Mayo at too high a level for Roscommon
What James Horan’s side lack in attack they gain in defence
Who’d be the Mayo manager, eh? James Horan spent the winter being told that he had no forwards and that his attacking approach needed overhauling. Thursday lunchtime, the Mayo team is named with half the front six changed from the All-Ireland final and it’s panic on the streets of Lacken. He must wonder to himself. Could life ever be sane again?
In fairness, it’s bold stuff. You have to go back to 2006 to find the last time a fully-fit Andy Moran didn’t start a championship match. Heading to the Hyde with a couple of half-forwards who have an hour’s championship experience between them – and that against New York – is rolling the dice any way you look at it.
Most Mayo people assumed that Conor O’Shea and Diarmuid O’Connor are the future, not too many were predicting they’d be the present this quickly.
Known quantitiesThere’s a reasonable argument to be made that this had to happen – albeit that very few were making it in stark terms before Thursday. If Mayo are to get to the top of the mountain, it’s hard to put your hand on your heart and assert that the various known quantities Horan has at his disposal will carry them there.
There are five changes here from the team that hockeyed Roscommon last year, with Rob Hennelly, Jason Doherty, the O’Connor brothers and O’Shea coming in for David Clarke, Alan Dillon, Enda Varley, Richie Feeney and Cathal Carolan. Whatever the various merits and demerits, there’s no denying this is a fresher looking side.
Whether or not they are the horses for this particular course is another matter.
If all indications are to be believed, Roscommon have an afternoon of not particularly dainty blanket defence in store. There will be swarming and crowding and generally the sort of problems that a slight lad like O’Connor wouldn’t be expected to have solutions to just a year out of minor. It will be interesting to see how long he lasts and if he prospers.
Though there have been eyebrows raised over John Evans’s selection too – primarily around the absence of any of the crack under-21 team – the sense of surprise is more indefinable.
If there’s a feeling abroad that some of the under-21s ought to be in there, there’s precious little consensus as to which ones and for whom.
Diarmuid Murtagh looks as close to a sure thing as you can get at that age but none of the inside forwards gave an inch against Leitrim. Enda Smith is probably the likeliest candidate for a start sometime soon as an up-and-down wing-forward but again the current incumbents Ronan Stack and David O’Gara have cost their side nothing in the past couple of games.
Different prospectMayo are a different prospect to Leitrim and Cavan though. For all the shock of the new in attack, they’re still arguably the top side in the country from one to nine. It’s 12 years since Roscommon scored a goal against them and the Rossies’ last five totals against them have read 0-9, 0-9, 0-11, 0-7 and 0-11.
Roscommon are on the up but the suspicion here is that their ceiling is still lower than Mayo’s floor just yet.