2011 has turned out to be a year marked by another short U21 championship campaign for us as we were beaten today by defending champions Roscommon on a scoreline of 0-11 to 0-9 at McHale Park. With five minutes to go we led by a point and it seemed we might just nick it but three late unanswered points from the visitors sent us crashing out at the first attempt.
Needless to say, I wasn’t in Castlebar to see the match for myself today and so this (sort of) report is one stitched together based on the excellent and frequent Twitter updates from @mayogaa, @roscommongaa, @edmcgreal and the redoubtable @ColmGannon. The latter has even managed to file his usual early bird match report already so if it’s a proper ringside take on proceedings you want, here it is.
The young Sheepstealers started the brighter, with two early pointed frees from Shane Regan and eleven minutes had passed before we opened our account via a free from Cillian O’Connor. Darren McDermott then got the visitors’ third but around the same time our full-back Kevin Keane was forced off injured. His replacement was Aidan Walsh but there obviously must have been a fair bit of reshuffling to replace the Wesport man at full-back and so, with Aidan O’Shea having started at midfield (having been named at full-forward), our formation even at that early stage would have been well removed from that in the match programme.
Aidan O’Shea got the game’s next score, “a huge effort” according to Colm Gannon and our first of the day from play. A minute later, however, Scott Oates restored the Rossies’ two-point advantage and further points by Shane Regan (his third of the half) and Paddy Brogan stretched the visitors’ lead to four.
We closed out the half a bit better, though, with points from play from Cillian O’Connor and Aidan O’Shea, the latter going down injured following the score. A full five minutes of additional time yielded no further scores leaving the Rossies 0-6 to 0-4 to the good at the break.
We’d enjoyed the benefit of whatever wind there was in the first half so clearly we needed, as that oft-used cliché on The Apprentice goes, to up our game in the second half if we were to progress to a provinicial semi-final date with Leitrim. Ed McGreal reckoned at that stage that our lack of dominance in midfield was a factor in our being behind so we obviously needed a dose of Bill Cullen in that area too in the second period.
Darren Coen replaced Andrew Farrell at half-time and within 30 seconds of the restart the Hollymount man made his presence felt by notching the first point of the second half. Cillian O’Connor then squared it up from a 25-yard free.
Former minor star James Cafferty replaced Danny Geraghty at midfield as we sought a better share of the ball around the middle. However, it was the defending champions who struck next and once again it was Shane Regan with a free to restore their lead. The same player added his fifth of the day, also from a free, soon after as the Rossies looked set to take control with 12 minutes of the second half gone.
Two missed frees by Cillian O’Connor didn’t help our cause but it was a case of third time lucky for the Ballintubber man as the gap came down to the minimum once more. Then, with ten to go, sub James Cafferty landed a fine score from play to bring us level again.
We were obviously going for it at this stage and had goal attempts from both Shane Nally and Michael Forde beaten away. Then, with just five minutes left on the clock, Darren Coen got his second of the day to edge us in front for the first time. It looked like a significant psychological blow and as I anxiously refreshed my Twitter feed I hoped I’d see notifications from the lads of further match-clinching scores for us.
There were further scores alright – three of them, in fact – but sadly Roscommon got the lot of them as late points from Cathal Shine, Niall Daly and Scott Oates sealed a two-point win for the defending champions and brought our U21 championship campaign to an early end.
As I wasn’t there, there’s little I can say about performances. The lads on Twitter all singled out Aidan O’Shea as having a great match and it’s a pity that he didn’t get to lead the lads over the course of a longer campaign. It’s also disappointing that a squad peppered with so many names who featured in the two minor All-Irelands of 2008 and 2009 failed to make it beyond first base at U21 but that’s how these things often go. Hard luck lads, hopefully the seniors have a happier day out against the Orchard County in tomorrow afternoon’s league clash at the same venue.
Mayo: Robert Hennelly; Shane McHale, Kevin Keane, Keith Rodgers; Caolan Crowe, Danny Kirby, Eoghan Reilly; Shane Nally, Danny Geraghty; Michael Forde, Cathal Freeman, Andrew Farrell; Colin Dempsey, Aidan O’Shea (0-2), Cillian O’Connor (0-4, 3 frees). Subs: Aidan Walsh for Keane (inj.), Darren Coen (0-2) for Farrell, James Cafferty (0-1) for Geraghty, Fergal Durkin for Freeman.