Roscommon no match for Mayo in Castlebar

James Horan’s side ease into Connacht final with 12-point win at MacHale Park

Mayo 0-21 Roscommon 0-9: As if in mute representation of Roscommon's challenge at Elvery's MacHale Park, at the end of yesterday's match the sponsors' big elephant balloon deflated, sagged and collapsed – to be put away for the next time.

The underdogs came to the champions’ home ground full of game intention and for the first quarter did their damnedest to rattle Mayo. But after the sound and fury of their period of supremacy, there was so little to show for it that demoralisation set in.

It was a match to try the patience of a saint. Uncompetitive and riddled with fouls – 61! – some, but not that many of which were the outcome of fussy refereeing. It was the latest championship fixture to fall into the chasm in standards between Division One teams and the rest.

Across the first half as a whole Roscommon did particularly well on the kick-outs, winning them by a margin of almost 2-1 yet they went in at half-time trailing by nine, 0-4 to 0-13. Having thrown the kitchen sink at it, all they were left with was a flooded kitchen.

For Mayo it was another inexorable step along the road that leads to Croke Park in August. Manager James Horan has made a virtue of his team's favouritism so far and he has little option in the matter, as the champions steamroll what untaxing resistance they meet.

There was an understandable – although Horan is unlikely to first in line with the understanding – fall-off in performance levels throughout the second half, as sloppy shooting boosted Mayo's wides' count by 900 per cent after a near-exemplary first half, which featured just one such inaccuracy.

Huge pressure
As had been the case against Galway, Mayo's grim-visaged defence put huge pressure on the opponents, as they came in search of an early initiative.

Donal Smith got them off the mark with a fourth-minute free but had a ghastly wide a few minutes later whereas David Keenan cut in from the left and also hit wide. Typically, Roscommon were launching attacks that were being shut down with remorseless efficiency and they struggled to shuttle the ball sideways and backwards to try and get someone into space.

Mayo were slow to get going and didn’t register their first point until the 13th minute but after all of Roscommon’s huffing and puffing, Kevin McLoughlin’s shot was enough to equalise Smith’s early score.

There had however been shadows of what was to come. Richie Feeney got a run on the defence and lofted a handpass towards the supporting Freeman for what would surely have been a goal assist but Niall Daly somehow intercepted the ball to flick it out for a 45.

David Clarke came up from goal to take it and his kick dropped in on goal, sufficiently inviting for Alan Dillon to fist it off the crossbar before Seán McDermott cleared.

That was the extent of the reprieve. Mayo began to go up the gears. Once again their half backs were hugely influential and the quality of Colm Boyle’s display was right up on par with what he’d delivered against Galway, pushing forward and taking two scores from the match.

Centre back Donal Vaughan put Mayo ahead within seconds of McLaughlin’s equaliser and the champions never had to look back, leading the match from then on.

Even in Cillian O'Connor's absence it proved unprofitable to foul Mayo, as Alan Freeman and Kevin McLaughlin kicked their frees as well as performing strongly in open play.

Long delivery
Freeman took a great catch in the 19th minute from Aidan O'Shea's long delivery and capped it with a point for 0-5 to 0-2 - Karol Mannion having earlier prised an opening for Roscommon.

Keith Higgins broke from the back on 20 minutes – the capacity of Mayo's backs to surge onto ball at pace was ruefully acknowledged afterwards by Roscommon manager John Evans – shimmied and sped through gaps to skin a clutch of defenders and kick the sixth point.

Overall, Mayo’s defenders outscored all of Roscommon’s forwards – both starting and off the bench – from play.

In the 24th and 25th minutes Roscommon strung together two points for the only time in the match until the dying flourish that took their final score from seven to nine but Mayo burned off all thoughts of recovery by rattling off five unanswered points to make it 0-13 to 0-4.

After half-time Mayo’s centrefield atrophy ceased and Aidan O’Shea stormed in for the first score within seconds of the resumption. The lead hit 14 in the 55th minute and could have been more had Feeney connected with the fist instead of trying to walk the ball into the net in the 64th minute.

Senan Kilbride’s three frees kept Roscomm on ticking over but the game was up and had been for a long time.

MAYO: 1. D Clarke (capt.); 4. K Higgins (0-1), 2. T Cunniffe, 3. G Cafferkey; 5. L Keegan (0-1), 6. D Vaughan (0-1), 7. C Boyle (0-2); 8. A O'Shea (0-1), 9. S O'Shea; 10. K McLoughlin (0-6, five frees), 11. R Feeney (0-1), 12, C Carolan; 13. E Varley (0-1), 14. A Freeman (0-3, two frees), 15. A Dillon (0-1). Subs: 16. K O'Malley for Clarke (38 mins), 24. A Moran (0-1) for Carolan, 23. D Coen (0-2) for Varley (48 ), 18. S McHale for Cafferkey (56 ), 17. K Keane for Higgins (58 mins). Yellow cards: Freeman (43 ), Cunniffe (67).
ROSCOMMON: 1. D O'Malley; 2. N Collins, 3. N Carty, 4. S McDermott; 7. C Daly, 6. N Daly, 5. D Keenan; 11. K Mannion (0-1), 9. N Finneran; 8. K Higgins (0-1), 15. D O'Gara, 12. C Cregg; 13. D Smith (0-1, free), 14. S Kilbride (0-3, frees), 10. C Devaney (0-1). Subs: 18. C Shine for O'Gara (half-time), 21. E Smith (0-2) for D Smith (half-time), 26. D Shine for Cregg (52 mins), 20. D Ward for Keenan (60 mins), 19. C Compton for Devaney (63 mins). Yellow cards: Carty (29 mins), O'Gara (35 mins), Cregg (38 mins), Collins (53 mins), D Shine (61 mins), Mannion (71 mins).
Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo).

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times