Saturday 17 March 2018

West re-awakens as the Rossies are ripped to shreds

All-Ireland SFC q-final replay: Mayo 4-19 Roscommon 0-9

Mayo’s Keith Higgins getting his effort away in yesterday’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final replay in Croke Park. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Mayo’s Keith Higgins getting his effort away in yesterday’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final replay in Croke Park. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

And then there were four. They may have taken a circuitous route full of hazards and road-blocks and got there a little later than expected, but Mayo have still arrived in the All-Ireland semi-finals, taking their rightful place among the best quartet of teams in the country.

Take your pick as to the order of merit after that, but Mayo certainly rolled back to the clock and restored some of their old values as a team by playing the way they know best and, for many, the way they play most effectively.

Attacking from every opportunity and angle, they pressed on the accelerator early and kept it down until Roscommon were beaten and bowed long before half-time.

It was ruthless, remorseless, and relentless. Gone was the cautious, fractured nature of their play of their earlier rounds, displaced by a confidence and resolve to deliver a full-blooded performance in this championship for once and for all.

It was as if they were hell-bent on purging themselves of all the malaise in previous performances. They hit Roscommon for four goals and, in truth, it might well have been double that.

Pouring through every crevice they advanced in numbers and at pace, switching direction to great effect to open up the Connacht champions with remarkable ease.

Mayo's Aidan O'Shea has words with Roscommon's Gary Patterson. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Mayo's Aidan O'Shea has words with Roscommon's Gary Patterson. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

And they did it all without their most penetrative runner, Lee Keegan, who was hospitalised during the week with an acute heel infection.

Mayo manager Stephen Rochford insisted he could have come on for the last 25 minutes but there was little point.

So much for the fatigue theory that was prevalent after the draw eight days earlier. They've now played more than 530 minutes of championship football but it doesn't seem like the issue it was not so long ago.

They were full of running, a throwback to some of their most compelling days between 2012 and 2014.

Mayo's Chris Barrett in action against Roscommon's Cathal Compton. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Mayo's Chris Barrett in action against Roscommon's Cathal Compton. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Rochford insisted otherwise, but perhaps there was some sense of slight felt at the fact they were being so summarily dismissed from the 'big four' over the last few weeks.

Their credit is better than that. With Tom Parsons restored to midfield and Keith Higgins posted to centre-back, the vibrancy was evident early on as they wreaked havoc on the Roscommon kick-out, winning eight from 18 in the first half off which they profited greatly.

"We were jumped on," reflected Roscommon manager Kevin McStay, who omitted his two goal-scorers from the last day, Ciaran Murtagh and Fintan Cregg, from the start, giving a first ever start to the unheralded Caoileann Fitzmaurice at midfield and Cathal Compton.

Removing such experience backfired and by the time they introduced for the second half they were 13 points adrift, 3-8 to 0-4.

The frustration told with Cregg, who was yellow-carded within three minutes and picked up a second by the 54th minute, which should have been a straight red for a punch to Diarmuid O'Connor's stomach as he lay on the ground after being fouled.

It was a sobering afternoon for them that will take just a little of the shine from their provincial success.

Diarmuid Murtagh, Niall Kilroy and Sean Mullooly kept pressing but most of the rest just sank without trace under the intense pressure applied by Mayo.

Mayo had built a 0-6 to 0-0 by the 15th minute, Aidan O'Shea hugely influential in using his power to win four frees and three throw-ins to give them valuable territory.

Water was pouring into every part of the Roscommon hull and, despite points from Enda Smith and Mullooly, they began to capsize when Kevin McLoughlin cut through them too easily for the first goal.

First Niall McInerney couldn't close after making a lung-bursting run to set up Mullooly's point just seconds earlier, then Brian Stack was cast aside as McLoughlin, taking the liberty of a double hop which referee Anthony Nolan missed, slid right-footed past Colm Lavin.

From the kick-out Roscommon were on the back foot again as Seamus O'Shea collected to set brother Aidan and Higgins sweeping through, this time Andy Moran applying the finish.

Moran could have added a second two minutes later before Higgins made sure when he slalomed through on 28 minutes for a third goal as a 13-point lead opened.

There was a ruthless streak to every aspect of their play and they were willing to commit fouls high up the field, even with such a commanding lead, to deny Roscommon any momentum.

Roscommon goalkeeper Colm Lavin blocked a Brendan Harrison shot from close range after another lightning raid on 34 minutes that had the impressive Colm Boyle, who won the kick-out, Moran and Cillian O'Connor all involved.

When Nolan's half-time whistle blew it felt like respite for Roscommon to spare them more misery.

It was a temporary stay. Vaughan was keen to make the most of his start and continued to punch holes in the cover to win frees, two of which Cillian O'Connor converted.

Aidan O'Shea added a second point and continued his rich late-summer form while Moran got off the mark with the perfect team point on 50 minutes for a 4-12 to 0-6 lead.


By then Cillian O'Connor had punished another kick-out that was turned over with a fourth goal on 48 minutes, provided by brother Diarmuid.

Rochford admitted watching the drawn game back had been a frustrating experience.

"When we sat down and reviewed the tape, the amount of frustration among all of us, in how poorly we executed," he said.

"Things we wouldn't be happy with. That sort of lead to an energy, saying, look, we're going to be somewhat different when we get back to Croke Park.'"

There had been criticism of substitutions and match-ups the last day but Rochford said it was something he was well accustomed to.

"A year-and-a-half into the job - it's not the first week we've taken it. It would be great if it was the last week we'd have to take it.

"That comes with the territory. We don't have any agendas. We make decisions as we see them in the game.

"It's the same with substitutions, how we play, tactically what we're about. You take it when it's going. I don't have any major issue with it. I didn't lose sleep this week about that any way."

They'll all have slept a little more soundly last night.

Scorers - Mayo: C O'Connor 1-6 (0-5fs); A Moran 1-1; K Higgins, K McLoughlin 1-0 each; S Nally, J Doherty, A O'Shea 0-2 each; D O'Connor, C Barrett, D Vaughan, S Coen, D Drake, T Parsons 0-1 each. Roscommon: D Murtagh 0-4 (2f), S Mullooly, N Kilroy, D Smith, E Smith, C Devaney all 0-1 each.

Mayo: D Clarke 7; P Durcan 8, B Harrison 7, C Barrett 8; C Boyle 8, K Higgins 9, D Vaughan 8; S O'Shea 7, T Parsons 8; K McLoughlin 8, A O'Shea 9, D O'Connor 7; J Doherty 8, C O'Connor 8, A Moran 8. Subs: S Coen for Barrett blood (9-16), C Loftus 6 for Doherty (46), D Drake 6 for McLoughlin (55), A Dillon 6 for Moran (60), S Coen 6 for Vaughan (61), D Kirby 6 for A O'Shea (62), S Nally 7 for Barrett (66).

Roscommon: C Lavin 4; S McDermott 5, N McInerney 6, D Murray 6; J McManus 6, S Mullooly 6, B Stack 5; T O'Rourke 5, C Fitzmaurice 6; E Smith 5 , N Kilroy 6, C Devaney 5; D Murtagh 7, Cathal Compton 4, C Connolly 4. Subs: F Cregg 4 for Connolly (h-t), C Murtagh 5 for Cathal Compton (h-t), G Patterson 6 for McDermott (ht), D Smith 6 for Stack (46), I Kilbride for Devaney (60), Colin Compton for E Smith (62).

Ref: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow).

Irish Independent

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