BURSTING FORWARD Mayo midfielder Seamus O’Shea is tackled by Roscommon’s Niall McInerney. Pic: Sportsfile
NOW this was more like it.
After plodding their way through six games this summer, with varying degrees of good, bad and indifferent displays along the way, Mayo finally cut loose yesterday (Monday) and delivered the performance we’d all been waiting for.
Unfortunately for Roscommon they were the ones to feel the full force of their neighbour’s power and pace, as Stephen Rochford’s team cruised to an impressive 22-points victory at Croke Park.
Kevin McStay and Liam McHale were powerless to prevent their young team being sliced open time and again by Mayo’s relentless, hard-running raids.
Their miserable day was compounded when Fintan Cregg was sent off after being booked for a second time, just 15 minutes after being brought on at half-time.
Having to play the final 25 minutes with only 14 men was the last thing Roscommon needed on a day when Mayo created 42 scoring chances, and could (and should) have scored seven or eight goals.
Thirteen different Mayo players got on the scoresheet in a game where 4-15 of their eye-catching tally was racked up from play.
The reality is that Roscommon were fortunate to escape with the beating they did. Had Mayo been more ruthless, and butchered less of the goal chances they created, the Rossies would have been humiliated even more.
Mayo’s reward is a crack at Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final on Sunday week next, August 20, and an opportunity to try and build on what they did so impressively against the outclassed Connacht champions.
This quarter-final replay was unrecognisable from the drawn match eight days earlier: Mayo tearing into their opponents from the very start, Aidan O’Shea claiming the throw-in, and Roscommon pinned into their own half for long spells as Rochford’s men pressed high and hard.
The game was over as a contest by half-time.
By then Mayo were 13 points ahead (3-8 to 0-4) with goals from Kevin McLoughlin (who got away with hopping the ball twice in the build-up), Andy Moran and Keith Higgins (only the second green flag of his long and illustrious county career) doing most of the serious damage.
Despite being forced to line out without Footballer of the Year, Lee Keegan, who failed a fitness test before the game on what was believed to be a leg injury, Mayo made a flying start.
His replacement Donie Vaughan picked up where Keegan had left off in the drawn match, taking up the marking job on Roscommon’s Enda Smith and running the Boyle man ragged with countless runs upfield.
Tom Parsons also started in place of Ger Cafferkey as Rochford tweaked Mayo’s strategy, and the Charlestown midfielder dominated the middle third with considerable help from the outstanding Seamie O’Shea.
Roscommon found it almost impossible to get out of their own half in the first quarter and Mayo were six points to no score up after only fifteen minutes with Aidan O’Shea (playing in an advanced role) leading the charge.
Seán Mullooly found it almost impossible to cope with O’Shea’s barnstorming runs, and two early fouls on the Breaffy bomber led to converted frees for the razor-sharp Cillian O’Connor.
Mayo’s captain finished with 1-6, his goal arriving 11 minutes into the second half to kill off any faint hopes that Roscommon may have had of trying to muster a revival.
They only managed to score five points in the second half as their challenge faded out completely.
In hindsight, Kevin McStay’s decision to start rookie midfielder Caoileann Fitzmaurice, and drop team captain Ciaran Murtagh and Fintan Cregg from his first 15, backfired spectacularly.
By the time they came into the game, at the interval, it was all over bar the shouting.
There was plenty of that too from the Mayo supporters, especially when Andy Moran left the field on 60 minutes. The Ballaghaderreen man was cheered to the rafters after another industrious and productive day out.
The stylish Shane Nally also marked his long overdue appearance with two superb late points with fellow subs David Drake and Stephen Coen also hitting the target.
It was all so easy in the end as Mayo delivered a timely reminder that they still feel there is something to fight for.
D Clarke; B Harrison, D Vaughan (0-1), K Higgins (1-0); C Boyle, C Barrett (0-1), P Durcan; T Parsons (0-1), S O’Shea; K McLoughlin (1-0), A O’Shea (0-2), D O’Connor (0-1); J Doherty (0-2), C O’Connor (1-6, 4f), A Moran (1-1).
Subs used: C Loftus for Doherty; D Drake (0-1) for McLoughlin; A Dillon for Moran; S Coen (0-1) for D Vaughan; D Kirby for A O’Shea; S Nally (0-2) for Barrett.
C Lavin; S McDermott, N McInerney, D Murray; J McManus, S Mullooly (0-1), B Stack; C Fitzmaurice, E Smith (0-1); N Kilroy (0-1), T O’Rourke, C Devaney (0-1); Cathal Compton, D Murtagh (0-4, 2f), C Connolly.
Subs used: F Cregg for Connolly; G Patterson for McDermott; C Murtagh for Cathal Compton; D Smith (0-1) for Stack; I Kilbride for Devaney; Colin Compton for E Smith.
Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow)