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Mayo mix the good with the bad


BIG HITTERS Roscommon’s Enda Smith is tackled by Mayo’s Jordan Flynn during Sunday’s National League match at Dr Hyde Park. Pic: Sportsfile

Edwin McGreal

THE final whistle sounds and Roscommon manager Davy Burke applauds his players immediately.
While he was the losing manager, he had plenty to take from the game given his team had whittled down an eight point gap on 50 minutes to just two points and only missed out on snatching a win when Ben O’Carroll’s late shot was blocked by Diarmuid O’Connor.
With five weeks to go until the teams meet in championship, Burke had plenty more reason to be happy by the game’s conclusion than at many stages during it.
A comfortable defeat against a Mayo team showing five changes to their starting team would be hard to dress up in the run into championship.
The way this game finished will give Roscommon succour.
They had Mayo on the ropes and, after a timid start, they grew into the game.
How will Mayo feel?
Well Kevin McStay wasn’t jubilant, but far from downcast either.
Mayo were safe from relegation on account of the win – the first team to be safe in Division 1 this year.
Their second half display had seen them ‘resting on our laurels a little, perhaps’.  
How good, bad or indifferent was it?
The concession of the two goals is a definite concern. Eight points up and cruising, the only way this was becoming any sort of a game was if Roscommon hit the net.
Mayo had looked in control. Any scores Roscommon were getting were hard earned.
The first goal, from Enda Smith, was more a case of a goal very well-taken by the Boyle man who galloped away from a midfield contest to run off the shoulder after Roscommon won a break. He showed class in his use of possession and finish although Mayo had perhaps over-committed to the kick-out contest.  
The second goal was more concerning from a Mayo perspective.
Smith’s goal had left the gap at three points and Mayo’s reaction for the next 15 minutes had been very positive.
Roscommon only scored two points, both frees, while Mayo hit three points at the other end, including one from the very next attack. They should have had a goal too but Tommy Conroy saw his palmed effort, after a superb Ryan O’Donoghue pass, come back off the crossbar.
Smith’s goal hadn’t really rattled Mayo and they looked in control.
In previous years, the concession of a goal could send panic coursing through the team.
Mayo looked calm and measured in their reaction.
But then they conceded another one a minute into injury-time and the frustrating thing is they had everyone back. However, too many players pressed too high and when Aidan O’Shea lost his man, there were gaps in behind. Conor Cox had all too easy a finish.
Again, Mayo reacted well. O’Shea caught the next kick-out clean and it was a precursor to an excellent point from Mattie Ruane.
But with their last attack, Roscommon nearly snatched it. Mayo defended a high ball poorly and Ben O’Carroll got his shot off. Diarmuid O’Connor read his intentions though and executed a block.
It should never have come to that. Perhaps it is better to learn in a win like this rather than cruising to a straightforward victory which could, and probably should, have been the outcome.
But, on the other hand, conceding such goals can install doubts and may give opponents hope in games that they are never out of sight against Mayo.

New faces take their chances
OVERALL, Sunday was a day where the positives certainly outweighed the negatives from a Mayo perspective.
They made five changes to the starting team. After such an impressive win over Tyrone, such changes are a reflection on the nature of the league as a competition.
If this and the Tyrone game were All-Ireland series group games, it is hard to imagine many changes at all from the previous week.
But with Mayo almost safe, Kevin McStay and co could make changes.
Tommy Conroy made a welcome first start since the first round of last year’s league; his pace and power look as unstoppable as ever.
Paddy Durcan and Sam Callinan both looked at home in defence. Well Durcan might, but Callinan is a player of immense potential and he certainly looked like he had learned from his cameo off the bench against Tyrone.
He was using the ball better, making very good decisions and tackling superbly.
Rory Byrne was solid in between the posts while Cillian O’Connor had his best game for Mayo in two years since he tore his Achilles tendon against Clare in the 2021 league.
It has been a long road back to this point for Mayo’s record scorer but fully fit, moving well and with an extremely competitive full-forward line, he was a man on a mission.
He kicked one great point and was fouled for three of his six converted frees.
Those displays alone were enough positives to add to the two points, but add in the continued excellence of Jack Carney and Diarmuid O’Connor, Mayo’s best two players for the second week in a row; Mattie Ruane’s continuous improvement at midfield; the continued danger that James Carr provides, even if his shooting was a touch erratic; and new defenders like David McBrien and Jack Coyne continuing to grow into the jersey game on game.
There is plenty to learn from Sunday but, overall, Mayo continue to make progress.

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