Major Mayo test to follow first defeat

Allianz Football League Division One – Monaghan 0-14 Roscommon 0-11

Under pressure: Monaghan’s Ryan Wylie attempts to block this kick from Roscommon’s Dylan Ruane during last Sunday’s NFL Division One encounter in St. Tiernach’s Park, Clones. Pic: Bernie O’Farrell

However reluctantly it may be, Davy Burke and Kevin McStay will begin the process of revealing some of their respective hands in public this Sunday as Roscommon and Mayo meet in a tasty league appetiser to a championship ‘main course’ next month.

An eagerly awaited Connacht Championship showdown will be an Easter Weekend treat, but first the old rivals meet this Sunday in a top of the table league clash which will attract a huge crowd to Dr Hyde Park. It will also give further insights into the current wellbeing of the top two in Division One.

On the evidence of their recent wins against Kerry and Tyrone, Mayo have great momentum. Roscommon have made an excellent start to the league, but a sluggish performance against Monaghan last Sunday led to a first defeat of the campaign.

Roscommon’s great achievement in gathering six points from their first three games has probably already secured them Division One status, and has certainly boosted confidence ahead of the newly-revamped championship.

That said, if Roscommon are to have any chance of keeping a dynamic Mayo at bay this weekend, they will have to play vastly better than they did against Monaghan. Managers Burke (Roscommon) and McStay (Mayo) will want to hold back as many aces as possible ahead of the championship clash on April 9th, while still being tempted to vie for local bragging rights this Sunday. It’s a moot point whether either or both of the joint table-toppers actually want to progress into potential league final territory!

If anything, Davy Burke saw Sunday’s lacklustre display in Clones as a welcome tempering of expectations. Speaking to RTE Sport, Burke indicated that the ending of an unbeaten league run which  stretched back to late 2021 was actually the lifting of a welcome weight off the team’s collective shoulders.

“I’m glad that whatever run that was is over now, to be honest with you. There’s a lot of talk (about Roscommon’s league start), a lot of unwarranted talk. We’re a good, hard-working team, we’ve decent players, but we need to turn up every day and do it”.

Burke was hitting the nail on the head there – his team didn’t really turn up last Sunday. There were good passages of play from Roscommon, but few enough of them. Mostly, it was an uncharacteristically sluggish display, with Roscommon too pedestrian at times, often wayward with their shooting and sloppy with their passing.

Burke acknowledged how underwhelming the performance was. “We wouldn’t be happy with a lot of facets of our play. Poor execution, poor shot selection, we didn’t cut through them as we would have liked and hoped”.

Roscommon lost both halves, the failure to take control in the second period an unexpected break from recent convention. This was just a sloppy display, even the usually inspirational emptying of the bench yielding no decisive dividends.

Diarmuid Murtagh gave Roscommon a 5th minute lead, but Monaghan found their range, going 0-4 to 0-1 ahead by the 17th minute. Richard Hughes, with two fine points, and scores from Ciaráin and Diarmuid Murtagh had Roscommon level at 0-5 apiece, but Monaghan added two points to lead 0-7 to 0-5 at half-time.

Six early second-half attacks by Roscommon produced just one point, underlining the sense that, compared to the neat prose of earlier rounds, this was an unfolding rough draft. A goal would have lifted everything. On 43 minutes, Ben O’Carroll crossed to Robbie Dolan when he should perhaps have shot for goal himself. Alert defending meant the chance was lost.

Roscommon just couldn’t rein Monaghan in, the home side frustrating the visitors with efficient ‘keep ball’ tactics. The issuing of black cards to Diarmuid Murtagh and Ben O’Carroll didn’t help Roscommon’s cause, but Monaghan were fully deserving winners. Burke voiced displeasure with those refereeing calls, claiming Roscommon had been “harshly done by”.

As to why his team were so flat this time around, Burke reckoned “you’d need a degree in psychology to work that one out!”

In all probability, those in the stands (on the sidelines too) at Hyde Park this Sunday who have degrees in psychology will have an advantage on the rest of us!