U21s reign in the West ends

Ros v Mayo Final Score

Our long reign as Connacht champions at U21 level ended at Hyde Park today when we were beaten by 2-9 to 1-11 by a resolute Roscommon side. I was there to see it all happen, as I’d accepted a last-minute offer of a lift down to Roscommon from The Brother who texted me a bit after one this afternoon to say he was heading down to it. Forty minutes or so later, myself and my small Dub met up with him and one of his lads at Liffey Valley and we all hit for the west together in his motor.

We made good time to Roscommon on virtually empty roads but a queue at the ticket booth meant that we missed the first few minutes of the day’s action and it was a point apiece by the time we’d located PJ up in the stand. Alan Freeman had got our opener and as we settled into our seats the lively Neill Douglas popped over our second from a free. A few minutes later he added another to put us two clear at the end of the first quarter.

The match already had the appearance of a dour struggle about it on what looked like a heavy pitch and our bright opening gave way to a period of home dominance after Donie Shine moved out to the middle. They kicked a bundle of wides – three in a row, I think it was – before they pulled level with two pointed frees. Neill Douglas restored our one-point advantage as half-time neared with this free but then the Rossies broke through for a goal, with Garvey feeding Kilroy who beat Rob Hennelly with ease from a one-on-one position. Douglas added his fourth of the day in reply – with an attempted effort at a goal that instead cannoned over the bar – to leave us a point adrift at the break.

Ros v Mayo 1They’d had whatever wind there was behind them in the first half and so we had every reason to think that we were in a good position at half-time, even though the lads were showing a similar lack of fluidity in their play as they had done – and which almost cost them dearly – against Leitrim in the first round.

The Rossies took forever to emerge from their dressing-room at half-time but once they did reappear they got down to business in no time with two quick points sending them three clear. Jason Doherty responded with a nice point from play and soon after the over-fussy ref sent Roscommon’s corner-forward Alan O’Hara to the line for a second yellow offence. It looked like a harsh decision but it also appeared to be one that would make it easier for us to see off the challenge of the sticky Sheepstealers.

Numerical advantage or not, it took us a while to reel them in but another point from Douglas and a lovely outside-of-the-boot effort from Shane Nally finally brought us level midway through the second half.

It looked then as if we’d be the ones to kick on but they broke through for their second goal of the day soon after to restore their three-point lead. It didn’t last long, though, as we got a goal back right from the kickout, with Alan Freeman the man rattling the net for us. Neill Douglas then knocked over a cracker of a free from well out on the right to push us a point clear with a bit over ten minutes to go.

Neither side looked capable of pushing for the line as the match entered its closing stages, with the home side looking like they didn’t have enough bite in the forwards to trouble us while we didn’t seem to have the drive to build on that slender one-point advantage. In a game as finely balanced as this, the decisive intervention of one stand-out player can often be what sways the final outcome and this was the case today.

Ros v Mayo D ShineThat man was Roscommon’s Donie Shine and he made three crucial contributions to his side’s efforts in those closing minutes which, taken together, won the game for the fourteen-man Sheepstealers and brought our four-year reign as U21 Connacht champions to a close.

First, he pointed an absolute monster of a free, from at least 65 yards out and which still had plenty of distance on it as it sailed over the bar. That squared the match up and it was level again – following a final Douglas point for us that was cancelled out by a free for them after a particularly stupid foul by Kevin Keane committed well within scoring range – when the Clann na nGael man intervened with effect once more. Shine had the ball well out on the right but he spotted his centre-back Niall Daly unmarked in a good position right in front of the posts. An accurate fisted pass landed the ball right into Daly’s lap and the no.6 whacked it over to give the Rossies the lead with the match entering injury time.

There was still time for us to draw level, though this poorly-aimed free drew plenty of derisive cheers from the home supporters who now sensed that the day was going to be theirs. We kept plugging away, though, and eventually a chance opened up for skipper Kevin McLoughlin and he belted it over to square the match up once more.

Extra-time now seemed to be a racing certainty but this was when Donie Shine intervened a final time. He won the ball thirty or so yards out on the right and thumped over an emphatic winning point, a mighty roar erupting around the stand as the ball sailed over the posts at the graveyard end.

We can have no complaints at today’s result. The Rossies looked far, far hungrier for the win today than we did and when the game was in the mix in that closing period, they wanted it a whole load more than we did and despite being a man down, they fought like tigers to make sure that the prize would be theirs. Too many of our players looked jaded – Aidan O’Shea is clearly playing too much football at the minute and Kevin McLoughlin looked like he could do with a rest as well – and we seemed less organised and a good deal less focused on the job at hand than they did.

Best on the day for us were Neill Douglas (who ended up with seven points to his credit), Alan Freeman, Aidan O’Shea (who spent most of his time shoring up a midfield where Shane Nally looked badly miscast) and Eoghan Reilly but good individual performances aside, we never clicked today as a team and that meant we were always open to the kind of knockout blow that Donie Shine eventually landed on us deep into stoppage time. The Rossies now face Sligo – who pulled off a major shock win over Galway in the day’s other semi-final – in the U21 Connacht final over Easter. Meanwhile, it’s back to the drawing board for Ray Dempsey and his team on the sideline after a hugely disappointing and untimely end to an U21 championship campaign that seemed to promise so much at the outset.

MAYO: Robert Hennelly; Pat Mulchrone, Shane McHale, Kevin Keane; Lee Keegan, Eoghan Reilly, Sean Prendergast; Ger McDonagh, Shane Nally (0-1); Cathal Carolan, Kevin McLoughlin (0-1), Jason Doherty (0-1); Neill Douglas (0-7, three frees), Aidan O’Shea, Alan Freeman (1-1). Subs: Keith Rogers for Prendergast, Raymond Geraghty for Carolan, James Cafferty for Rogers.

16 thoughts on “U21s reign in the West ends

  1. I dont want to mr negative all the time but im sure ray is not the man.. ngood to have my sparring partner ontheroad back, i think a truce is in order

  2. I ageee JJ, Ray has all the cliches and manager speak but man management skills are severely lacking. Again today he brought on a sub and less than 15 mins later took him off. He is not helping young players confidence. roscommon deserved their victory.

  3. Hi JJ. Apologies firstly from myself, I got ahead and carried away. No need for a truce, Mayo people are decent and we move on. I got a shock when I saw what I thought was a comment from myself but on closer inspection it is by UPTHEROAD, that should be fun for the future! Anyway JJ we have a lot in common. I too never fully bought into Dempsys brand of managment but in fairness it worked at minor level for him. Make no mistake , that U21 defeat is bad and totally unexpected. Jason Gibbons was touted for a senior place two years ago, now he cannot make the U21s. I would be troubled with that result.

  4. That undr 21 loss to Ross is a amajor set back to these players. may be a good reality check fr them. cll it big headed but many of them won melas at this level last year and this year did not look too difficult till the final . Now the two big guns are gone. With a team of mayo’s quality we should have been at leasy expecting a Connacht title. Management put the work in no doubt but their reasons for not considering some playes as not being physical enough does not rate with me. If thatw as the case would Keith Higgins ever have got a chance with this under 21 management. Look at the players and their heart , not their ability to take out other players. Amazed that no Ballintubber player could make the team . they are the bench mark for club under 21 in this conty. Sorry also that some very talented players would not play for Ray Dempsey this year, they want to play for Mayo but not for the present set up. Hope they are not lost altogeher to mayo football

  5. yes agree ontheroad
    This result is a disaster, theres a saying never kick a man when he is down but im sure that does not apply to rossies.When they are at their lowest we have gave them a huge boost.. Ray does have alot to answer for, he put a side out that will in no way benifit mayo in the long term but at least if they won it would be something.. After watching the macrory cup today and the standard the schools in ulster play at, mayo board should look to better development at underage.Kerry for instance almost useless at underage but the best are coached in the right way for the long term of kerry football. its in the heat of things and i could not get to the game today,just wondering wj what you thought of the whole ‘setup’ today,from the tatics to the management??

  6. Not good when the Rossies are yahooing at us. If there is a bright side the senior players have one master to serve now and a bit less football so long term it might not be a disaster. Fair play to Sligo. Hope they win it now.

  7. It’s hard to know, JJ, based on just the one game (I wasn’t at the Leitrim game last week) and when you lose the bad points tend to be amplified. You would have to wonder if the team Ray put out was the best, given the talent available to us.

    Questions I’d have would include: where were Jason Gibbons, Aidan Walsh and Ciaran Charlton? Why were Shane Nally and Kevin McLoughlin played out of position when we had better options in both areas? Should Aidan O’Shea have been deployed further out? Why couldn’t Ray and Johnno have sorted out player availability (both AOS and Kevin McL looked a bit knackered yesterday)?

    Hindsight analysis is easy, I know, but I think it’s pretty obvious that we didn’t do as well as we should have done with the players we had available to us.

  8. Is there a back door in this competition or does it kick in at Connacht Final stage as in the minor competition?

  9. I’m afraid not, Grainne – this is the only old-style championship that’s now still with us. One loss and you’re out, regardless of when it happens.

  10. I agree with you WJ on the omissions, I wondered where a lot of our minor stars had gone Walsh, Charlton, Gibbons, Slingerman. And what’s all this about some players refusing to play for Dempsey?

  11. And what happened at half time outside the dressingroom………or should we ask that question?

  12. I haven’t heard anything about players refusing to play for Ray, Coilltemach, but it is odd that at least a few of last year’s minors weren’t on the U21 team this year.

    I heard about the schemozzle outside the dressing rooms at half-time yesterday but I’ve no idea how it started or who is to blame. I suspect that, like most tunnel incidents in the past, there’ll be plenty of finger-pointing but very little clarity as regards finding out what exactly happened!

  13. There were a lot of lads that are 21 years of age this year that should have been on the squad, but bad experiences at minor level meant that they would not go into the squad this year

  14. We are our own worst enemies. The job of underage management should be to develop and prepare players for senior football careers at club and county level. If we are playing politics with young players careers then all involved from the county board down should resign in disgrace.

  15. In losing to Roscommon we gave them a vital foothold at a time they were drowning. That was a terrible result by Mayo and should be condemmed as such. The calibre of player available was top notch but it appears that some of that calibre was never drawn from the armoury. Half backs as half forwards. Midfielders that weren’t midfielders and midfielders that were at home moving the cattle from one field to another. We never cease to amaze me. We won the league in 1970. JJ CRibben was one of our star forwards on that team. As Mayo exited that years Connacht championship( our first match) in Tuam v Roscommon JJ was being ordained below in the cathedral there. Fate conspires to f*** us up regularily; or worse we actually ask fate to drop in and do it anyway.

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