Jack Carney of Mayo during the Allianz Football League Division 1 match between Roscommon and Mayo at Dr. Hyde Park in Roscommon. The Kilmeena has another tremendous display and fully deserved his man of the match accolade. PHOTO: SPORTSFILE

Mayo hold off Roscommon to put one foot in the league final


THE more things change, the more they stay the same. You can always count on Mayo to do things the hard way, and last Sunday at Hyde Park was no different.

Six changes were announced before throw-in (when the GAA will step in and stop this nonsense is anyone’s guess) but Mayo continued their blistering starts to league games under Kevin McStay and they flew out of the traps in the opening quarter.

At one stage in the first half this looked like it was going to be a cakewalk for Mayo as they tore into Roscommon. This top-of the-table clash was turning into one in name only as Mayo reeled off seven points without reply before Roscommon got on the scoreboard.

No matter where across the field, Mayo were the better team and this might have turned to a hammering not seen since the 2017 All-Ireland quarterfinal replay, when McStay was Roscommon manager and his now assistant, Stephen Rochford, was Mayo boss. How times change.

Yet Mayo lost their way. Roscommon hit a hot streak and while Jack Carney’s goal for Mayo looked to have sown it up with 20 minutes to go, they sadly began to show a few familiar traits, the primary one being the ability to make things difficult for themselves.

Enda Smith and Conor Cox’s goals somehow brought it back to one and Mayo’s game management deserted them as they kicked a wide and a poor ball over the sideline in their last three possessions. Right at the end, you feared the worst when Ben O’Carroll had the goal at his mercy but thankfully his hesitation was a gift to Mayo and the visitors could go down the N60 with their unbeaten record still intact.

A week break now – potentially the last one until mid-April - offers a chance to take stock of what has happened. Nobody expected Mayo to look almost nailed down for a league final spot after five games but that’s where they are. While it’s only March, they have played some dazzling football and the bounce and belief that was gone in the latter stages of last year’s championship is certainly back among the players and especially the supporters.

Ballybofey on Paddy’s weekend will give us a few more clues into what might lie in store over the coming weeks.


WHILE winning the title or preventing relegation is impossible at this early stage, the results and manner of certain victories can certainly help build momentum.

While Ballina Town were spoken about as potential title contenders, many believed they would be behind the likes of Ballyheane, Castlebar Celtic and Kiltimagh/Knock United. Just when it appeared they looked to have dropped two points against old rivals Westport United, Daniel Gorman popped up with a big winner to keep Ballina top of the table.

Sitting alongside them are Kiltimagh/Knock United and Castlebar Celtic, who both won by the narrowest of margins. I was in Celtic Park and you could argue that this was a game last year that Celtic might have drawn and possibly lost. The Hoops should have been home and dry by half-time. Johnny Cocozza’s red card late on set up a nervy ending, but they showed great resilience to bag all three points.

What a win for Crossmolina against Straide & Foxford, meanwhile. David O’Boyle’s 89th minute winner could end up being a big victory going forward. They were two sides I predicted for relegation but Cross look the more capable at this stage of maintaining Super League status.

I always felt the other promoted side, Conn Rangers, were going to be good in Mayo’s top flight but no one could have predicted what happened against Ballyheane after they cut the Super League champions to ribbons. No doubt Joe Faughnan had a huge smile on his face heading back to Knockmore that evening!


WHEN you think football cannot surprise you anymore, what happened at Anfield last Sunday was simply beyond description.

Liverpool versus Manchester United is a fixture renowned the world over and it is always a tense battle between the two biggest sides in English football. The last few years at Anfield have been fairly one-sided but with United’s upturn in fortunes and Liverpool’s struggles this season, a much closer encounter was expected.

The first half would lend credence to it. United weathered the storm for the majority of the half and looked like they would make the breakthrough. But Gakpo’s brilliant opener for Liverpool changed everything.

Nunez got the second early on in the second half and what followed was simply laughable from both sides - for very different reasons. Liverpool looked like the Liverpool of old as their intensity and movement devastated United. As the Liverpool fans smelled blood and demanded four, five, six and seven, the players duly obliged.

United’s body language from the third goal onwards was disgusting, encapsulated by Bruno Fernandes as he pleaded to be subbed off at one stage. It was the United over the previous two seasons. When someone asked questions, they collapsed like a deck of cards. The 5-0 and 4-0 drubbings of last season won’t hurt like this. This result may define both clubs’ seasons going forward.