Masterclass by Roscommon

PAUL HEALY: View from the TV

This was a triumph of coaching on the training field and spectacularly effective execution on the battlefield.

The first 20 minutes in Castlebar on Sunday may have been a hard watch, but a battlefield is rarely party central. Plus, the conditions were a big factor in the lack of early fluency.

Roscommon have had bad days in MacHale Park, days when Mayo’s greater physicality and sheer power play left the visitors demoralised. That pattern has been broken in recent times, Roscommon’s 2019 win particularly memorable. Last Sunday, a performance of tremendous discipline by a magnificent Roscommon created one of our great championship triumphs.

In the 7th minute, an underhit Roscommon pass threatened to prove costly. Mayo broke at pace, an inviting diagonal pass fell from the sky, Aidan O’Shea re-directed the ball to Stephen Coen, and his shot for goal shook the crossbar.

Already, Enda Smith was everywhere…deep in defence, patrolling the midfield area, looking to thread attacks together. He would go on to produce one of his finest displays.

Davy Burke says most teams are playing the same way – and that’s indisputable. With that template established, game management, composure, skill too, become vital. From early on, Roscommon’s patient play was effective. Every minute that passed in that first half without Mayo scoring was – given the home team’s wind advantage – a boost to Roscommon’s chances.

A sparky sideline sideshow involving Diarmuid Murtagh and Aidan O’Shea was evidence of how getting the better of the big Mayo man seemed to be a motivational aim for Roscommon. In the 24th minute, Roscommon’s disciplined start was rewarded, a penalty the outcome of a penetrating attack. A calm Enda Smith struck a dagger into Mayo hearts.

The lion prodded, Mayo were now dangerous, floating over three points. Respite came. Roscommon’s game wasn’t just about excellent defence. Another dangerous attack promised a dividend. Several passes had Mayo backpeddling. The overlapping Ciaran Lennon’s shot for goal was blocked, but the ball fell invitingly to Donie Smith, who side-footed home. Roscommon 2-2 to 0-4 in front at half-time.

Mayo began the second half well, closing the gap to one by the 50th minute. Roscommon were magnificent in the last 25 minutes, first steadying the ship, then producing a defensive masterclass, with some great turnovers. Once they transitioned into attack, there were fabulous pressure-relieving scores from the magnificent Diarmuid Murtagh. Glorious stuff. In the 65th minute, sub Conor Cox turned Mayo over brilliantly. When the ball was played up to Diarmuid (again), he fired over another sensational point, a hefty down payment on ‘purchasing’ this win.

There was still time for Cox to score a beauty, and for the heroic Enda Smith to run close to half the length of the pitch and punch the ball over.

The Roscommon defence was magnificent, led by Brian Stack and Niall Daly. Ben O’Carroll was a superbly effective lone ranger at times in attack, Diarmuid Murtagh brilliant. Enda Smith’s performance was one for the ages. All Roscommon players were superb, this win marked by great game management, energy, will to win and composure.

At the final whistle, Davy Burke did a jig, while also punching the air. Mission accomplished, with a pep in our collective step.