DRIVING ON Mayo’s Jason Doherty goes past Roscommon’s Ronan Daly during Sunday’s FBD Connacht League match in MacHale Park, Castlebar.Pic: Sportsfile
THE sight of Chris Barrett, Seamus O’Shea, Cillian O’Connor, Andy Moran and Alan Dillon all leaving MacHale Park in their tracksuits and street-clothes last Sunday evening was a reminder of the calibre of Mayo footballers that are currently out of action.
Throw in the fact that Aidan O’Shea (also injured) was at Anfield last Sunday watching Liverpool lose to Man Utd, plus that some of the best players in the county are currently unavailable due to their club commitments, and you begin to get an idea of how the land lies after Mayo bowed out of the FBD League last weekend.
At the last count, Mayo had 20 footballers in their dressing-room last Sunday evening that were 100 percent fit, healthy, well and available for duty.
Unfortunately, Keith Higgins (knee), Kevin Keane (shoulder) and Conor Loftus (hamstring) are the latest players to join the lengthy queue outside the medical team’s door.
They will be assessed in the coming days but none look likely to be ready to line out against Cork on Sunday week.
Truth be told, this latest defeat to Roscommon in the Connacht League didn’t feature too many memorable highlights from a Mayo perspective.
It was a sixty-minute work-out for the match-day squad, a chance for management to try out a few experiments (including posting Donal Vaughan at full-forward for a while), and a first opportunity to watch Keith Ruttledge and Conor Loftus measure themselves against bona fide inter-county defenders.
Both acquitted themselves well, especially Loftus who kicked his frees confidently and added a spectacular late point from play for good measure.
Staying on a positive theme, Diarmuid O’Connor’s hamstring also held up to a fifteen-minute cameo appearance while promising under 21 forward, Brian Reape, became the seventh player to make his senior debut in recent weeks.
But there was no disputing that the better team won this third round match at a wet and windy MacHale Park.
Roscommon’s win sees them qualify for the final of the competition against Galway next weekend, while also continuing their FBD winning streak over Mayo.
Interestingly, the Connacht champions haven’t beaten their near-neighbours in January now since 2012. Go figure!
Kevin McStay and Fergal O’Donnell’s selection featured nine of Roscommon’s 2015 championship team, and they were full value for their latest victory.
A crowd of 3,845 watched the visitors lead from pillar to post, making the most of their recent tough training regime to win a typical pre-season affair.
Mayo started slowly and the game was 16 minutes old when they opened their account through a Conor Loftus free.
By that stage Diarmuid Murtagh, Neil Collins and Fintan and Cathal Cregg had already scored for Roscommon, as the visitors went about their task with relish.
Mark Ronaldson and Keith Ruttledge both pointed from play during the second quarter, with Conor Loftus tagging on a couple of frees, as Mayo finally started to motor, but the impressive Cathal Cregg posted two fine points to keep the Rossies tipping along in front at the break.
There were still just a couple of scores between the teams approaching the end of the third quarter when Roscommon hit a purple patch; Senan Kilbride, Niall Daly and Diarmuid Murtagh all landing points to push the winners ahead by 0-12 to 0-7.
The game looked done and dusted at that stage, especially with Mayo failing to to create any clearcut goal chances, but they did rally in the closing stages to make things interesting.
In fact, Mayo hit three of the last four points — including one for the scrapbook from Conor Loftus, and two frees from the industrious Jason Doherty — as they gave chase.
But Roscommon had enough hard work done at that stage, and an insurance free from Ciaran Murtagh proved to be more than enough to seal the win.
With the shadow-boxing now out of the way, it’s down to the serious business of the National League for Mayo.
However, how many of their main men will actually be there when the fun starts remains to be seen.
R Hennelly; G Cafferkey, K Keane, P O’Hora; K Higgins, C Crowe, C Boyle; T Parsons, J Gibbons (0-1); J Doherty, M Ronaldson (0-1), D McHale; K Ruttledge (0-1), D Vaughan, C Loftus (0-5, 4fs).
Subs used: L Keegan for K Higgins (inj); S McHale for K Keane (inj); D O’Connor for K Ruttledge, S Nally for C Boyle, B Harrison for P O’Hora, B Reape for C Loftus.
G Claffey; N McInerney, R Stack, N Collins (0-1); S McDermott, N Daly (0-1), C Daly; E Smith (0-1), I Kilbride; F Cregg (0-1), C Murtagh (0-3, 3fs), R Daly; S Kilbride (0-1), C Cregg (0-3), D Murtagh (0-2, 1f).
Subs used: B Murtagh for N Daly, S Oates for D Murtagh, K Killine for F Cregg, G Patterson for R Stack.
Referee: J Gilmartin (Sligo)