Mayo snatch title with killer instinct
Mayo 1-11 Roscommon1-10
Mayo football may be blighted with hard-luck stories down through the years but they showed at Markievicz Park on Saturday evening that the new breed know how to dish out some hardship.
Roscommon looked to be cruising to their third Connacht U-21 title in a row but Mayo never lost sight of them and then came with a late surge which snatched victory at the death.
It was their 24th title in the grade, having surprisingly not made it to the final since they last won it in 2009, but they showed a bit of killer instinct which their hard-pressed supporters will hope stays with them as they mature into seniors in the years ahead.
Roscommon will wonder long and hard how they managed to let their tenth U-21 title slip from their grasp and with it the opportunity to string three Connacht underage titles together for the first time.
They raced into a six-point lead after just eight minutes, led by five at the interval and never trailed until Mayo struck for a goal three minutes from time.
In the end, they paid the price for not killing the game when they had the chances, although their cause was not helped by a black card to full-back Sean Mullolly and an injury to one of their senior players Cathal Compton.
"We went out at the start of the second half and we had a chance to knock over another simple point or two. We mentioned about keeping the scoreboard ticking over when we got the chances. It's not going to happen every day for you. There were chances there.
"There was probably a lot of things in the game that probably went against us at different stages. Obviously, losing a couple of the lads, Sean Mullooly, Cathal Compton. They would have been major losses to us. They would have been the engine room of our team. We dug deep right to the very end," he added.
Man of the match Diarmuid Murtagh gave Roscommon the perfect start with a goal after three minutes, while Henry Walsh should have added another as they dictated the flow of the game.
They were well worth their 1-6 to 0-4 interval lead and should really have been out of sight.
Mayo came threw everything at them after the restart but while Roscommon remained in front they did not kill the game and left themselves vulnerable to an inspired comeback.
"We did, we really targeted the first ten minutes of the second half," said Mayo manager Mike Solan, whose goalkeeper Mattie Flanagan denied Murtagh another goal just early in the second half.
"And we were very eager obviously to make a good start. It was pretty obvious going in at half-time that if we didn't have a good first 10 or 12 minutes of the second half there was a possibility the game could have been out of sight.
"But better late than never I suppose. We were under pressure for a fair bit of the game, but thankfully we were able to work things around in the first 15, 20 minutes of the second half, claw Roscommon back a little bit, push ourselves back into a position where we could compete."
The key score came three minutes from the end of normal time when Mayo struck to hit the front for the first time. Substitute James Carr sent a delivery in from the left wing and Liam Irwin, who battled back from injury to play, got a powerful fist to it to send it into the bottom right corner.
Roscommon were stunned but while the magnificent Murtagh got them back on level terms, Mayo had the smell of victory and duly delivered, working the ball upfield for Michael Plunkett to shoot the winner two minutes into stoppage time.
Mayo will now meet Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final.
scorers - Mayo: L Irwin 1-3 (2f, 1 '45); C Loftus 0-3 (3f); F Duffy 0-2; M Plunkett, F Boland & B Reape 0-1 each. Roscommon: D Murtagh 1-4 (2f); R Daly 0-3; U Harney, B Stack & H Walsh 0-1 each.
Mayo - M Flanagan; D Kenny, S Cunniffe, E Doran; M Hall, S Coen, S Akram; D O'Connor, M Ruane; M Plunkett, C Loftus, F Boland; L Irwin, B Reape, F Duffy. Subs: E O'Donoghue for Doran (18), J Carr for Loftus (45).
Roscommon - R Fahy; J Connaughton, S Mullooly, K Beirne; F Lennon, U Harney, B Stack; T O'Rourke, C Compton; K Farrell, H Walsh, B Kelly; D Murtagh, H Darcy, R Daly. Subs: M Daly for Mullolly (30), R Raftery for Compton (36), C Callinan for Kelly (46), K Smith for Walsh (58).
Ref - J Molloy (Galway)