Super sub sinks Rossies

Ballaghaderreen’s Moran nets two in Mayo comeback
FBD Connacht SF League Round 3: Mayo 4-11 (23) Roscommon 2-16 (22)

Two goals in injury-time from sub Andy Moran saw Mayo snatch victory in this pulsating FBD League tie played in perfect weather conditions at Kiltoom last Sunday. Despite this loss Roscommon have qualified for this weekend’s final when they will face Galway.

  It was a heart-breaking way to lose what was a very competitive and hard fought game but there were plenty of positives for Roscommon who played some great football at times. In the total of 2-16 there were some fantastic scores and there were excellent displays around the field. However, Roscommon manager Kevin McStay and his selectors will be worried that the team were not able to close out the win having led by eight points with just eight minutes of normal time remaining. The number of times that Roscommon are turning over possession is still a worry but it is much better to find this out in an FBD League game than in a few weeks’ time in the National Football League.

   Anyone who thought that the FBD League does not matter to the players on both sides does not know much about the rivalry between Roscommon and Mayo. This was a cracking encounter from the minute the ball was thrown in. There was an edge to proceedings all the way through and we even had a few dust ups between the players and one incident in the first half saw four players being yellow carded. But we also saw some great football and an incredible finish to the game as well.

  David Murray, Niall McInerney and Ultan Harney (until he went off) did well in defence. Midfield struggled at times but Tadhg O’Rourke did well. Up front Enda and Donie Smith were on fire and Enda Smith scored two great goals. Cian Connolly had a good first half while Tom Corcoran looked dangerous any time he got the ball. But leading by eight points with less than 10 minutes to go Roscommon should never have lost this game. While games in the FBD League are quickly forgotten it would have been nice to put down a marker here, however small that marker might have been.

  In front of a healthy crowd and in a beautiful day it was Roscommon who started best and they led by 1-2 to 0-1 after six minutes, Cian Connolly landing two fine points and Enda Smith scoring a great team goal after a superb pass from Thomas Corcoran.

  But Mayo were never far away and with Paddy Durcan leading by example, they kept in touch with a number of excellent points. In the 13th minute Liam Irwin blasted to the Roscommon net and from there to half-time it was nip and tuck, and with Cillian O’Connor accurate from frees, Mayo led by 1-9 to 1-8 at half-time.

  Roscommon played some marvellous football in the third quarter. From the throw-in to the 62nd minute Roscommon outscored Mayo by 1-8 to 0-2. Enda and Donie Smith were to the fore as Roscommon built up an eight-point lead. In the 42nd minute Enda Smith embarked on a 50 metre solo run before slipping the ball under Robbie Hennelly for a brilliant goal. Enda and older brother Donie added six points between them and Tadhg O’Rourke and sub Niall Kilroy also pointed to leave the home side eight points ahead (2-16 to 1-11) with just eight minutes left.

  But Mayo never gave up and incredibly the final three scores of the game were Mayo goals. In the 31st minute Jason Gibbons was pushed in the back and referee John Gilmartin awarded Mayo a penalty, which Cillian O’Connor dispatched past Colm Lavin. Mayo launched an all out offensive in search of the winning scores in the final minutes of the game. Five minutes of injury-time was indicated and sub Andy Moran took centre stage. In the 71st minute he played a one-two with Cillian O’Connor and flicked the ball home and now there was only two points in the game. In the 74th minute Roscommon gave the ball away once again and Mayo worked the ball into the veteran Moran who made no mistake from close range. He celebrated the goal as if he had scored the winning goal in the All-Ireland final. There was time for no more and Mayo had stolen victory in sensational fashion.

 Roscommon manager Kevin McStay wasn’t too despondent in defeat and said the object of the exercise was to try players in new positions.

  He said: “We are trying guys in different positions. Ultan (Harney) was going well but he was wrecked when we took him off. He was under pressure before the game and he was very anxious to play and we wanted to see how he did at number six.”

  McStay added that he was happy with progress overall and that focus was firmly on league preparation: “I am very happy with where we are at. The opposition is getting stronger week by week and so are we. Our defence is not strong enough yet and when you realise that the last three scores for Mayo were goals, it’s daft really, but we will go again next Sunday and see how we get on but it’s all down to preparation for the league now.”

  Star forward Donie Smith said there was a hint of revenge in the air ahead of Sunday’s FBD League Final: “We are looking forward to the final. There is silverware on the table and they (Galway) gave us a bit of a trimming in the Connacht final replay last year so hopefully we can get a good performance against them on Sunday.”

  He also added that he was delighted with his own form ahead of the National Football League.

  “I’m happy with my own form but the key is staying injury free and fit. There is a great spirit in the camp and we are looking forward to next Sunday’s final and then the big one in Omagh on Sunday week.”

  Roscommon are looking ahead to Galway on Sunday in a repeat of last year’s FBD League decider. It will be another chance for Kevin McStay and his selectors to fine tune their team ahead of a huge challenge in Omagh on Sunday week. Despite the defeat to Mayo there were plenty of positives to be taken from the encounter.

Mayo: Rob Hennelly; Donie Newcombe, Ray O’Malley, Paddy Durcan (0-1); Michael Plunkett, Stephen Coen, David Drake; Jason Gibbons, Danny Kirby (0-1); Fergal Boland (0-2), Kevin McLoughlin, Jason Doherty; Liam Irwin (1-1), Cillian O’Connor (1-5, 5 frees, pen), Conor O’Shea (0-1). Subs: Evan Regan for Irwin (49), Keith Higgins for O’Malley (52), Tom Parsons for Kirby (56), Shane Nally for Durcan (60, b/c), Andy Moran (2-0) for Boland (67), Cathal Carolan for Gibbons (67).

Roscommon: Colm Lavin; David Murray, Tom Fetherston, Niall McInerney; Ronan Stack, Ultan Harney, John McManus; Tadhg O’Rourke, Kevin Higgins (0-2); Fintan Cregg, Ciaráin Murtagh (0-2, frees), Enda Smith (2-3, 1 free); Cian Connolly (0-3), Tom Corcoran, Donie Smith (0-4, 2 frees). Subs; Niall Kilroy (0-1) for Murtagh (45), Gary Patterson for Harney (48), Shane Killoran for Cregg (52), Henry Walsh for Connolly (56,), Brian Murtagh for Stack (64), Cathal Shine for D Smith (68).

Referee: John Gilmartin (Sligo)