Friday, 14 January 2011 12:31
Mayo have dug themselves into a deep hole in their efforts to qualify for the knockout stages of the Oscar Traynor Cup. The side's failure to defeat Roscommon at Milebush Park on Sunday has put pressure on them to defeat Sligo/Leitrim away on January 23 to avoid exiting the competition at the preliminary stage for the second consecutive season.
But after falling behind three times to a spirited and energetic Roscommon side, they had to count themselves fortunate to seal the point that kept their interest in the series alive for another two weeks at least.
The encounter exposed serious deficiencies in Mayo's rearguard and central midfield which need to be urgently addressed before the meeting with group leaders Sligo/Leitrim.
On the positive side, however, the side displayed immense character and resilience in consistently battling from behind.
While Benny Lavelle and Martin Geraghty went close to snatching late winning goals for the home side, they could easily have been punished in defence in the closing stages by opponents who counterattacked at electrifying pace.
The visitors gave early notice of their intentions by taking the lead after four minutes. Sean Fahey found space behind the Mayo defence before unleashing a shot that goalkeeper Niall Gallagher failed to hold and Ballymoe striker Colm Killackey calmly swept the rebound into the net.
Mayo were back on level terms within a quarter of an hour when John Mountney and Brendan Nallen combined brilliantly down the right to create an opening that Lavelle clinically exploited.
It made amends for his miss moments earlier when he was denied by Michael Killilea from point-blank range.
Roscommon, causing endless problems for Mayo by playing the ball swiftly over the defence and into space, regained the lead within three minutes.
The incisive Fahey utilised his blistering space to telling effect in his wide role before delivering the ball sweetly to Paul Allen who side-footed it neatly into the net from five yards.
Lavelle came to Mayo's rescue four minutes later when he intercepted a poor back pass by Shane Harkin and fired a shot past the helpless Killilea.
The second half was a frantic affair, the trend being set when Mayo midfielder Gary Goggins had a headed goal correctly disallowed for an offside infringement.
Gallagher, the Mayo custodian, had to be alert to deny Allen after the Roscommon Town striker roamed unmarked into the penalty area.
Roscommon were awarded for their persistence when their lead was restored with a quarter of an hour remaining.
Fahey, the game's most influential figure, outmuscled Danny Broderick to create a clear opening for himself. His angled shot appeared to heading marginally wide before it was turned into his own net by the luckless Martin Geraghty.
Surely Mayo could not produce a third equaliser? To their credit, they did.
Iorras ace Nallen capitalised on poor Roscommon defending to direct a well-struck 15-yard drive into the roof of Killilea's net to make it 3-3.
Mayo finished strongly and Lavelle was denied his hat-trick by a stunning Killilea save before Geraghty watched agonisingly as his fine headed effort came crashing back off the crossbar.
Roscommon regained their composure and held out for a merited point, albeit a result that put them out of the competition.
Mayo will certainly join them on the scrap heal unless significant surgery is performed ahead of their meeting with Sligo/Leitrim.
Only Joe Lawless, Brendan Nallen, Michael Duffy and Benny Lavelle emerged from the encounter with any degree of credit.
Best for Roscommon were Fahey, Allen, Paul Kelly and David Fitzpatrick.
Mayo: N. Gallagher, T. O'Connor, D. Broderick, J. Lawless, M. Geraghty, J. Mountney, B. Nallen, G. Goggins, M. Duffy, B. Lavelle, E. Gorman.
Roscommon: M. Killilea, G. Egan, S. Larkin, P. Kelly, P. Keighery, M. Duffy, R. Curran, D. Fitzpatrick, P. Allen, C. Killackey, S. Fahey.
Subs used: D. Concannon, L. Lynch.
Ref: M. Halligan (Castlebar).
●Star rating: Sean Fahey. . .crafty.