Mayo 0-13 Roscommon 1-9: So Mayo eventually found a way past the proverbial blanket and bus – then survived the thunder and crashing of a Roscommon goal – to earn their place in another Connacht football final.
If Mayo rued the lack of a proper test in the Connacht championship last year then they certainly got one here – coming from three points down with 10 minutes of normal time remaining. Some steady free-taking from Cillian O'Connor and the brilliant impact of substitute Andy Moran just about got them back in front by the end.
After Roscommon's defensive tactics in the first half everything turned offensive, when eight minutes into the second half, Ciaran Cafferkey broke loose left of goal, cruised into a scoring position, then unleashed an unstoppable shot to the right of Mayo goalkeeper Robert Hennelly.
That set alight Dr Hyde Park – and the crowd of 15,873 – as it was actually the first Roscommon goal against their Mayo opponents in the championship in 12 years. Roscommon under-21 star Diarmuid Murtagh also came on to add two superb points, and with that the home team were up by three, 1-8 to 0-8, with just over 10 minutes to go.
Mayo, crucially, hit the next five scores in succession, and while Murtagh did get one back late in the five minutes if injury time (allowed for Donie Shine's stretchered off the field on 54 minutes), it was just too late for the young team of manager John Evans.
Still it made for a terrifically exciting climax to a game that had started out as another display of the overly defensive versus the all-out attack. Mayo were up 0-4 to 0-3 at half-time, but it was hardly exhilarating football, although a fascinating tactical battle nonetheless.
Indeed the first half couldn’t have been much tighter if the two teams played inside an empty bottle. Roscommon packed either 13 or 14 men behind the ball, with obvious consequences – as Mayo’s slick running game invariably ran down a cul de sac.
No wonder they went into the break only a point apart, with Roscommon scoring their opening point after five minutes, through Kevin Hughes, then not scoring again for another half an hour, when Senan Kilbride broke off a tackle to score from play. Shine then added a beautifully struck free just before the break, leaving them just the point in arrears.
Mayo's nerves and will to win were certainly tested to the full in the second half, leaving manager James Horan with no hesitation in admitting his team "were lucky to get out of there."
Just the sort of test they were looking for.
MAYO: 1 R Hennelly; 2 T Cunniffe, 3 G Cafferkey, 4 K Higgins; 5 L Keegan, 6 C Boyle, 7 D Vaughan; 8 A O'Shea, 9 S O'Shea (0-1); 10 D O'Connor, 11 C O'Shea, 12 J Doherty (0-1); 13 K McLoughlin (0-4, two frees), 14 A Freeman, 15 C O'Connor (0-5, all frees) (capt). Subs: 22 A Moran (0-2) for C O'Shea (45 mins), 21 A Dillon for D O'Connor (54 mins), M Sweeney for Freeman (60 mins), 19 R Feeney for Doherty (72 mins)
ROSCOMMON: 1 D O'Malley; 4 N Collins, 3 N Carty (capt), 2 S McDermott; 12 R Stack, 5 I Kilbride, 7 C Cafferkey (1-0); 8 C Shine, 9 K Higgins (0-1); 10 D O'Gara, 6 N Daly, 11 D Shine (0-1, a free); 13 S Kilbride (0-3, one free), 14 C Cregg, C Murtagh. Subs: 19 D Murtagh (0-3, one free) for C Murtagh (46 mins), 20 F Cregg for D Shine (54 mins, inj), 24 M Nally (0-1) for O'Gara (54 mins)
Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Laois)