Crossbar heartbreak!

Agonising defeat for Roscommon in U21 final Connacht U-21 Football Final Mayo …………………………….. 1-14 Roscommon……………………. 0-14 Seamus Duke Three missed goal chances (including a penalty which was pointed) in the final ten minutes of play saw Roscommon lose out in the cruellest of fashions in this thrilling Cadbury’s Connacht U-21 football final played before a huge crowd at Kiltoom yesterday evening (Wednesday). If any of the three goal chances were converted, it would probably have earned Roscommon at least  a share of the spoils. But the shot from Cathal Cregg in the dying seconds, which thundered off the Mayo crossbar, was the most dramatic miss of all, and a heart-breaking way to end what was a brilliant comeback by this talented young Roscommon team.   However in truth it must be said that Roscommon had probably given themselves too much to do, especially after a poor first-half display in which they gave the ball away far too much. However the second half display by these fantastic young players warmed the hearts of the huge crowd of Roscommon supporters present. Indeed the crowd played their part too, roaring on their team at every opportunity, and far from being ‘an unruly mob’ – as the national media might like to label them – Roscommon’s supporters showed on this cool sunny evening in Kiltoom that they are among the best – if not the best – in the country. It will take more than the spin doctors to prevent Roscommon GAA people following their team.   Mayo were much the better team in the first half. Seamus O’Shea and Tom Parsons were on top at midfield and in attack Aidan Campbell and Mikey Sweeney were on fire. Roscommon had plenty of possession also, but too often they gave the ball away. That, added to the fact that David O’Gara was never himself, having been sick with a virus before the game (which led to his substitution in the second half), was a huge blow to Roscommon’s hopes.   In the first quarter Mayo were slighly the better team. Campbell and Jason Doherty pointed in the first two minutes before Kevin Higgins opened Roscommon’s account from 30 metres in the 7th minute and Donie Shine pointed a 25-metre free in the 11th minute to level the scores. A minute later Robbie Gaynor (a late additon to the team instead of Paul Garvey) kicked a good score from 25 metres to put the home side ahead.   Mayo stormed into the game after that and until half-time. In the 15th minute they grabbed a very lucky goal when Aidan Campbell’s mis-hit free sailed in low towards the Roscommon goal, but Mikey Sweeney threw his fist at it and it flew into the Roscommon net.   Points from Parsons, Sweeney, corner-back Donal Vaughan and Campbell opened up a six-point lead. Roscommon were in trouble in several areas now and although Robbie Gaynor and Campbell exchanged points in the final three minutes, Mayo led by 1-7 to 0-4 at half-time.   Roscommon brought on James McKeague for Colm Garvey at half-time but the second half started in much the same way as the first half ended. Campbell and Donie Shine exchanged pointed frees in the first five minutes, before Shine and Paul Garvey (who had just come on as a sub for the ill David O’Gara) reduced the margin to four.   But Mayo could always respond and with the game boiling up nicely, James Burke and sub Padraig O’Connor restored the six-point advantage by the 15th minute. Garvey then kicked a beautiful point from play from 35 metres but the rampant Campbell replied within a minute. Kevin Higgins was then on the mark for Roscommon in the 19th minute but almost immediately Campbell replied for Mayo and it seemed that despite a big improvement, Roscommon just couldn’t peg Mayo back.   Into the last ten minutes, and the excitement level rose to fever pitch as Roscommon tried desperately to gain control. David Keenan was winning balls in the half-back line that he had no right to even go for. Niall Carty and Donie Shine were playing well and James McDermott and Michael Kilillea were winning midfield ball for the first time in the game.   In the 22nd minute, Kevin Higgins burst through and was set to crash the ball to the Mayo net, but he was brought crashing to the ground by Chris Barrett. A certain penalty, but incredibly referee Pat McGovern did not send Barrett off. It was an unbelieveable decision considering that the Mayo captain had already been shown the yellow card in the 5th minute of the second half. Donie Shine put the ball on the spot but blazed the penalty kick over the bar for a Roscommon point.    Then three minutes later, Shine narrowed the gap to four again with a 25-metre free. In the 27th minute, Roscommon captain Cathal Cregg kicked a wonderful point from 40 metres after a fantastic run and suddenly the gap was down to three. But Mayo would not relent. Campbell kicked another crucial point but this marvellous Roscommon team would not go away either. Shine converted a mighty 45-metre free before Jason Doherty made it a four-point game going into the 30th minute – and then the drama increased even further.   Robbie Gaynor ran thirty metres with the ball and seemed certain to score a Roscommon goal in the 33rd minute, but last-ditch defending by Mayo saw the ball soar over the crossbar. Despite the miss, the gap was again down to three – but time was running out.   Over three minutes of injury-time gone