Roscommon 0-10. Mayo 0-8 ...... THEY say you never know with minors and we were left scratching our collective head following this Connaught minor football final, which was the curtain raiser to the senior event at Hyde Park, Roscommon, on Sunday.
For the opening 20 minutes you would fret for a Mayo side who were outclassed, but when the sums were done at the end of 60 minutes, Mayo, despite their forward division being redundant for the day, could have stolen this one and denied Roscommon back-to-back minor titles.
I’m not suggesting Mayo deserved it on their overall performance but Roscommon almost paid the ultimate price for failing to dispatch Mayo when they had them hanging over the cliff, and some stout individual performances, notably from the Mayo defence and their team captain, Adam Gallagher, kept then brazenly hanging in, but ultimately the best team on the day won.
In terms of quality, it was a poor final but there was excitement and drama aplenty in a game that appeared to be heading back to Castlebar in a week’s time as Mayo closed in to come within a point in injury-time, and they might well have stolen it had Shane Hennelly’s goal effort not been stopped in the closing minutes.
However, the most skilful forward on the pitch, Diarmuid Murtagh, sealed the victory for his side with a quality point in injury-time from a very tight angle to get Roscommon just about over the line, and probably deservedly so on the dominance they enjoyed in the first half in particular.
In fact it was the same player who scored the defining, and undoubtedly the best, point of the game, eight minutes from time, as Mayo, who were always playing catch-up, closed to within two points and appeared to have a winning hand.
Murtagh turned his marker before firing a 40-yard effort with the outside of his boot to restore a three-point lead and Mayo were once again left chasing the game.
To their credit, they fought hard and drove on but they threw this game away with at least three scoreable chances in the last five minutes.
You had a feeling if Mayo could draw level they would win the game, such was the confidence they exuded in the second half, but Roscommon played 12 players behind the ball and finding scores proved very difficult.
Of the six Mayo forwards that started, not one got on the scoreboard, team captain Adam Gallagher scoring six of their points, four from frees, while corner back Kevin Lynch, who had a terrific game and produced an inspirational score, and James Quinn were the only other two scorers.
Amazingly, having been well outplayed for the first half Mayo found themselves only three points adrift at the interval -0-6 to 0-3 - and well in this game.
But Roscommon had two great goal chances in that first half, one that whacked off the crossbar while a brilliant save from Conor O’Malley denied their full-forward, Kevin Finn.
It wouldn’t be an understatement to say Mayo were outclassed in that opening 15 minutes and hopelessly at sea. To add to their woes, Eoghan Lavin was having a poor day from frees, with a couple of efforts falling short, and it took an inspirational 40-yard effort from Kevin Lynch, moved to the half back line, to get Mayo off the mark after 16 minutes.
Roscommon had gone four points clear by then with some good scores from an attack which moved the Mayo defensive chairs around to open up some gaping holes and it could have been a lot worse for Duffy’s men had Roscommon put away their chances.
But Mayo clung on and with Gallagher showing the way with a point from play and from a free, they were just three points down on the turnover.
They might well have been closer, Patrick Durcan just wide after a superb move, but Shane Hennelly was to miss the target after a tremendous move started at the back by Seán Moran who burst defence to start the move but unfortunately the finish was terrible.
It was a sign that Mayo did have a spark in them and it was ignited in the second half when they took the game to Roscommon, who put a lot of bodies behind the ball.
At one stage the Mayo full-back, Seán Moran, was the last man back standing alone at midfield as Mayo piled on the pressure, Burke, Plunkett, Durcan and Lynch coming forward in droves.
Inside three minutes of the restart Mayo had scored two points, both from Gallagher, the second an excellent effort from play.
It was still a one-point game after Gallagher and Murtagh traded frees but that class point from Murtagh on the outside of the boot was to prove crucial, and worthy of winning any game, the same player following up with a free to make it a three-point game again.
Roscommon withdrew two of their forwards, and two players who had looked so sharp in the first half, which was an indication of just how dominant Mayo were at the back, but unfortunately the possession they enjoyed was not reflected where it matters most, substitute James Quinn pulling out a good point, Gallagher had another and Hennelly might have stolen in it as he tried to find the net through a crowded goalmouth.
Roscommon held out to land that vital score in injury-time but Mayo will take some heart from that second half performance as they take on Munster champions Tipperary in the quarterfinals. The forwards, however, will have to have a serious look at their game if Mayo’s championship is to extend to the semi-final stage.
Scorers for Roscommon: D. Murtagh 0-5 (2f), R. McManus 0-2, E. Smith and K. Finn 0-1 each.
Scorers for Mayo A Gallagher 0-6 (5f), K. Lynch and J. Quinn 0-1 each.
Roscommon: S. Mannion, P. Neilan, D. Bannon, C. Kenny, N. McInerney, C. Heaney, R. Daly, U. Harney, T. Corcoran, C. Compton, R. McManus, E. Smith, D. Murtagh, K. Finn, M. Gunning.
Subs used: K. Kilcline for Compton, B. Fannon for McManus, P. Kenny for Gunning.
Mayo: C. O’Malley (Westport), D. McHale (Knockmore), S. Moran (Kiltimagh), Kevin Lynch (Mayo Gaels), P. Durcan (Castlebar Mitchels), C. Burke (Ardmore Sarsfields), M. Plunkett (Ballintubber), B. Mullen (Westport), A. Gallagher (Mayo Gaels), E. Lavin (Kiltimagh), S. Coen (Hollymount-Carramore), D. O’Connor (Ballintubber), C. Byrne (Aghamore), S. Hennelly (Shrule-Glencvorrib), S. Regan (Ballina).
Subs used: D. Duffy (Aghamore) for Lavin (h.t), J. Geraghty (Ballintubber) for McHale (40m), J. Quinn (Ballinrobe) for Regan (45m), R. Coleman (Castlebar Mitchels for Mullen.
Referee: S. O’hEithir (Galway).
Not one of the six starting forwards for Mayo scored. Corner back Kevin Lynch scored a point from play, as did substitute James Quinn, with captain Adam Gallagher providing the remaining scores, including two from play.
Man of the match Diarmuid Murtagh showed a piece of wizardry to produce a stunning point with the outside of his boot. It came at a time when Mayo had reduced the gap to two points and looked poised to overhaul their rivals with 10 minutes remaining.
Man of the match.
Mayo had some excellent players at the back with Cian Burke, Michael Plunkett, Patrick Durcan, Seán Moran and Kevin Lynch all playing well, while Adam Gallagher had a powerful game around the middle of the field, but the class act in this game was the Roscommon number 13, Diarmuid Murtagh.
Mayo now have to face the Munster champions, Tipperary, who retained their provincial title by beating Kerry. A tough ask for Duffy’s lads, but if they could find the second half form from this game and keep it up for the hour they still have an outside chance, but the forward division needs serious overhauling.