FBD Connacht Senior Football League
What’s seldom is indeed wonderful. Not the sort of terminology one would expect to associate with a FBD League game in January but Roscommon should take great heart from the manner in which they managed to oust Mayo in an entertaining contest at Ballinlough on Sunday. This wasn’t a case of Roscommon building up a lead and holding on. Instead, the home side finished like an express train, kicking five points in succession during the final 17 minutes to record a rare victory against last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists.
Roscommon’s second half performance was laden with encouragement. Trailing by three points at the break, they were level by the 38th minute when Ciarán Murtagh pounced for a well-worked goal and tagged on the equaliser a minute later.
Then John Evans’ men had to absorb the concession of a goal almost immediately when Adam Gallagher’s shot was brilliantly parried by Darren O’Malley. Ronan Stack caught the rebound on the line but luck deserted the St. Brigid’s defender when possession managed to spill from his grasp and creep over the line.
Yet Roscommon faced adversity head-on. Cathal Shine dominated midfield. Donal Keane prospered in the wing-back role he was handed when Neil Collins was shown a black card just before the break. Cathal Cregg, as he did throughout the game, continued to terrorise Ger Cafferkey and the Murtagh brothers, Ciarán and Diarmuid, made significant contributions.
“You can see that the team are beginning to work for each other. There was a lot of friendliness out there. We had a meeting beforehand and the team are bonding from last year.
“When they got the goal, we responded magnificently. It’s a work in progress. We’re not the finished article but we have a few fellas to come back into the team. But it was great to see us move the ball with a bit of fluency. There was a lot of good tackling by our lads. There wasn’t much space out there,” opined Evans afterwards.
Deep down, he must have been buzzing. A final against Leitrim on Sunday will be perfect preparation for a Division Three League campaign where promotion will be the only thing that matters.
Roscommon didn’t do much wrong during the opening half but their efforts were undermined by simple errors. They should have been closer at the break. Murtagh hit the post from 21 metres and Kevin Higgins landed possession into Mayo goalkeeper Robert Hennelly’s hands late in the half when he had better options beside him.
Instead, Andy Moran ensured that Mayo found scores much easier to come by. The Ballaghaderreen player was excellent as his side’s playmaker at centre-forward. He kicked two points and was instrumental in setting up numerous attacks. Jason Doherty, a late replacement for Darren Coen, also registered two points.
Mayo availed of Roscommon indiscipline when Alan Freeman and Kevin McLoughlin landed frees that were brought forward for dissent. Collins felt harshly treated after being shown the black card following a foul on McLoughlin in the 29th minute. Colm Boyle seemed to drag down Cathal Cregg earlier in the half but referee Eamonn O’Grady interpreted that the Davitts defender had tried to play the ball.
Roscommon had to rely on Murtagh, Conor Devaney (a neat score after a short ’45 from Cathal Shine) and a free from Senan Kilbride for their paltry return in the opening half.
But there was more bite to the hosts after the break. Devaney had an earlier effort signalled wide after the umpire originally waved the white flag. Murtagh did fist an effort over the bar but Doherty and Adam Gallagher propelled Mayo into a 0-8 to 0-4 advantage after 34 minutes.
Then Devaney and Cregg combined to play in Murtagh for a well-worked goal. The St. Faithleach’s player sensibly took his point in Roscommon’s next attack but Stack’s misfortune took the sting out of the home side’s revival momentarily.
Substitute Mark Nally lofted over a superb effort from the left wing in the 43rd minute to ignite the scoring burst. Shine tagged on a free before Ciaran Murtagh did likewise after his brother Diarmuid, a 43rd minute substitute, was fouled.
The former Roscommon minor’s second contribution was to win another free, which he pointed himself, to give Roscommon the lead for the first time.
Roscommon were rampant now, forcing Mayo into turnovers all over the park and Shine finished off a productive team move with another point in the 53rd minute.
It proved to be the last score of the game but Mayo’s tiring limbs never looked likely to spoil Roscommon’s first victory in this fixture at the West Roscommon venue since 2001.
The reward is a chance to put some senior silverware in the cabinet by the end of January. That would be a rare achievement.
ROSCOMMON: D. O’Malley; N. Collins, N. Carty, R. Stack; S. McDermott, N. Daly, C. Daly; C. Shine (0-2, one free), K. Higgins; C. Devaney (0-1), C. Burns, D. Keane; S. Kilbride (0-1, a free), C. Cregg, C. Murtagh (1-4, one free). Subs used: M. Nally (0-1) for Collins (black card, 29 mins), M. Finneran for Kilbride (36 mins), D. Murtagh (0-1, a free) for Devaney (43 mins), D. O’Gara for Burns (54 mins), F. Cregg for C Murtagh (59 mins).
MAYO: R. Hennelly; K. Keane, G. Cafferkey, C. Boyle; B. Harrison, S. McHale, D. Drake; T. Parsons, A. O’Shea; D. O’Connor, A. Moran (0-2), A. Gallagher (1-2); K. McLoughlin (0-1, a free), A. Freeman (0-1, a free), J. Doherty (0-2): Subs used: K. Higgins for O’Connor (39 mins), E. Varley for McLoughlin (44 mins), J. Gibbons for Parsons (54 mins), C. Carolan for Moran (57 mins).
Wides: Roscommon – 8; Mayo – 5.
Yellow Cards: Roscommon – Nally (41 mins), Higgins (54 mins); Mayo – Boyle (28 mins).
Black Cards: Roscommon – Collins (29 mins); Mayo – none.
Red Cards: Roscommon – none; Mayo – none.
Referee: O’Grady (Leitrim).
Player of the Match: Cathal Cregg (Roscommon). For the second week in succession, Cregg shades the award from Ciarán Murtagh who hit 1-4 for his side over the hour. But Cregg gave Ger Cafferkey a roasting, winning tumults of possession in front of the Ballina full-back over the hour and setting up numerous scores, including Murtagh’s 37th minute goal.
Cathal Shine produced a storming second half performance at midfield, and one perfectly-timed shoulder late on signalled his side’s application to the task. Donal Keane was a revelation when moved to wing back following the departure of Neil Collins as a result of a 29th minute black card. Diarmuid Murtagh also made a significant contribution when introduced.
Andy Moran was Mayo’s chief playmaker during the opening half but he was on the periphery after the break. Shane McHale, Adam Gallagher and Jason Doherty also impressed for the reigning Connacht champions.