Mayo’s experience can prove pivotal in quarter-final replay
Young Roscommon side will relish another crack at neighbours in headquarters
Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea with John McManus, Niall McInerney and Colin Compton of Roscommon during the drawn quarter-final. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho
All-Ireland SFC quarter-final replay – Mayo v Roscommon (Croke Park, 2.00 Live, RTÉ Two, 1.30)
The psychology of this one will be interesting to watch.
Mayo have no shortage of recent replay experience but for all that they’ve gone out on their shields against Dublin and Kerry over the past three years, the fact remains that they lost all three.
Roscommon lost their one replay last year as well, going down meekly after the drawn Connacht final. As to the question, therefore, of who takes best to the peculiar test of a rematch, there’s no body of work on either side to point to.
Unless and until they prove otherwise, Mayo look like a team whose rivets are popping and whose creases have steam coming out the side. Look around the rest of the championship and contenders are picking pretenders out of their teeth with half-interested ease.
The Mayo team who were able to put pedal to metal and burn off a lesser side with a sustained 15-minute burst hasn’t been seen now for a couple of years. Though this would be a fine time for them to reappear, it’s difficult to see it.
The talk over the past few days is of inevitable niggles heading into the fifth game in six weeks. Tom Parsons is carrying a hamstring, Lee Keegan a bad blister, Seamie O’Shea a strain.
But beyond the general bodily depreciation, it’s hard to ignore the mental toll all of this must be having on them. What they wouldn’t give for one straight-forward afternoon’s work, one thoroughly non-epic day.
Roscommon will fancy every inch of this. The major hurdle they had to jump the first day out was giving a game to a team they never give a game to – they’d lost seven games in a row to Mayo before last Saturday.
Now they know it’s possible to play their more vaunted neighbours and not lose, they can attack the replay unburdened of the shadow of beatings past. If they can play with freedom at the exact time that Mayo are looking decidedly unfree, they have access to an energy that must be depleted in their opponents.
The question is, do they have the players? Mayo shut down their best one with worrying ease last weekend. The first Rossie goal was a fluke, the second was nearly saved. Everything went their way in the opening period and still they couldn’t suck the challenge out of Mayo. How can they do it better, now that Mayo have had their warning?
Enda Smith was challenged publicly by Kevin McStay after the game last week, which would lead you to imagine they will persist with him at midfield and tell him he has no option but to outplay Lee Keegan. No small job, sure. But if they do anything else, they’re essentially admitting they don’t think he’s up to it. Not the message they want to send, surely.
In the end, Mayo have earned the right to be favourites and to be backed as such. They’re not firing but they’re not losing either. They might not go too many more stops along the line this summer but they can make it past this one.
ROSCOMMON: Colm Lavin; Sean McDermott, John McManus, David Murray; Niall McInerney, Sean Mullooly, Brian Stack; Fintan Cregg, Enda Smith; Tadhg O’Rourke, Cian Connolly, Conor Devaney; Ciarán Murtagh, Diarmuid Murtagh, Niall Kilroy.
MAYO: David Clarke; Brendan Harrison, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Colm Boyle, Chris Barrett, Paddy Durcan; Lee Keegan, Seamus O’Shea; Kevin McLoughlin, Aidan O’Shea, Diarmuid O’Connor; Jason Doherty, Cillian O’Connor, Andy Moran.
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow)