Mayo save their ‘Hyde’ in mudbath

In dire conditions, physically superior Mayo take a giant leap towards safety
Allianz National Football League Division One: Mayo 1-11 Roscommon 1-7

Roscommon’s incredible run in Division One probably had to come to a halt at some stage, and that happened in no uncertain fashion at Dr. Hyde Park last Sunday when they were deservedly beaten by a physically superior Mayo side in what was a very poor game played in brutal conditions.

Stephen Rochford’s side came to Roscommon to get the two league points to avoid a relegation scrap and they did that with the minimum of fuss.

In fact they will wonder this week how there were only four points in the game at the final whistle as they were by far the best side throughout.

Interest in the game amongst the national media was huge and all the major TV stations, radio stations and national newspapers were there in force. Indeed it has been interesting to read and listen to the reaction to the game this week.

Some commentators are of the view that the bog-like pitch did not help Roscommon, who are in the early stages of their development as a team.

However others were scathing, and one ‘respected’ commentator described the efforts of Roscommon players as ‘pathetic’. However the same writer mixed up Senan and Ian Kilbride and had Ciaran Murtagh coming on as a sub and scoring a goal!

There were a number of factors that led to Roscommon losing this game. Firstly, the Dr. Hyde Park pitch was barely playable and the really heavy conditions suited the more physical Mayo side, and Roscommon could never get a chance to play their fast-paced running and possession game.

Secondly, Roscommon were totally beaten at midfield, where Seamie O’Shea and Tom Parsons ruled the roost.

Roscommon lost the first seven kick-outs and the Roscommon attack, so prolific in previous games, was starved of possession. Thirdly, Mayo had to win this game or they were facing the prospect of relegation, and while Roscommon battled away, the visitors were clearly very much ‘up’ for the game.

Finally, the Roscommon team management decided not to risk starting any of the U-21 players and when Senan Kilbride, Cian Connolly and Niall Daly were all ruled out through injury, the squad was threadbare.

On the positive side, Roscommon refused to give in. In previous years, Mayo would have pulled away and inflicted a heavy defeat on Roscommon, but the home side refused to lie down and they finished both halves well.

The introduction of Diarmuid Murtagh, Sean Mullooly and Cathal Compton in the final quarter strengthened Roscommon’s challenge and that augurs well for later in the year.

Geoffrey Claffey had a great game between the posts, making some brilliant saves in the first half. Davy Murray battled away all through and put in a huge shift. Ciaran Murtagh was always lively, despite the attack being starved of possession for most of the game.

While it was right that no one was getting carried away with the four recent Roscommon wins, it is also right that no one should get carried away with this defeat.

The facts are that Mayo are still one of the top four teams in the country and that this Roscommon team are very much at the beginning of their development.

Last Sunday’s defeat is all part of the learning curve. But Roscommon have got to solve the midfield conundrum as soon as possible if they are to challenge the likes of Mayo in the really big games.

Despite the views of some commentators, last Sunday’s defeat is not the end of the world, nor is it a ‘reality check’. I never got the sense that any Roscommon player or any of the management team were getting carried away, even when the wins were coming week after week.

Roscommon are going in the right direction. It’s not going to happen immediately. This weekend we have the Connacht U-21 Football Final against Mayo – which will be a huge game for the Rossies – and then we have a glamour fixture against Dublin on Sunday.

However, given the state of Dr. Hyde Park last Sunday, there is some doubt about the Division One game.

As I write, on Tuesday, it has been confirmed that the U-21 game is being switched to Sligo. Hopefully this measure, which unfortunately had to be made, will ensure that Hyde Park will be able to host the Dublin game.

It was fantastic to see over 12,000 people in Hyde Park last Sunday but the decision to allow the game to go ahead was a marginal one and we are now the only GAA county in the country without a pitch to play on. It’s a total shambles.