Mayo manager Kevin McStay during the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship quarterfinal. The defeat to Roscommon gives McStay and his management a six week break to regroup before the All-Ireland series.

Painful defeat for Mayo but not the end of the world

THE ‘curse’ of Mayo winning a National League title reared its ugly head ahead as Roscommon got one over the Green and Red in Castlebar once more.

It’s quite hard to believe. Just like in 1970, 2001 and 2019, after a national title, Mayo have come unstuck in the provincial championships, the Rossies inflicting the pain each time.

Credit where its due. Roscommon came with a gameplan and executed it to perfection. Roscommon manager Davy Burke spoke of ‘disrespect’ his side had been shown in the week leading up to this game. I am not particularly sure where the disrespect is coming from as for anyone I spoke to, they were treating this tie with the utmost of respect.

Roscommon had a tremendous league campaign and while it tapered off towards the end, they earned plenty of plaudits and were well primed to have an assault at the Nestor Cup. Their encounter with Galway in two weeks’ time has all the makings of a great match and considering Roscommon’s good record in Salthill, you would not be surprised to see them do what they did in 2019 and win in Castlebar and Salthill on their way to the provincial title.

From Mayo’s perspective, the frustrating thing is as well as allowing Roscommon to play the game on their terms, they had the chances to make this an entirely different game. Stephen Coen’s thunderbolt off the crossbar on eight minutes was a real sliding doors moment in the first half.

The dismal conditions were always going to play their part and it was not an occasion for free-flowing football. That said, there will be frustration that it took 25 minutes, and playing with a stiff wind, for Mayo to get a score from open play. As well as Coen’s goal chance, they struck five wides and even then, you began to wonder was a smash and grab on the cards.

David Murray’s penalty, coupled with Donie Smith’s rebound, gave the Rossies two huge goals that, in the end, Mayo could not come back from. Coupled with playing against the wind in the second half, it was always going to be a big ask.

To Mayo’s credit, they came close. Donnacha McHugh, Matthew Ruane, Tommy Conroy and Aidan O’Shea reduced it to the minimum but could never find the score to draw them level with a combination of brilliant Roscommon defending and poor decision-making for Mayo proving costly for the hosts. Once substitute Conor Cox made it a four-point game, there was no coming back.

Despite the loss, Mayo will still be in the group stages for Sam Maguire as a result of the convoluted new format - can anyone make sense of it? – and now have a blessing in disguise of six weeks to recover ahead of the All-Ireland round robin.

A chance for Kevin McStay and his management team to look back and review Mayo’s progress to date, for a couple of players to recover from injuries and to prepare for what hopefully will be a fruitful summer.