Shock-proof Mayo to take another step

Connacht SF Championship semi-final: Mayo v Roscommon, Sunday, MacHale Park,

James Horan: his Mayo side  have developed the consistency of automatons. Photograph: Inpho

James Horan: his Mayo side have developed the consistency of automatons. Photograph: Inpho


What used to be a keen-edged sort of rivalry has drifted since Roscommon’s last win, in the provincial final 12 years ago. In the four Connacht championship matches since – and allowing Mayo only won by two when the counties last met in 2011 – Mayo’s winning margin has averaged in double digits.

Roscommon have been inconsistent for the past decade apart from the provincial championship-winning season of 2010 when they put it up to eventual All-Ireland winners Cork in the quarter-finals. Even last year, they oscillated between a merciless hammering by Galway and a shock defeat of Armagh.

Erratic form
That erratic form is one of the problems going into tomorrow’s semi-final because Mayo under James Horan have developed the consistency of automatons, never losing they’re expected to win and even springing a couple of surprises at times when they’re not. This will emphatically be in the former category.

Cillian O’Connor’s injury is a big blow for Mayo as he is’s one of the top place-kickers in the modern game. There were also encouraging signs against Galway that his overall contribution, which had dipped a little last year, had been restored and his key role in each of the four goals demonstrated as much – to the point James Horan will have needed to think carefully about who to play on the 40.

Roscommon will improve on Galway’s paralysed display if only on the grounds they are approaching the match realistically and will be conditioned to stack up the sandbags from an early stage. They have experienced forwards in captain Cathal Cregg, Karol Mannion and Senan Kilbride and will have to take chances economically, as the starting line for any successful rearguard action is to exert pressure on the scoreboard.

That’s not however where it stops for Roscommon’s forwards. The ease with which Donal Vaughan and Colm Boyle broke from deep against Galway reflected well on Mayo’s urgency but poorly on their opponents’ concentration levels. John Evans’s team simply can’t allow that to happen because the champions have proved they can turn field position and possession into chances and take them.

Roscommon’s defence will have to be decisive and sharp, unlike Galway were, in moving ball out of defence. The outsiders’ key challenge is more about getting to the start-line – rather than the finishing tape – in competitive shape.

Last meeting: 2011 Connacht final, Dr Hyde Park, Mayo 0-13, Roscommon 0-11.
Odds: Mayo 1/ 6, Roscommon 6/1 and 10 to 1 the draw.
Injuries: With Cillian O’Connor dislocating his shoulder, Mayo are missing half of last year’s All-Ireland attack, as Jason Doherty and Michael Conroy are still out. Andy Moran is on the bench. Roscommon are missing Donie Shine with a hamstring injury as well as longer-term absentees Ian Kilbride and Darragh Donnelly.
Suspensions: None.
Just the ticket: Stand €25, €20 for the terrace and €5 for juveniles. Concessions available for students and OAP’s.
Mayo: D Clarke (capt.); T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; L Keegan, D Vaughan, C Boyle; A O’Shea, S O’Shea; K McLoughlin, R Feeney, C Carolan; E Varley, A Freeman, A Dillon.
Roscommon: D O’Malley; N Collins, N Carty, S McDermott; D Keenan, N Daly, C Daly; K Higgins, M Finneran; C Devaney, K Mannion, C Cregg (capt.); D Smith, S Kilbride, D O’Gara.
Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo).
Verdict: Mayo to win.