It was always going to be a game of inches in Hyde Park on Sunday and it was Mayo who found those couple of extra inches when they needed it, to bring the Nestor Cup back home after it's 12 month stint in Roscommon. It wasn't a game for the ages, it's not one that will be remembered for free flowing, exciting football, but it was nail biting right to the very end. In a frantic conclusion there were heros all over the park for Mayo. Robert Hennelly stretched every sinew in his body to claim a Donie Shine effort from sneaking over the bar, Richie Feeney somehow managed to emerge from a mass of bodies inside the Mayo penalty area with the leather under his arm and break free from desperate clawing challenges and clear the ball. Ronan McGarrity who was only on the field a couple of minutes dug out a huge turnover ball on the half way line. Cillian O'Connor who showed nerves of steel throughout from placed balls, chased out on a ball to nothing to win possession and set up the terminal score. It was one of those days, where everyone on the Mayo team worked as hard as they possibly could for each other.
Incessant rain and an unrelenting breaze made playing conditions brutal for both sides over the seventy minutes but it was James Horan's men who toughed it out in the end. It was a game where they had to not only play against the opposition and the elements but a fanatic home support, which out numbered Mayo easily by four to one.
Roscommon opted to play with the wind in the first half and went in leading by 0-9 to 0-5 at the break, a lead which was well deserved at the juncture as the Mayo defence had to battle hard to keep their side in the game as Roscommon prodded and poked them from the off. While the defence did battle hard with Keith Higgins having one expectational spell where he was getting his hands in on breaks all over the back line, sloppy tackling and indiscipline which saw the ball brought forward on Roscommon frees was costing their side points.
With Donie Shine's ability from placed balls as common knowledge as the fact the sun is going to rise tomorrow morning, the indiscipline could have cost Mayo dear at the end. Shine did hit four points from placed balls in the first half, though he did miss a couple of efforts he would have been expected to score. But he also showed his class from play with one beautiful score from out near the touch line on the stand side of the field after he threw a neat dummy to his man. Roscommon were two points to the good, before Mayo got their first score of the afternoon, when Cillian O'Connor kicked the first of his eight points from placed balls. The Ballintubber teenager who captained the Mayo minors to a Connacht championship victory last year, showed nerves of steel throughout. He leveled the game up just after 11 minutes with a nice easy free from close range after Alan Freeman had been hauled down on his way to goal. Over the next 15 minutes Roscommon stretched that lead out to four points, thanks to a 45' and two great points from play from Shine and a fisted effort by Cathal Cregg. Andy Moran got Mayo's third point after Trevor Mortimer drove down field with menace and purpose to set up the Ballaghaderreen man, then O'Connor cut the gap back to two points with a free from the left hand side.
However, that good spell was undone by three points on the trot for the hosts, with Donal Ward clipping one over from wing back before Shine added on two more to his total before the half time break. Kevin McLoughlin was the last man to leave a mark on Michael Collins' soggy notebook before the turn around when the Knockmore man squeezed the ball through the target from a narrow angle on the left hand side of the field.
The passion on the field was clearly shown early in the second half when Aidan O'Shea and Donal Ward collided with such an impact that it left both men down and out. Ward had to come off altogether following the full blooded challenge, while O'Shea got back up and played on before he to had to retire for a few minutes for more treatment on the sideline. By the 48th minute Mayo had cut the gap back to the minimum thanks to a brace of pointed frees from O'Connor and score from captain Alan Dillon after a lofted pass from Kevin McLoughlin was missed by the Roscommon defence. But Roscommon weren't done yet and in what may have been the decisive moment of the game, Donie Shine escaped the clutches of his marker and claimed the ball close to goal, he unleashed a powerful shot from close range which flew over the bar rather than breaking the net and possibly Mayo hearts with it. That score came in the 50th minute and it would be another 20 before Roscommon bothered an umpire to raise a white flag at the town end of the ground. O'Connor cut the gap back to one point on 55 minutes with a free from his hands, then three minutes later he leveled the game for the first time since the 11th minute with one from the deck. With seven minutes left on the clock, the Ballintubber man pushed Mayo into the lead for the first time in the afternoon, when he kicked his eighth and final point after his club-mate Alan Dillon had been fouled on the right hand side of the field about 25 meters from goal.
Donie Shine missed a free from well within his range. Then Peader Gardiner who had just made an appearance from the bench landed a point for Mayo to push the gap out to two points after Hennelly had somehow managed to pull the ball out of the air over his crossbar. But Roscommon weren't done yet, Shine dusted himself off and popped over a point from close range as injury time ticked on and the potential of a replay in McHale Park loomed large. Mayo were not going to let this one slip through their fingers like they did a decade previously and they battled for every ball finishing up with O'Connor winning possession to set up Enda Varley to seal the win with the last meaningful kick of the contest.
The football may not have been to the tastes of some purists, but it was a tough, hard fought battle where everyman on both sides gave their all in the quest for a Connacht medal and with the conditions that the game was played in, you can't ask for any more than that.
Mayo: C O'Connor (0-08, 8fs ); K McLoughlin (0-01 ); A Moran (0-01 ); A Dillon (0-01 ); K McLoughlin (0-01 ); E Varley (0-01 ).
Roscommon: D Shine (0-08, 4fs, 1 '45 ); D Ward (0-01 ); S Kilbride (0-01 ), C Cregg (0-01 )
Mayo: R Hennelly; K Higgins, A Feeney, T Cunniffe; R Feeney, D Vaughan, T Mortimer; A O'Shea, S O'Shea; K McLoughlin, A Dillon, A Moran; C O'Connor, A Freeman, J Doherty. Subs: J Kilcullen for A O'Shea (blood sub ), G Cafferkey for A Feeney, R McGarrity for S O'Shea, P Gardiner for K McLoughlin, E Varley for J Doherty
Roscommon: G Claffey; S McDermott, N Carty, S Purcell; D Keenan, P Domican, D Ward; M Finneran, K Mannion; S O'Grady, K Higgins, C Cregg; C Devaney, S Kilbride, D Shine.
Subs: C Dineen for Ward, D McDermott for O'Grady, S Ormsbey for Dineen, E Kenny for Kilbride, G Heneghan for Devaney,