We can reach for all number of excuses. The seven-day turnaround from last Sunday’s League final, the shocking refereeing performance of Noel Mooney, the long-standing hex Roscommon have over us when we win the League, but, you know, none of those factors sufficiently explain why we lost to Roscommon today.
We were flat from first to last in this match, Roscommon had their tactics spot-on and fought like demons throughout. They were fully deserving winners this afternoon.
We made two changes, at least one of which was enforced, before throw-in. Neither David McBrien nor James Carr started – with neither of them on the 26 so they were most likely both injured – as Eoghan McLaughlin and Tommy Conroy starting instead.
It was wet and windy at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park today, though the rain had cleared by half-time but it remained blustery throughout. Roscommon opened the scoring from a free – they wouldn’t score a point from play until ten minutes of normal time were left – but we responded in kind from a Ryan O’Donoghue free.
We nearly struck the game’s first major blow when Stephen Coen found himself in on goal but his thunderous left-footed strike came back off the crossbar. That wasn’t the only chance we missed early on and when Matthew Ruane shot wide from a good position on 15 minutes, this was already our fourth wide.
An Eoghan McLaughlin foul gave Diarmuid Murtagh the chance to put the visitors back in front. He duly took that opportunity and it was a lead they’d never lose after that in a match in which we never got in front at any stage.
The penalty came next. It’s hard to see how it was a penalty but that’s what the ref’s decision was. Enda Smith sent Colm Reape the wrong way from the spot.
We responded well. Paddy Durcan stabbed over a nice point and then Colm Reape landed a long-range free. He followed it up with a ’45 as we cut the gap to one.
But then the second goal came. We got caught with a sucker ball in over the top, with the initial shot rebounding to Donie Smith who finished it to the net with a neat half-volley.
We needed a reset for the second half but we rather surprisingly opted to retake the field with the same fifteen. You’d have to think that Cillian O’Connor should have been on by then – indeed, I can’t understand why we didn’t start him – but he only appeared, and only then as a temporary replacement, when first sub Darren McHale went off with a blood-related injury.
Donnacha McHugh was our unlikely first scorer on the resumption. After a long period of often frantic play, Mattie Ruane banged over a nice score, to cut the gap to two points.
A Diarmuid Murtagh free was a welcome bit of respite for them. Then Tommy Conroy sashayed through the cover and fired over. After that we turned over their kickout and Aidan fired over a point when perhaps greater rewards were in the offing for us.
Twenty minutes had gone in the second half before Roscommon got their second score after the break, this one from another Murtagh free. The same player got their next one too, with ten minutes of normal time left to play. That was, incredibly, Roscommon’s first point from open play in the game.
Three down now but the game still wasn’t beyond us and we could, had we held our composure, have pulled the fat from the fire. In those final chaotic moments, though, we went to pieces in attack, continually trying to run through the well organised cover and getting turned over repeatedly.
We got two points in this frantic finale – a screamer from Cillian and a pointed free by Ryan – but they got three on the break and that sealed a wholly merited four-point win for them.
It’s difficult not to look on this as anything but a major setback for us. Sure, we’re still headed for the All-Ireland group stages but we do so as a third seed and we also do so badly wounded, with major questions about our ability to find the required answers in the white heat of battle.
A more optimistic take is that we now get a much-needed break. It’ll be six weeks before we next see Championship action and, with a fair wind, we should be in a better place in terms of injuries.
Whether or not this will be enough for us to mount a serious challenge this summer, however, remains to be seen. It’s fair to say that, after this showing, there are more questions than answers about where we’re headed this year.
Mayo: Colm Reape (0-2, free and a ’45); Jack Coyne, Eoghan McLaughlin, Donnacha McHugh (0-1); Stephen Coen, Conor Loftus, Paddy Durcan (0-1); Matthew Ruane (0-1), Diarmuid O’Connor; Fionn McDonagh, Jack Carney, Jordan Flynn; Aidan O’Shea (0-1), Tommy Conroy (0-1), Ryan O’Donoghue (0-2, frees). Subs: Darren McHale for McDonagh, Cillian O’Connor (0-1) (blood) for McHale, Jason Doherty for McLaughlin, Conor McStay for Flynn, Darren McHale for Ruane.
Who was our MOTM against Roscommon? Pick your top three performers
- Diarmuid O'Connor (21%, 523 Votes)
- Paddy Durcan (13%, 324 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (9%, 228 Votes)
- Jack Coyne (7%, 181 Votes)
- Donnacha McHugh (7%, 181 Votes)
- Conor Loftus (7%, 165 Votes)
- Cillian O'Connor (6%, 145 Votes)
- Colm Reape (6%, 141 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (5%, 135 Votes)
- Fionn McDonagh (5%, 122 Votes)
- Ryan O'Donoghue (3%, 78 Votes)
- Conor McStay (2%, 58 Votes)
- Tommy Conroy (2%, 48 Votes)
- Matthew Ruane (2%, 45 Votes)
- Jordan Flynn (1%, 32 Votes)
- Jason Doherty (1%, 26 Votes)
- Eoghan McLaughlin (1%, 22 Votes)
- Darren McHale (1%, 19 Votes)
- Jack Carney (1%, 18 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,295