Minors down but not out

Seamus Duke Connacht MFC  Mayo …………………… 0-12 Roscommon …………… 0-8 At least after all the shadow boxing in the Connacht MFC, we know now that the real championship for Roscommon begins with their next game which is actually a knock-out game. That will be the Connacht semi-final against Galway at a Galway venue on June 27th/28th next. That is the outcome after this well-contested game in McHale Park, Castlebar last Saturday evening in which Mayo just about deserved to win. In the other semi-final they will face Sligo.   Mayo were slightly the better team over the hour but Roscommon were well in the hunt after an excellent third quarter comeback which had reduced a five-point half-time deficit to just one, but a few soft frees given away half-way through the second half proved crucial as Mayo pulled away again to win. Roscommon were also beaten at midfield and despite some good fielding from Eugene Stritch, the sector was dominated by Mayo’s talisman Aidan O’Shea who was the deserved ‘man of the match’ winner after a super display.   Nevertheless there were plenty of positives that Roscommon can take from this game as they prepare to face the defending All-Ireland champions in five weeks time. Darren McDermott was by far the most dangerous and skillful forward on view, while Dara Lennon’s free-taking was flawless. Further back, Michael Higgins, Eamonn Bannon and Neil Collins were in top form as Roscommon battled away to stay in touch. So there is plenty for Gary Wynne and his selectors to work on before they play Galway.    Roscommon had to line out without the injured Niall Kilroy and within 40 seconds they were a point down when O’Shea ran though the Roscommon defence to score from 30 metres.   Roscommon were level ninety seconds later when Darren McDermott kicked a great point from 30 metres but Mayo were on top and Roscommon will rue their slow start to the game. Mayo’s next point came from Dean Gavin on 9 minutes (after another good run from O’Shea) and Ray Geraghty extended the lead on 12 minutes with a point from 25 metres. Then Ballina’s Daniel O’Hara chipped in with two opportunist points and by the 15th minute Mayo led by 0-5 to 0-1.   It was only after that point that Roscommon came to grips with the game. McDermott kicked a lovely score from 25 metres after a Thomas Hanly pass and then Eamonn Bannon made a great run forward on 18 minutes and a superb pass from Bernard Carthy saw the St. Ciarans man fire over a great point to reduce the margin to two.   Mayo closed out the half on top and with O’Shea rampaging around the field, the home side added some great scores. O’Hara kicked another fine score in the 25th minute before Aidan Walsh hit the post twice in the one movement with the goal at his mercy. However Mayo grabbed two further points before half-time through Geraghty and another O’Hara effort (a fisted point) after a mazy run. Half-time score Mayo 0-8 Roscommon 0-3.   Roscommon hit the ground running on the resumption and they played their best football of the game in the third quarter. Dara Lennon was on target with a 30-metre free in the second minute and two minutes later Roscommon could have had a goal but Bernard Carthy’s shot for a goal was blocked out for a ’45 by Mayo half back Cathal Freeman. Dara Lennon coolly slotted over the resulting ’45.  In the 8th minute Lennon cracked over another long range free from 43 metres and the in the 11th minute Lennon punished the Mayo defence again with a super free from 30 metres and suddenly the score was Mayo 0-8 Roscommon 0-7.   Then the crucial scores of the game arrived and unfortunately they were for Mayo. In the 14th minute, Aidan Walsh converted a 20-metre Mayo free which looked a dubious award to say the least and a minute later, the same player converted a 30-metre free after a foul on Shane Nally and suddenly Mayo had some daylight between themselves and Roscommon.   Then in the 16th minute O’Shea made a superb run for another Mayo point and that was really it. The sides exchanged points in the final three minutes when Dara Lennon (another brilliantly struck ’45)  and Aidan Walsh were both on target.   I know that Roscommon will be down after losing this game but they now know that they will have to beat Galway in their own backyard if they want to get to the Connacht final. Thay also know that they can tighten up at midfield and get another couple of forwards into the game to help Darren McDermott they still have every chance of getting to another Connacht final. Roscommon: Darren O’Malley; Paddy Brogan Neil Collins Niall Daly; Eamonn Bannon (0-1) Mark Keaveney Michael Higgins; Colm O’Neill Eugene Stritch; Eoin Sheehy Dara Lennon (0-5) Thomas Hanly; Bernard Carthy Cathal Shine Darren Mc Dermott (0-2). Subs: Shane Regan for Hanly (half-time) Shane Byrne for Keaveney (half-time) Brian Murtagh for Sheehy (49 mins) Mayo: Robert Hennelly; Shane McHale, Kevin Keane, David Dolan; Cathal Freeman, Dara Quinn, Shane Nally (capt.); Aidan O’Shea (0-2), James Cafferty; Kieran Charlton, Alex Corduff, Dean Gavin (0-1); Aidan Walsh (0-3), Ray Geraghty (0-2), Daniel O’Hara (0-4). Subs: David Drake for Charlton, Jason Carney for Freeman. Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo).  Match at a glance Man of the match: Aidan O’Shea (Mayo): Darren McDermott, Dara Lennon, Eamonn Bannon and Neil Collins were all Roscommon contenders as were the entire Mayo full-foward line of Aidan Walsh, Ray Geraghty and Daniel O’Hara, who between them scored nine points of the Mayo total. However the best player on the park was O’Shea from Breaffy – a big skillful and tenacious player who surely has a big future. Weather: Perfect for football. A warm, dry but cloudy evening with only a gentle breeze. Crowd: About 7/800 people, mostly made up of Roscommon fans who gave their team plenty of encouragment throughout. Entertainment value: A competitive game all through but it never hit the heights. Pity Roscommon could not press home their advantage when they had it in the third quarter. Referee Watch: Michael Duffy did well overall and there was little controversy in the game. I thought that two of the crucial Mayo frees in the third quarter which resulted in points were of the very soft variety but overall he did a good job.