Rarely does anything come easy to Mayo in Hyde Park and on Sunday they were peering over the ledge and an exit from the Connacht championship at the hands of Roscommon, but they were able to go to the well once more when it was needed to eek out the win that puts them into the Connacht final.
Mayo manager James Horan gambled on starting Conor O'Shea and Diarmuid O'Connor in his half forward line while leaving Andy Moran and Alan Dillon on the bench. But when the tide started to turn against his team he looked to his trusted lieutenants who delivered after they were sprung into action. Moran entered the action just after Ciaran Cafferkey had found the back of Robbie Hennelly's net, while Dillion was introduced nine minutes later. Moran kicked two rallying points within a minute of each other in the final ten minutes, while Dillion made himself busy around the park, winning a few important breaks and using the ball sensibly when he got his hands on it.
Using the ball sensibly is something that Mayo didn't do for long periods of the game, as Mayo over ran the ball in the middle third right down the throat of the Roscommon defence time and time again. The Mayo inside forward line was isolated far to often and the ball that was delivered into them missed the target more often than not. When Mayo did manage to get a shot off in the first half they put the ball wide ten times and only managed to put the ball over the bar on four occasions.
The Mayo defence in the first half played exceptionally well with Ger Cafferkey and Tom Cunniffe making a number of key interceptions, but when Mayo moved the ball forward from the back they ended up being choked off by a well drilled Roscommon defence. In the end Mayo had to be thankful for a few key tackles winning the ball back, with Aidan O'Shea at one stage putting in a vital tackle when Roscommon looked like they were going to create a goal scoring chance.
Where Mayo stand in the reckoning for a crack at an All Ireland championship is still up in the air, but one thing for sure is that they were pushed right to the brink by a hungry and hard working Roscommon team and will know they were in a serious battle.
Jason Doherty opened the scoring with a good score from out on the right inside the first minute, Kevin Higgins responded for the hosts with a great curling effort from the stand side. Cillian O'Connor had a crack at free from 45m out that pulled wide six minutes in as both sides, felt each other out. Cillian O'Connor kicked Mayo's second point seven minutes in from a free won by Alan Freeman. The build up to that score started with Robbie Hennelly pulling the ball down from over the bar from a Ciaran Murtagh shot with the ball being quickly worked down the right flank until Freeman was fouled. Mayo got on top of Roscommon for the next 13 minutes but weren't able to make it count on the scoreboard and it wasn't until the 20th minute they managed to register another point through Cillian O'Connor. Senan Kilbride had the first goal scoring opportunity of he game when he pulled on a ball on the deck after it bounced around the ground, but Diarmuid O'Connor got his body in the way to block the ball out. The St Brigid's man did manage to kick his sides second point two minutes before the break and that was quickly followed by points from Kevin McLoughlin and Donie Shine to send Mayo in leading by 0-4 to 0-3 at the turnaround.
The second half was two minutes old when Kilbride leveled the game up when he finished off a move that involved Ian Kilbride and Cathal Cregg.
Cillian O'Connor edged Mayo's nose back in from two minutes later, but the game was about to swing in Roscommon's direction. Roscommon won the ball back inside their own penalty area and worked it quickly down the stand side of the pitch and Ciaran Cafferkey was the man on the overlap who burst in and drove the ball to the far corner of the net past Hennelly. Mayo were rattled and Moran was summoned from the bench and within four minutes Mayo were back on level terms with O'Connor and McLoughlin kicking points from frees. The Knockmore man put Mayo back into the lead on a scoreline of 0-8 to 1-4 on the 50 minute mark, but Roscommon were about to find another gear after they rolled off four points on the bounce. Roscommon u21 star Diarmuid Murtagh had been thrown into the action by John Evans an he kicked two great scores inside a minute, Senan Kilbride tagged on a free and Mark Nally one from play to put Roscommon three points clear with nine minutes left on the clock.
Mayo dug deep and Andy Moran led the charge landing two great points to cut the gap back to the minimum. Mayo had the momentum and with five minutes to go, Seamus O'Shea drove an effort over the bar from well out the park to tie the contest up. O'Connor kicked another free as the game ticked into the five minutes of injury time. Three minutes into that injury time a quick free played in Kevin McLoughlin whose right footed effort had just enough distance on it and Mayo were two clear. Ciaran Murtagh cut the gap to a point after Tom Cunniffe did what he had to do and haul down the Roscommon attacker as he bore down on goal, but there was still time left for Finbar Cregg to go barreling through the Mayo defence and look to have a great chance to score a point or even a goal, but the Mayo defence managed to smother him and clear the ball away, before Kevin Higgins had a pot shot that sailed wide and sealed Mayo's place in the final of the Connacht championship
Mayo: Cillian O'Connor (0-5, 5f ), Kevin McLoughlin (0-4, 2f ), Andy Moran (0-2 ), Seamus O'Shea (0-1 ), Jason Doherty (0-1 )
Roscommon: Senan Kilbride (0-3,1f ), Diarmuid Murtagh (0-3,1f ) Ciaran Cafferkey (1-0 ), Kevin Higgins (0-1 ), Donie Shine (0-1 ), Mark Nally (0-1 )
Mayo: R Hennelly; K Higgins, G Cafferkey, T Cunniffe; L Keegan, C Boyle, D Vaughan; A O’Shea, S O’Shea; D O’Connor, C O’Shea, J Doherty; K McLoughlin, A Freeman, C O’Connor.
Subs: A Moran for C O’Shea (44 ), A Dillon for D O’Connor (53 ), M Sweeney for Freeman (60 ), R Feeney for Doherty (70+2 )
Roscommon: D O’Malley; N Collins, N Carty, S McDermott; R Stack, N Daly, C Cafferkey ; C Shine, K Higgins; D O’Gara, I Kilbride, C Cregg; S Kilbride, D Shine, C Murtagh.
Subs: E Smith for I Kilbride (42 ), D Murtagh for C Murtagh (46 ), F Cregg for O’Gara (54 ), M Nally for D Shine (54 ), M Finneran for S Kilbride (67 ), D Smith for C Cregg (67 ).
Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Laois )