Allianz NFL Division One (Round 1)
The scoreline would suggest a nail-biting encounter between these two age-old rivals. In truth Shane Killoran’s goal in the 74th minute saw Anthony Cunningham’s men narrow the gap to the minimum against a Mayo side who just about deserved to win this opening round match played in horrendous weather conditions in MacHale Park last Saturday night thanks to a decisive goal from debutant Brian Reape.
Roscommon deserve huge praise for a tenacious, determined and incredibly hard-working performance which just fell short on the night.
In fact, having reviewed the match a couple of times since, if the Rossies had a reliable free-taker in the opening half when they were playing with the elements, they could have gone in nine or ten points ahead and that would probably have been enough to take the points. Five placed balls were either sent wide or dropped short in that opening half and that was to prove crucial in the end.
Add to that a missed goal chance from Cathal Cregg in the 33rd minute and it gives a picture of Roscommon dominance in that first half.
But one couldn’t criticise players on either side as the conditions were as bad as I have ever seen in over three decades of reporting on GAA league games. An icy gale-force wind fanned torrential rain showers which blew directly downfield from the ‘bacon factory end’ and it was a lottery for the players to even master the most basic skills of the game which made for a poor error-ridden dog-fight, totally understandable in the circumstances.
Roscommon’s work ethic, tackling, determination and never-say-die attitude was heart-warming, and Anthony Cunningham has the team playing with fierce pride, and no little steel. But at times in the opening half Roscommon were a little too defensive and when the ball was driven into the attack there were too few bodies there to convert possession into scores.
The fact that Roscommon did not score for the final twenty minutes of play in the opening half ultimately cost them victory against Mayo for the first time in the league since 1988.
But there is plenty to be positive about, Niall Daly was once again immense. He got through a mountain of work and never shirked a challenge. Evan McGrath and Ronan Daly were also prominent in defence. Despite worries about Roscommon’s midfield sector Enda Smith and Tadgh O’Rourke did very well and edged that battle. Up front Colin Compton did well on a very difficult night for attackers and Shane Killoran and Donie Smith had their moments.
Like most Roscommon supporters I was hoping for a good performance and we surely got that. The players are giving everything for the cause but we will have to improve in attack. We need to find a free taker as reliable as Ciaráin Murtagh was. In the rarified atmosphere of Division One a good place kicker is essential. Every chance must be taken.
Roscommon have certainly stiffened up their defence and the effort of the players is a credit to the hard work that they and the management have put in since they took over. But if Roscommon want to survive in this division hard work and defensive discipline must be accompanied by some quality in attack and with two more exceptionally tough games coming in the next two weeks, the hope will be that Roscommon can up the ante offensively.
As for Mayo I was not overly impressed with them. Paddy Durcan, Jason Doherty, Colm Boyle and Diarmuid O’Connor had their moments but the jury is out on how James Horan’s ‘second coming’ will go.
Monaghan are next up for Roscommon on Sunday next and the odds are that the weather will be not as bad as we witnessed last weekend. The Farney men are a quality side and even in Hyde Park they will provide a massive challenge. Roscommon will be a match for anyone in this division but points on the board are what it’s all about. That 10,941 people were brave enough to go to a match in such conditions says something about the appeal of the game.
Teams and Scorers
Mayo: Robert Hennelly; Eoin O’Donoghue, Brendan Harrison (0-1), Keith Higgins; Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle, Paddy Durcan (0-1); Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1), Donal Vaughan (0-1); Fergal Boland, Aidan O’Shea, Jason Doherty (0-3, 2 frees); Evan Regan (0-1, a free), Brian Reape (1-0), Conor Diskin.
Subs used: Andy Moran for Boland (h/t); Stephen Coen for Vaughan (69); Fionn McDonagh for Diskin (71); James McCormack for Boyle (73).
Roscommon: Darren O’Malley; Evan McGrath, Conor Daly, Gary Patterson; Conor Hussey, Niall Daly, Ronan Daly; Tadhg O’Rourke, Enda Smith (0-1, a free); Niall Kilroy, Shane Killoran (0-1), Donie Smith (0-1); Colin Compton (0-2), Ciarán Lennon, Cathal Cregg (0-1).
Subs used: Ultan Harney (0-1) for Lennon (h/t); Hubert Darcy for Cregg (61), Caoileann Fitzmaurice for O’Rourke (68); David Neary for Patterson (68).
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry)