Roscommon’s last championship win in Castlebar was in ‘86
The 1980s were a bleak time for Roscommon football. The brilliant team of the late 1970s and 1980 were by then a distant memory. Star players like Dermot Earley, Pat Lindsay, Tom Heneghan, John O’Connor, Mick Finneran and Seamus Hayden had moved on.
At the beginning of 1986 Mayo were joint favourites to win the All-Ireland senior football title.
When Roscommon were drawn to play Mayo in the first round of the Connacht SFC in 1986, they were not given a hope by anyone of beating their neighbours at MacHale Park in Castlebar.
However, a quite brilliant display from Roscommon and the two McManus brothers – Tony and Eamonn – in particular, helped Roscommon to one of the sweetest wins they had in the Connacht Championship in many years.
(at MacHale Park, Castlebar)
What happened on the June 15th, 1986 on a sweltering day in Castlebar restored many people’s faith in Roscommon football.
It was a searing hot day in Castlebar and the 17,500 crowd were treated to a real humdinger of a championship game which began in sensational fashion. After ninety seconds of play Tony McManus netted what was probably the finest goal he scored in his long and distinguished football career in championship football. Seamus Killoran fielded brilliantly at midfield, he passed to Tom Óg O’Brien, who spotted Tony Mac free down the centre and after one hop and a solo he unleashed a fantastic shot from twenty yards into the top corner of the Mayo net.
A minute later, Paul Earley rattled over another Roscommon point and corner-forward Adrian Garvey raced through for another Roscommon score in the 7th minute to give the Primrose and Blue a shock five-point lead.
Rattled, Mayo gradually got going and points from Jimmy Maughan, Kevin McStay and Padraig Brogan saw them back to within two by the 19th minute.
Tony Mac scored another great point on the stroke of half-time and at that stage Roscommon led by 1-5 to 0-4. Liam MacHale’s shot came back off a post in the 10th minute of the new half. Meanwhile, Gay Sheerin made two brilliant saves to deny Padraig Brogan first, and then Willie Joe Padden. Willie Joe Padden’s point in the 16th minute of the second half brought the margin back to two and Brogan reduced the gap even further with a point from a free two minutes later.
After Brogan equalised with 13 minutes to go, the crowd expected that Mayo would go on and win it.
But Roscommon pulled two clear again with points from Paul Earley and Adrian Garvey. However, Padraig Brogan was the one Mayo player who was excelling. He kicked a mighty 35-metre point in the 27th minute and a converted free from the same player levelled the scores. Now a draw looked odds-on.
However, the McManus brothers had other ideas. As the clock ticked past 35 minutes, Tony Mac gained possession almost 60 yards from the Mayo goal and turned and kicked an outrageous point that brought the Roscommon supporters to their feet. There was even more excitement on the kick-out when Eamonn McManus caught the ball and powered over another brilliant point. Then Mickey Kearns blew the final whistle and it was all over.
The Primrose and Blue supporters swarmed onto the MacHale Park pitch to celebrate with their heroes. I recall heading back to Ballinlough that evening where a brilliant night was had by one and all all in Fitzmaurice’s bar.
It’s hard to believe that Roscommon have not beaten Mayo in the senior championship in Castlebar since that famous day. It’s time that gap was bridged!
Roscommon: Gay Sheeran; Gary Wynne, Pat Doorey, Harry Keegan; Paul Hickey, Gerry Fitzmaurice, Danny Murray; Seamus Killoran, Padraig McNeill; Eamonn McManus Junior, Tony McManus (1-3), Eamonn McManus Senior (0-3); Tom Og O’Brien, Paul Earley (0-3), Adrian Garvey (0-3). Subs: Pat Gaynor for Killoran, Seanie McNeill for O’Brien, Anthony McManus for Doorey.
Mayo: Eugene Lavin; Martin Carney, Peter Ford, Jimmy Browne; Frank Noone, PJ McGarry, John Finn; Liam McHale, Willie Joe Padden (0-1); Padraig Brogan (0-8), Jimmy Burke, Noel Durkin (0-1); Tom Reilly, Jimmy Maughan (0-1), Kevin McStay (0-1). Subs: M Fitzmaurice for Maughan, MJ Mullan for McStay, J Lindsay for Noone.
Referee: Mickey Kearns (Sligo).