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'Mixed bag' for Horan as Mayo hold on

THE proverbial game of two halves resulted in an entertaining climax to this clash at the Michael Glaveys club in Ballinlough yesterday.

Home side Roscommon were out of contention for the FBD League decider before the game, while Mayo had already booked their place in Friday night's final against NUIG at Castlebar.

Thus, this contest was all about performance, trying out players and working on systems for managers Des Newton (below) and James Horan.

Newton, the recently appointed Rossies manager, didn't have much to enjoy in the first half as Mayo were full value for a 0-7 to 0-2 interval lead.

But a reshuffle that brought Roscommon's big full-forward Donie Shine back outfield and some tightening up in defence, plus a spirited midfield display by Michael Finneran and Kevin Higgins, turned the tables on the Connacht champions.

Only their greater experience and the desire to avoid embarrassment after lording it over Roscommon for much of the game saved the day for Mayo.

"It was a good second half, a good fighting performance. We talked about improving the support play through the middle part of the field in the second half and they upped the work rate," Newton said.

"From the point of view of preparation for the National League, we're very happy with that. I'm not looking at the scoreboard. It's all about the big picture at this stage. There's a bit of a feel-good factor coming out of that game today that will stand to us going into training this week."

Mayo boss James Horan felt his side should have enjoyed a bigger lead than five points at half-time.

"We did a lot of pretty good things in the first half. We should have been more up at half-time. We'd a couple of goal chances and weren't clinical enough.

"We should have kicked on in the second half and didn't. We gave away a huge amount of turnovers and let Roscommon back into the game. Roscommon dominated midfield for ten or 15 minutes and we didn't sort it out quick enough.

"That would be disappointing from our point of view, but when we needed to win the last couple of balls we did win them and we drove on. It's a very mixed bag, but we can work on that," he said.

Danny Kirby, scorer of four goals last week, missed the game due to exams this week, but Mayo had plenty of strength up front as they set about Roscommon from the throw-in.

From the moment Pat Harte opened the scoring with a point to nicely finish off a four-man move, the Green and Red showed plenty of appetite for positive football.

Ger Heneghan kicked Roscommon's first score after six minutes, striking the ball sweetly with his left foot to level matters at a point each, but apart from another Heneghan score after 14 minutes, that was as good as it got for the Rossies attack for a long time.

At the other end, Alan Freeman nicked a point from play, while goalie Dave Clarke did a 'Stephen Cluxton' and came forward to score Mayo's third point from a '45' after 11 minutes.

And then came a number of opportunities for the colourful Conor Mortimer to play cat and mouse with the Rossies defence.

Four more points was the outcome -- two from frees -- with the pick of the Mortimer's scores a punched effort to get the ball over the bar, despite falling under the pressure of a tackle.

On the debit side, he missed a goal chance when a fisted attempt sent the ball rebounding off an upright.

A goal at that point might have seriously hurt Roscommon, but on the evidence of the first half, it didn't look as if it would make much difference.

Indeed, just 27 seconds of the second period had elapsed before Seamus O'Shea put Mayo 0-8 to 0-2 ahead with a point.

Business as usual it seemed although Darren McDermott, from a free, got the Rossies' third point of the game a minute later.

Shine finally found his range to score a point from a free 25 metres from goal in the 33rd minute -- the game was 60 minutes instead of the usual 70, but so what?

Well, by the stage when there were nine minutes left, we knew exactly what was what, because from the jaws of defeat Roscommon were suddenly lifted into contention by a powerful surge through the middle by Higgins, who smashed the ball into the Mayo net.

Substitute goalkeeper Conor Campbell had replaced Dave Clarke at half-time, but could do nothing to prevent Higgins scoring.

The goal made the score 1-7 to 0-12. Two points behind from what had been a five-point deficit and it was all to play for.

The action was hectic at both ends as each team vied for supremacy, but points by John Rogers (free) and a superbly struck score from a '45' by Shine brought the teams level at 1-9 to 0-12 three minutes from the end.

And then, when it counted most, Mayo had the men to produce the two scores to kill off Roscommon. Barry Moran, who had come on as a sub, and Alan Dillon got the two late points that clinched the win.

Scorers -- Mayo: C Mortimer 0-6 (3f); A Freeman 0-2; P Harte, D Clarke ('45'), S O'Shea, A Moran, B Moran, A Dillon 0-1 each. Roscommon: D Shine 0-4 (1f, 2 45s); Kevin Higgins 1-1; G Heneghan 0-2; D McDermott, J Rogers (f) 0-1 each.

Mayo -- D Clarke; Keith Higgins, S McHale, L Keegan; R Feeney, D Vaughan, C Barrett; S O'Shea, J Gibbons; K McLoughlin, A Dillon, P Harte; A Freeman, B Moran, C Mortimer. Subs: C Campbell for D Clarke (h-t); A Feeney for D Vaughan (38); M Walsh for K Higgins (38); A Moran for C Mortimer (49); C O'Connor for K McLaughlin (49) .

Roscommon -- G Claffey; S McDermott, M Higgins, J Sharkey; C Dineen, E Kenny, S Purcell; M Finneran, Kevin Higgins; G Heneghan, C Daly, D McDermott; C Devaney, D Shine, J Rogers. Subs: M Scally for C Daly (58); D Rogers for C Devaney.

Ref -- R McBrien (Leitrim)

Irish Independent