Rossies burst Mayo's bubble with historic win
Roscommon 2-12 Mayo 0-17
League champions Mayo crashed out of the Connacht Championship last night, losing to Roscommon for the first time in Championship football in Castlebar since 1986.
Substitute Fintan Cregg kicked the winning point deep in injury time and Mayo squandered a chance to draw level at the death when Kevin McLoughlin missed a free. But it was two first-half goals from Cathal Cregg and Ultan Harney which did the real damage.
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For the second week in a row, a team relegated from the top flight beat a Division 1 team in the provincial series. But Roscommon have a better record than Mayo in the Connacht Championship, having contested the last three finals whereas Mayo's last was in 2016.
Psychologically this was a crushing blow for Mayo whose league victory has suddenly plummeted in value. This was the first time since 2010 that reigning league champions failed to reach a provincial final. It was also a serious wake-up call for team boss James Horan who in his first term as boss had never lost a Connacht Championship game.
Roscommon will be underdogs again when they meet Galway in the provincial final on June 1 but they won't be intimidated by Kevin Walsh's side.
Bidding to extend their unbeaten record in encounters against Roscommon to 11 games, Mayo lined out as selected. The visitors made a tactical switch in their full-forward line with Andrew Glennon replacing Diarmuid Murtagh.
As expected, Anthony Cunningham opted for a defensive formation but, playing with the breeze, Mayo exerted huge pressure on Roscommon's kick-outs. They created five scoring chances in as many minutes after winning three of Darren O'Malley's first four restarts. But they only availed of two of those chances with Matthew Ruane and the impressive Darren Coen kicking points.
The first time O'Malley went short with a kick-out it yielded a huge dividend when Roscommon attacked down the right flank. After a quick free Cathal Cregg got through and blasted an unstoppable shot to the roof of the net. The home side kicked the next two scores before an error from Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly gifted Roscommon a second goal after 12 minutes. His short kick-out was intercepted by Ultan Harney who combined with Andrew Glennon and punched Glennon's cross into the empty net.
Hennelly was clearly rattled, as were his team-mates, and they coughed up the next two restarts. Roscommon's decision to attack the right flank was paying dividends as they outscored Mayo 3-2 during the next ten minutes.
Mayo's finishing was wayward and their defensive frailties resurfaced after Keith Higgins was booked by referee David Gough in the 26th minute after being the third man into a tackle. As a result a Mayo free was disallowed and from the hopped ball Glennon found himself in the clear. His first-time shot was saved, at the expense of a 45 which goalkeeper Darren O'Malley nailed.
But Roscommon's restart woes resurfaced again in the latter stages of the half with the visitors only winning one of O'Malley's last eight kick-outs.
Mayo outscored Roscommon 4-1 during that period to leave the visitors 2-6 to 0-10 ahead. But Mayo's tally of nine wides, compared to four for Roscommon, underlined the overall pattern.
A row broke out just as the ref blew the half-time whistle. As the players made their way to the tunnel there was jostling, pushing and shoving. There were unconfirmed reports that the Gardaí on duty had to keep the warring parties separated as they made their way to the dressing rooms. Before the start of the second half Gough booked Mayo's Paddy Durcan and Lee Keegan and Roscommon's Niall Daly and Cathal Cregg for their roles in the melee.
Mayo were experiencing huge problems trying to get through the massed Roscommon defence but the visitors' inability to secure possession from their own kick-outs was haunting them.
The individual excellence of Conor Cox - who kicked a brace of points -kept Roscommon's noses in front but gradually the pressure told.
Two minutes from the end of normal time Roscommon's David Murray was black-carded, reducing his side to 14 men as they had used their quota of six subs. Every play counted now as the tension mounted. A brilliant block by Niall Daly on Andy Moran - who was later black carded - resulted in a crucial turnover. Conor Hussey linked up with Fintan Cregg who held his nerve to kick what proved the winning score.
Sunday Indo Sport