Lambs to the slaughter; the class of a top four in division one team against division three mid-table mediocrity, use whatever other phrase you like but the gulf in class between Mayo and Roscommon was of epic proportions. I was being very kind to Roscommon last week while predicting a five to six point win for Mayo, and was fearful of insulting any Roscommon reader in my first column, truth is I expected it to be a lot more, and when asked before we went live on Mid West Radio on Sunday if I thought Mayo would win, I told Shane Curran (former Rossie keeper and current St Brigid’s net minder ) and all listening that Mayo would hammer them.
I was so pleased the bookmakers were foolish enough to offer Mayo at even money to start at -5 points and yes I did have a little bet on them. I was a very worried punter for all of 10 minutes, but as soon as I watched Donal Vaughan breaking free with such ease for Mayo’s second point I knew my money was safe.
John Evans obviously did not read my article last week when I suggested he should park the team bus in the Roscommon defence early on to thwart Mayo’s superior ball players and more tactically astute management team. Richie Feeney and Alan Freeman will never be given such luxury in McHale Park again. Keith Higgins and Colm Boyle broke free for scores when it looked like they were trying to lay the ball off to a teammate, but the very generous Roscommon defenders decided to cover other attacking threats and part like the Red Sea to let Higgins and Boyle bear down on goal, still they were two very impressive scores by the Mayo men.
No matter what James Horan tries to suggest, Mayo are going to win a third Connacht title without having to get out of second gear. They could beat London or Leitrim by 20 points such is their potential. The starting 15 know in their heart and soul if they do not perform it will not be long before they get the curly finger and are substituted, and then risk losing their place for an All-Ireland quarter final.
There are genuinely seven players on the bench or to come back from injury good enough to be on the team, so we don’t have to worry about players being complacent. Don’t perform and you will probably lose your place is the message. I didn’t bother looking through the archives but this will have to be the easiest Nestor Cup won in history and credit to Mayo for that, the rest in Connacht are miles behind. Special mention has to go to Tom Cunniffe for his tenacious attitude and his ability to turn over so much ball, and also to Seamus O’Shea after his towering performance at midfield, often living in Aidan's shadow, this was his turn to get the plaudits and he was my worthy Man of the Match on the radio. Case in point- will Leitrim or London balk at the prospect of playing Mayo in the final.
Clubs now call for Mayo’s men
Now the worry for James Horan is the pending club championship matches which take place at the weekend. He doesn’t want to lose any more players to injury, yet the county players have an obligation to give their all for their club, it is after all their bread and butter - the place where they learned how to play football. The most appealing game on this weekend has to be the clash of neighbours Breaffy and Castlebar Mitchels. Barry Moran will want to show the two O’Sheas and James Horan his injury woes are over and he is looking for his Mayo place back. The Mitchels have gone close and failed to win the Moclair Cup on a number of occasions in the last few years, this may be the last chance saloon for this current team. Breaffy are flying and this game will go to the wire, both of these teams will however qualify for the quarter-finals as Crossmolina and Davitts are already involved in a third and fourth place play off Home advantage should see Crossmolina through in their game. In group two Ballina and Ballintubber should win their respective games against Claremorris and Shrule/Glencorrib, and the same two teams should advance to the quarter finals. To see who tops group three will be decided in Knockmore on Saturday evening, my old club Charlestown will be up against it playing the home side, even without the likes of Trevor Howley and Damien Munnelly. Charlestown's last gasp winner against Westport in the last round will somewhat relieve the pressure on them. I fully expect these two to qualify from this group with Westport and Tourmakeady settling for the two bottom places. The generous odds of 4/1 on Charlestown may be worth a punt. The current county champions Ballaghaderreen will have to go all out for victory after their surprising draw with Aughamore in the first round. Injuries aside they should beat Garrymore at home. We will have to wait for the last round in this group to see to see who qualifies with Ballagh - a toss up between Garrymore and Aughamore. My value bet of the weekend Breaffy (7/4 ) and Charlestown (4/1 ) double. If you’d like to get in touch with John about anything, e-mail us here at [email protected]