Wednesday 17 January 2018

Ronaldson papers over Mayo cracks

MAYO 1-9
FBD League SF

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

A flurry of overnight snow raised doubts about this semi-final, yet Ballinlough's scenic pitch held up well and the only doubts that lingered during and after the game concerned the merits of both sides, especially on the scoring front.

Mayo won but little separated the sides apart from an early second-half penalty, coolly slotted by their impressive top-scorer Mark Ronaldson (1-6).

With their fanfare National League opener against Galway just a week away, this was hardly the sort of convincing performance that their manager John O'Mahony was looking for.

"We weren't able to shake them off," he conceded. "The goal made a difference but even after that they came back at us again."

Referee Michael Duffy's tight interpretation of the rules -- he also booked nine players (three from Roscommon) in an encounter that was not overly physical -- contributed to a stop-start game in which both sides lacked attacking cohesion.


Yet Roscommon boss Fergal O'Donnell, fielding a far more experimental side because of injuries, college games and absentees, could be more satisfied with the way in which his Division 3 side held their own.

He probably learnt more than his counterpart about his players, who battled back from three points down in the first half to level it early in the second; they then took down Enda Varley to concede the decisive 37th-minute penalty.

Mayo started Varley and Seamus O'Shea (older brother of full-forward Aidan) yesterday on the basis that although the pair have played McGrath Cup for University of Limerick this season, they were not college-tied as that is a separate competition.

O'Shea was partnered by Ronan McGarrity in midfield in the second half as O'Mahony threw Tom Parsons forward to try to make more of the long balls that his side spent most of the day pumping forward, most of them with little effect.

For the first time in this FBD campaign, young full-forward star Aidan O'Shea was kept quiet by Castlerea's Michael Killelea; only Ronaldson impressed in Mayo's attack.

With Conor Mortimer and Alan Dillon expected to be in Australia for another few weeks at least, Ronaldson's attacking role and free-taking accuracy were especially important.

One bonus for Mayo was the return to competitive action of Ger Cafferkey at full-back and, on occasions their half-backs shone, as did Andy Moran and Trevor Mortimer.

Roscommon keeper Geoffrey Claffey was forced to smother a good snapshot from Ronaldson after six minutes but otherwise Mayo really didn't endanger his goalmouth.

Still, they should have been ahead by a lot more than a point (0-5 to 0-4) at half-time: they had already kicked six wides by that stage.

On the resumption, two points within a minute from Ger Heneghan and Gary Cox put Roscommon in the lead again and warmed up the considerable home crowd. Even after Mayo's immediate 1-1 response, they still hung on tenaciously and never gave up.

Corner-back Stephen Ormsby did well, Michael Finneran held his own in midfield for a long period and centre-back Ian Kilbride was a contender for the Man of the Match award.

Wing-back John Rogers also got on the scoreboard with two excellent second-half frees.

But a 0-3 yield from their half-back line, and only three points from play throughout, was also testament to Roscommon's lack of finishing ability, which underlined the absence of Donie Shine (playing for DCU) and the injured Senan Kilbride.

Mayo allowed themselves to get a little undisciplined in the final quarter, conceding some silly frees, but Roscommon, lobbing in high balls on top of Heneghan and Cox, couldn't take advantage, although Kilbride sent over a great effort.

Despite losing, though, they may take more confidence out of this game than the winners as they look to a Division 3 NFL campaign that opens against Cavan next weekend.

Scorers -- Mayo: M Ronaldson 1-6 (0-5f, 1-0 pen), A Moran (0-1f), S O'Shea, T Mortimer 0-1 each. Roscommon: G Heneghan 0-3 (2f), G Cox (1f), J Rogers (2f) 0-2 each, I Kilbride 0-1.

Mayo -- D Clarke; L O'Malley, G Cafferkey, D Vaughan; P Gardiner, T Howley, K Higgins; S O'Shea, T Parsons; A Moran, B Kelly, T Mortimer; E Varley, A O'Shea, M Ronaldson. Subs: R McGarrity for Kelly (h-t), S Nally for O'Malley (h-t), N Douglas for Mortimer (52).

Roscommon -- G Claffey; S McDermott, M Killelea, S Ormsby; N Carty, I Kilbride, J Rogers; M O'Carroll, M Finneran; S Purcell, C McHugh, B Higgins; T Kelly, E Kenny, G Heneghan. Subs: K Higgins for B Higgins (11), G Cox for Kelly (25), P Freeman for McHugh (53).

REF -- Michael Duffy (Sligo).

Irish Independent

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