At the end of the day, it's just a warm-up competition and on the balance of play Roscommon deserved their win in this Hastings Cup semi-final. But Mayo will feel that this game slipped through their fingers right at the death and denied them a place in the final against Galway next weekend, in what would have been another useful competitive game before their Connacht Championship kicks into gear in mid-March.
Once again Mayo manager Niall Heffernan had to do without a number of his players who were required by the senior team management on Saturday and when Diarmuid O'Connor had to pull out before throw-in with a dead leg that he picked up last weekend his hand was dealt a further blow. His counterpart Mark Dowd was also missing a handful of his players with the Roscommon senior team in action in the FBD League against Galway tomorrow. Mayo's hopes were further dashed when the imposing figure of Val Roughneen had to leave the action midway through the first half after he also picked up a dead leg, causing Heffernan to reshuffle the pack and play the majority of the game without the two midfielders that he had initially selected to start with.
With the game ticking into injury time, it looked like we were heading for extra-time thanks to Henry Walsh's equalising point three minutes from the end of the allotted 60 minutes. But it wasn't to be as Roscommon benefited from a large stroke of luck to grab the win. Roscommon centre-half-back Cathal Kenny picked up the ball 40 meters out after some stout Mayo defending had forced the Roscommon attack to recycle the ball over and back in front of the goal.
Kenny shaped to shoot but never connected with the ball properly and it dropped short, between a Mayo defender and Roscommon attacker who leapt for the ball and Mayo goalkeeper Marc Mulligan. The Claremorris custodian took his eye off the ball at the last second and it bounced under his body and into the back of the net. The goal was particularly harsh on Mulligan who had played excellently throughout and pulled off three great saves to deny what seemed like certain Roscommon goals. The goal knocked the stuffing out of Mayo and full-forward Diarmuid McGann was able to tag on another point in injury time to extend the gap out to four points at the final whistle.
On the balance of play Roscommon were deserving winners and if they had brought their shooting boots to Rathcline they could have been out of sight before the end as they kicked 14 wides over the hour compared to Mayo's five efforts that missed the target.
Mayo opened the scoring inside the first minute when the hard working Darren McHale put the ball over the bar to get things going. McHale had an excellent sixty minutes, doing well in attack and covering back constantly. Roscommon wing-back Ronan Daly leveled the contest up in the second minute with a smart shot from the right hand side, before James Durcan put Mayo back into the lead from a free after Morgan Lyons was fouled in the left-hand corner of the park. Liam Irwin stretched Mayo's lead out to two points on 13 minutes when the big full-forward fisted the ball over the bar after a Durcan free came back off the post.
Both sides were putting in a serious effort into a game that was tough and hard hitting and with seven minutes to go before the break Roscommon cut the gap back to a single point thanks to Henry Walsh, but Mayo were just about to strike for the first goal of the game. James Durcan won the ball 40 meters out and there was open country in front of him. He broke for goal and smartly flicked it to Brian Reape who palmed the ball to an empty net after Rory Mannion had closed down the angle. That score put Mayo four clear, but they weren't going to bother the scoreboard for another 19 minutes which ultimately cost them in the end. Roscommon were able to tag on three more points to their tally before the break, with Diarmuid McGann, Ultan Harney and Jack Early all raising the white flag to leave the score at the break, Mayo 1-3 Roscommon 0-5.
The Rossies' were the first to draw blood in the second half when Kevin Kilcline who had come on as a sub in the first-half leveled the game up four minutes in. It was ten minutes before we had another score as Roscommon pinged wide after wide. Connor Finnerty swung over a nice point before James Durcan kicked his second of the day two minutes later to put Mayo into a two point lead with 14 minutes to go. That lead was wiped out over the next four minutes thanks to points from Noel Gately and Kevin Finn.
A tight race to the finish line was in prospect and both sets of supporters started to make their voices heard in the ground. With four minutes to go, Eoghan Lavin swung over a great point from way out on the right hand side and it looked like Mayo could hold out, but just over a minute later Henry Walsh made it all square once again. It was now a matter of who blinked first as the clock ticked down. Mayo hit a bad wide when they could have moved the ball on another possession to a man in a better position in the 60th minute.
Roscommon came back down the field looking to steal it, but the Mayo defence stood firm, until Kenny's mishit shot, somehow found it's way to the back of the net and that was that for Mayo in the Hastings Cup for 2015.
Mayo have six and a half weeks until their Connacht championship gets underway against a Leitrim side that pushed Galway all the way to extra-time in the other Hastings Cup semi-final on Saturday. If Heffernan can get his players together enough in those six or so weeks, there's no reason that Mayo won't be facing Roscommon in a Connacht decider in the Spring time.
Mayo: B Reape (1-0 ), J Durcan (0-2, 1f ), L Irwin (0-1 ), C Finnerty (0-1 ), D McHale (0-1 ), E Lavin (0-1 )
Roscommon: C Kenny (1-0 ), H Walsh (0-2 ), D McGann (0-2 ), U Harney (0-1 ), K Finn (0-1, 1f ), J Early (0-1 ), R Daly (0-1 ), K Kilcline (0-1 ), N Gately (0-1 )
Mayo: M Mulligan; K Lynch, D Kenny, J Stretton; M Hall, S Regan, C Burke; M Ruane, V Roughneen; TJ Byrne, J Durcan, D McHale; M Lyons, L Irwin, B Reape. Subs: E Lavin, C Finnerty, A O'Sullivan, M Forkan
Roscommon: R Mannion; N McInerney, S Mullooly, D Barron; K Farrell, C Kenny, R Daly; S Flynn, T O'Rourke, J Early, U Harney, S Killoran; K Finn, D McGann, H Walsh. Subs: K Kilcline, M Murtagh, N Gately E McGrath,