Mayo stand between Roscommon and unique U-21 three-in-a-row

‘I wish it had been tougher’ says Dowd after easy win over Sligo
Eirgrid Connacht U-21 FC Semi-Final: Roscommon 1-18 Sligo 0-8

Roscommon manager Mark Dowd says he wishes his side had faced a tougher test than proved to be the case when they defeated Sligo in last Saturday’s Connacht U-21 semi-final in Markievicz Park.

  Dowd’s charges now face Mayo in the Connacht Final on April 2, with Roscommon chasing a third successive provincial title. But Dowd is wary of the Mayo challenge and regrets that his team wasn’t fully tested last weekend.

  “The further we went ahead the further that Sligo slipped out of contention. We could have finished stronger but I would have preferred that we had a tougher test, to be honest. We still don’t really know how much mettle we have in the team as a result.

  “Mayo will come to Roscommon with all guns blazing – they won’t be worried about us going for three titles in a row.”

  It says something about the rising levels of expectation in Roscommon football when a 13-point win in a Connacht semi-final generates no celebrations, no back-slapping and no ‘big talk’. In fact this very easy win against a very poor Sligo team last Saturday night at Markievicz Park left many Roscommon fans wondering if this side will be good enough to overturn a very strong Mayo side at Dr Hyde Park on Saturday week.

  Roscommon kicked some fantastic scores in a 1-18 total – in fact all but two scores came from play – but there were periods, especially in the first half, when Roscommon let their guard drop and such lapses would be severely punished by a slick Mayo outfit in the final.

  Mark Dowd expressed concern. “We were very lethargic at times and in fairness the players acknowledged that at half-time. We stepped up our performance in the second half but it was still not the quality that we were expecting.”

  At least it all means that Roscommon will go into the final as underdogs, which is always a great way to approach a big game. With several major players either back on the team or returning from injury, Roscommon can still relish a home final against the old enemy, Mayo.

  Ultan Harney made a welcome return but he clearly needs more football and will be much better for the 40 minutes he got last Saturday. Sean Mullooly was fantastic at full-back and his return from injury is a huge boost, not only to the U-21s but to the seniors as well. Diarmuid Murtagh has had better games but he is a class act and continues to improve as the games go by. Jack Connaughton, Fergal Lennon and Brian Stack continue to impress in defence.

  Cathal Compton added to his growing reputation with a superb display at midfield while Henry Walsh had a great game at centre half-forward. Cathal Callinan and Hubert Darcy were impressive up front but they will face a much stiffer challenge in the final on Saturday week.

  Dowd was pleased to see more players get game time.

  “It is great to have our injured players back and hopefully Noel Gately and Jack Earley will be back in contention for the Connacht final. We are coming back towards our strongest panel, which is great.”

  This was a job well done by Roscommon but Mark Dowd and his selectors will not need me to tell them that they will have to play better to beat Mayo. Still, Roscommon’s record in this competition in recent years is excellent and I am confident that Roscommon can upset the odds and win that third title in a row. The players are there for sure and Roscommon football is on a high right now.