For the second week in a row, a big improvement in the second half saw Mayo over the line in the FBD League. James Horan proved true to his word on ringing the changes from the side that beat GMIT last weekend, by sending out an entirely different starting 15 to take on the Connacht champions, who had five of their Connacht title winning team lining up for the start of the game. The visitors also welcomed Donal Shine and Cathal Cregg back into their line up following the end of their college commitments with DCU being knocked out of the O'Byrne Cup during the week.
It was all change for Mayo with the likes of Eoghan Reilly, David Killeen, Lee Keegan, Ruadirí O'Connor, Ian Rowland, Cathal Freeman, Andrew Farrell and Brian Benson all given the chance to impress amongst some more established names.
A more than healthy crowd for this time of the year added a little edge to the game, and it was Fergal O'Donnell's side who looked to really up for the contest early on. They dominated the middle third of the field for the majority of the opening 30 minutes, with Michael Finneran and Kevin Higgins getting the upper hand on the new look Mayo midfield of Barry Moran and James Kilcullen. But it was from number five through to 12 that Mayo seemed to be struggling in the opening exchanges with Roscommon having the best of the battle and the vast majority of the play. The fact that Mayo went in only down by a point at half time, will be something that will have many Roscommon supporters and players scratching their heads about. The Connacht champions should have had the ball in the back of the net on at least three occasions. A combination of Keith Higgins and Kenneth O'Malley managed to keep the ball out of the net after ten minutes when O'Malley dropped a 45' from Donal Shine into the path of Senan O'Grady who must have thought he was nailed on for a goal. The same man then crashed the ball against the post nine minutes later, while Donal Shine also blazed a glorious chance wide. Mark Ronaldson kicked five of Mayo's points in the opening half, with Enda Varley adding the other score from play. Ronaldson who was posted in the number 14 jersey had an outstanding afternoon in front of the posts, but come championship time not many people would be betting on the Shurle Glencorrib man lining out in that position.
What was said at the half time break by James Horan and his brains trust did the trick as a much improved Mayo side came back out for the last half hour of the game. Full back David Killeen who was having a torrid time in the opening half trying to control Donal Shine settled down and got to grips with Roscommon's talisman. His improved performance was personified in the 35th minute when he showed great timing to nick in and steal a ball from Shine's path that looked to be playing him in on goal. Cathal Freeman who has finally got back to full fitness since breaking a leg in 2009 was another of the newcomers who greatly impressed in the second half. He got on plenty of ball and linked the play well from his centre half forward berth. Killala's Andrew Farrell also capped his performance with a fine point and a good full length block to stop what looked like a certain Roscommon score.
The turning point in the game came three minutes into the second half when Brian Benson poked the ball into the path of Mark Ronaldson, who rounded Eamon McKinley in the Roscommon goal with the ball on the deck before he finished it to the net. That score put Mayo into the lead for the first time and came two minutes after Roscommon's solitary score in the second half. From that point on Mayo took control of the game and completely over ran the challenge of the Connacht champions. Next up for Horan is the re-fixed game against Leitrim in Ballinamore and the chance of taking on John Maughan's NUIG in the FBD League final sometime later in the spring.
Mayo: M Ronaldson (1-7, 6f ) E Varley (0-2 ), A Farrell (0-1 ), J Gibbons (0-1 ), A Kilcoyne (0-1 )
Roscommon: D Shine (0-2, 2f ), K Higgins (0-2 ), J Dunning (0-2 ), J Connaughton (0-1 ), F Cregg (0-1 )
Mayo: K O'Malley; K Higgins, D Killeen, E Reilly; T Howley, L Keegan, R O'Connor; B Moran, J Kilcullen; I Rowland, C Freeman, A Farrell; E Varley, M Ronaldson, B Benson. Subs: R Feeney, A O'Malley, A Kilcoyne, J Gibbons,
Roscommon: E McGinley; S Purcell, D Ward, S McDermott; C Beirne, N Carty, J Nolan; M Finneran, K Higgins; F Cregg, J Connaughton, S O'Grady; J Dunning, D Shine, C Cregg. Subs: T Kelly, J Rogers
Ref: M Duffy (Sligo )