So there will be no five in a row for Mayo, the reigning Connacht u21 champions headed to Hyde Park on St Patrick’s Day a week after seeing off a tough Leitrim side in the quarter final looking to make it to their fifth Connacht final in a row, but it was not to be. Despite having a man advantage for nearly all the second half when Alan O’Hara was sent to the line for a second yellow card, for what looked like a harsh decision, Mayo could not put that numerical advantage into action as Roscommon ground out a stunning one point win deep in injury time. The man of the moment for the primrose and blue was Donal Shine who arced the ball over the bar from near the sideline on the stand side of the pitch, with four and a half minutes of injury time as the game looked to be heading to extra time, to the joy of the home faithful. And with it went Mayo’s interest in this year’s u21 championship and Ray Dempsey’s first year in charge of the side after making the step up from minor this year.
In what was a tough and exciting, if not high quality, game of football neither side looked like they had it in them to push on for victory over the 60 minutes. Alan Freeman kicked Mayo into the lead after only two minutes after he was played in following quick work by Jason Doherty and Neil Douglas. Kevin Higgins levelled it up when he punched the ball over the bar after Cathal Shine won the ball at midfield. Neil Douglas landed the first of his seven points from a free after Cathal Carolan was hauled to the ground on the break just outside the Roscommon 21 yard line, he added his second on nine minutes from a free, just to the right of the D, but Mayo had swung three wides already as they looked to find their shooting boots. Mayo had a lot of the ball in the opening 15 minutes but could not put it to good use. Kevin Keane and Alan O’Hara got in a tangle just after the quarter of an hour mark where both men got booked which had repercussions later on for O’Hara. Donal Shine cut the gap to a point from a placed ball with seven minutes left in the half as Roscommon started to get a grip on the game and pin Mayo back in their half. Aidan O’Shea was called out to shore up the midfield from his starting berth in the full forward line, and the Breaffy man won a number of clean catches in the middle third and looked threatening when he broke with the ball. From one of these breaks he was pulled to the ground to give Douglas a chance to swing over his third point of the day, just after Paul Garvey levelled the game up from a free. With a minute left in the half the first decisive score of the game came, Donal Shine won the kick out from Douglas’s point, he worked the ball out to Garvey down the left flank and he found Niall Kilroy free inside the 21. The Fuerty man bore down on goal and drilled the ball past Robert Hennelly at his near post to put the homeside 1-3 to 0-4 up. Neil Douglas pulled one back for Mayo just before the break after a scramble in the Roscommon danger area which saw the ball come back off the upright once and then deflect of a defender over the bar as Douglas drove the ball goalwards.
From the throw in for the second half Roscommon knocked over their fourth point through Brian Murtagh and they extended their lead to three points on 32 minutes when Paul Garvey swung the ball over the bar from the left.
Jason Doherty looped over a steadying point for Mayo on the run, just before Alan O’Hara saw his interest in the game ended for a second yellow card seemingly swinging the game in Mayo’s advantage, but Roscommon were not going to give this one up without a fight. Neil Douglas clipped over Mayo’s second point of the half after Aidan O’Shea and Kevin McLoughlin were involved in the build up, Mayo were piling on the pressure now and Shane Nalley drove over a fine score to pull the game level at 0-8 to 1-5 after 42 minutes. Roscommon plundered their second goal of the game with just 15 minutes left on the clock, a long diagonal ball was drilled across the Mayo 21 yard line where Cathal Shine won the ball and played it off to Kilroy who, under pressure, played the ball into Brian Murtagh who spun his marker and fired the ball under Hennelly to swing the game back in the home side’s favour. But that only lasted less than a minute as Shane Nally won possession in the middle, dropped it into the Roscommon danger area where Alan Freeman won the ball and found space to drive it past Darren O’Malley to level it up again. Mayo pushed themselves back into the lead a minute later when Neil Douglas, without even thinking, lashed a free from out on the right over the bar from 40 yards out. Donal Shine levelled it up again with eight minutes left when he drove a free off the deck over the bar from at least 50 yards out. Douglas and Paul Garvey exchanged pointed frees as the game became very frantic in the closing stages, both sides knew a mistake could lead to disaster for them and elimination. Roscommon pushed their noses in front again when Niall Daly was allowed to find himself 30 yards out from the Mayo goal unmarked, the pressure was now on for the defending champions and two wides from Shane Nalley looked to be their final chance, as the game ticked into injury time. But after some frantic attacking and defending, Kevin McLoughlin clipped the ball over the bar to tie it all up again at 1-11 to 2-8. But the game was not done yet. Roscommon dropped a shot short and the ball was worked out by Mayo down the right hand side, but Garvey nipped in to win it back and play it on to Kilroy. Mayo defended on the line knowing that if they gave away a free it would be punished by Shine. But the ball was worked to the Clann na Gael man who swung the ball right over the black spot sending Mayo packing from this year’s championship
Roscommon: D O’Malley; J Sharkey, N Collins, M Higgins; J McKeague, N Daly (0-1 ), E Bannon; N Carty, K Higgins (0-1 ); P Garvey (0-3, two frees ), C Shine, B Murtagh (1-1 ); A O’Hara, D Shine (0-3, two frees ), N Kilroy (1-0 ). Sub: D McDermott for C Shine (50 mins ).
Mayo: R Hennelly; P Mulchrone, S McHale, K Keane; L Keegan, E Reilly, S Prendergast; G McDonagh, S Nally (0-1 ); C Carolan, K McLoughlin (0-1 ), J Doherty (0-1 ); N Douglas (0-7, three frees ), A O’Shea, A Freeman (1-1 ). Subs: R Geraghty for Carolan (35 mins ), K Rogers for Prendergast (40 mins ), J Cafferkey for Rogers (50 mins ).
Ref: R McBrien (Leitrim ).