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Roscommon game is something entirely different



Something entirely different

It won’t be easy but Mayo should prevail

Edwin McGreal

MANY people leaving Pearse Stadium after Mayo’s seventeen point win over Galway spoke of the gulf between Division 1 teams and Division 2 teams that had been exposed by Mayo’s facile victory.
It has been a near constant theme in analysis of championship games this year with Dublin easily accounting for Division 2 winners Westmeath, Cork and Kerry making very light work of Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford, and even relegated Down powering past a Derry side that were promoted from the second division.
Whatever about other games, drawing a line of comparison between Galway as a Division 2 team compared to Roscommon as a Division 3 side would be foolhardy.
A gulf there may appear to be between the 2013 top-flight sides and the rest, but if a team comes to the table fit, organised, with character and a decent, defensive game plan, top teams will not have it at their leisure.
Mayo were very, very good against Galway but Alan Mulholland had a wide open game plan, looked weak mentally and were torn to shreds by half-time. Do you think Sunday’s game will be over as early? We don’t.
Roscommon will go into this game with a certain amount of confidence about their chances which will be buttressed the longer they stay with Mayo.
Galway were a spent force by half-time because such a gap had opened up. For the underdogs, staying with the opposition for as long as they can is a must.
Most of the games where Division 1 teams won comfortably saw them well ahead by half-time. A one or two point deficit at half-time augments the belief of the underdog, a six point plus margin pretty much destroys it.
Mayo only just crept over the line against Sligo and Roscommon in the last two Connacht finals. They trailed at half-time in both, due in part to a slow start on their behalf, but also against sides who knew what they were about, and how to approach the game.
For Sunday, Roscommon are a very hard team to get a read on as they have come into this game so far under the radar that most Mayo supporters will struggle to hazard a guess at half of their team this early in the week.
They won’t play man-to-man as Galway did, and look at how they can approach this game mentally. Win one game, against Mayo, and they are massive favourites to win a Connacht title against either Leitrim or London. A big ask it may be but it is essentially one big performance required, that’s how they’ll be approaching it.
And what of Mayo?
Cillian O’Connor’s loss is, undoubtedly, a huge one.
First of all, his clinical free-taking leaves the opposition wary of fouling from inside the ‘45. Without him, Roscommon will rightly feel they have more license to play on the edge, particularly outside the ’D’.
The Ballintubber star was directly involved in 4-7 of Mayo’s total against Galway and had looked the long-awaited solution to the centre-half forward position that James Horan had constantly struggled to fill. Now Horan must look again.
Alan Dillon is one option but he has always looked more comfortable playing from 12 and gave a new dimension to the full-forward line in Pearse Stadium.
Aidan O’Shea had been tried ‘on the forty’ during the NFL but appears to be much more comfortable, and influential, at midfield. Richie Feeney lined out at 11 against Cavan and is playing very well at the moment for club and county and could be the best option.
Sunday’s game won’t be easy — and that’s something James Horan will be happy about.
If Mayo can play with the same intensity they brought to Pearse Stadium, Roscommon might manage to stay with them for a time but Mayo are, ultimately, on another level and by the time seventy minutes is played, that should be apparent.