last few grains of sand. The Roscommon forward was given the chance to seal the deal, when his side won possession form the resulting kick-out only to see the ball slide just the wrong side of the posts and his side lived to regret it. Mayo won the ball through Tom Parsons from the kick-out and worked it up field where Mikey Sweeney was fouled 35 yards out, the ball was dropped in but Roscommon cleared their lines, but not far enough and Jason Doherty was fouled tight to the line on the right hand side 21yards out. From that free the ball was dropped in and the rest is history as Mayo managed to smuggle the ball over the line and with it deliver the knock out blow in the contest.
The goal rejuvenated Mayo the first period of extra time saw points from Sweeney, and a brace from substitute Conor Jordan go in at the turn around two points up, with Roscommon's score coming from Kevin Higgins. At the death of the first half Jason Doherty should have been in for his third goal after rounding Mark Miley only to somehow smash his effort off the bar from four yards out with no one to beat. Jordan clipped on a score early in the second period of extra time to cement his impressive showing from the bench and the game was put to bed three minutes from the end when Neill Douglas grabbed his second and Mayo's fourth goal of the game after being set up by good work involving Niall Prenty, Sean Prendergast and Tom Parsons.
When the full time whistle came, everyone could draw breath after a nail biting encounter that has now set Mayo up for a Connacht final meeting with Sligo on the first weekend in April.
Mayo: Cathal Freeman, (0-1, 1f ), Tom Parsons (0-1 ), Cathal Carolan (0-1 ), Donal Vaughan (0-1 ), Robert Hennelly (0-1, 1 45' ), Mikey Sweeney (0-2 ), Conor Jordan (0-3 ), Neill Douglas (2-0 ), Jason Doherty (2-4 )
Roscommon: Donal Shine (0-3, 3f ), Kevin Higgins (0-5 ), Fintan Cregg (1-3 ), David O'Gara (1-0 ), Connor Devanney (0-4 )
Mayo: Robert Hennelly; Eoin O'Reilly, Kevin Keane, Kevin Broderick; Donal Vaughan, Lee Keegan, Kevin McLoughlin; Tom Parsons, Cathal Carolan; Frank Burke, Aidan O'Shea, Cathal Freeman; Mikey Sweeney, Neill Douglas, Jason Doherty. Subs: Brian Gallagher for Cathal Freeman (19 mins ), Sean Prendergast for John Broderick (50 mins ), Conor Jordan for Brian Gallagher (53 mins ), Niall Prenty for Frank Burke (63 mins ), Colm English for Donal Vaughan (66 mins ), Brian Gallagher for Tom Parsons
Roscommon: Mark Miley; Niall Carthy, Neil Collins, Peter Domican; Donal Ward, David Flynn, James McKeague; Donal Shine, David Keenan; Keith Waldron, Paul Garvey, Kevin Higgins; Fintan Cregg, Mark McLoughlin. Sub: Connor Devanney for Paul Garvey (30 mins ), Paul Gleeson for Neill Collins (33 mins ), Cathal McHugh for Mark McLoughlin (46 mins ), Cathal Shine for Keith Waldron (69 mins ), Colm Garvey for James McKeague (70 mins )
Referee: Ray McBrien (Leitrim )