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Hard to beat the away days


CROWDED HOUSE Spectators during Sunday’s National League match at Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon. Pic: Sportsfile

A Fan's View
Anne Marie Flynn

WHILE Mayo’s league campaign so far has definitely had the “the feel of championship”, there are exceptions to every rule, and so Sunday’s contest with Roscommon proved.
It almost felt reassuring; everything has been going just a little bit too smoothly of late, and it’s a good reminder to supporters that that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Despite the large numbers in attendance – 12,000 plus the un-ticketed – the atmosphere felt surprisingly flat at times. But despite the late Roscommon surge, neither the Mayo team nor supporters succumbed to panic.
In what is perhaps a post-pandemic reaction, our little match-day crew has decided to make the most of these away days out. We tend to hit road early to get the coffee and chats in, and the car journey serves as the catch-up – what’s happening with family, work, social occasions, dates etc.
Alongside the bit of counselling that only good friends can offer, it is also an opportunity to be mercilessly slagged about all of the above. You need your wits about you in the Audi on match days. On arrival we try and park up, do a bit of sightseeing, absorb a bit of culture and grab a bite to eat, before wandering down to the ground at our leisure.
One might say that cultural and sightseeing experiences might be thin on the ground in Roscommon, but – hold onto your bobble hats – they’d be wrong.
There is Roscommon Abbey, Roscommon Castle and the old Roscommon Gaol. The Roscommon County Museum, a quaint little building just off the main square, sadly was closed but boasts a very fetching stone sheep monument by artist Mark Feeley out front acknowledging the tradition of sheep farming in Roscommon, which is very on-brand for the Rossies.
And of course, there is Paddy Joe’s Barbers, a landmark of note outside which at least one of our party, who will remain nameless, was keen to be photographed.
Though neither the tar nor the ice cream were melting on Sunday, it was clear that the Rossies had their eyes on Championship.
After a warm welcome and hearty lunch in Regan’s — a place with more than a few Mayo connections — it was over to the Hyde. On the way we received well-wishes from a jovial member of An Garda Sioichana: “Enjoy the day. I hope ye lose!”.  
The Rossies have yet to install heated seating on the concrete benches, but thankfully so far we all seem to have escaped the dreaded cold in the kidneys, even if a couple of toes were lost to frostbite.
The roar after the anthem was probably the loudest of the day and it was a strange game, devoid of the atmosphere you’d expect. For Mayo, there was ambivalence about the prospect of reaching a league final, and it is hard to fathom why Roscommon started so poorly, but the first 20 minutes without a score sucked the life out of the game as the visitors cantered into a seven-point lead.
The second half brought more entertainment, with the concession of a couple of goals and the dreaded two-point lead leaving us on the edge of the cold seats towards the end.
While the game was no thriller, the real delight for Mayo supporters is seeing the season progress without the dreaded injury blight that has crippled us for the last decade (everyone - touch wood quickly).
It is almost unprecedented luxury to have a full, thirsty panel from which to choose, and while there were a few grumbles about the last-minute changes, they didn’t represent a weakening of the team and we got the sense that Kevin and his backroom team were quite happy to throw a spanner in Roscommon’s work plan.
It was delightful to see Tommy Conroy in nearly-full flow after his injury a year ago.
Jack Carney for the second week running had a stormer. Diarmuid O’Connor is back to his best – was there a blade of grass he didn’t cover? As well as deflecting what was a last-gasp goal attempt, his movement around the pitch and his laser-sharp foot passing was a joy to watch. There were solid shows from Jack Coyne, David McBrien, Paddy Durcan (what a handful!) and Sam Callinan. All told, not a bad day.
So with safety in Division 1 secured, the league is now our oyster.
We can push on, or experiment without having to worry about conceding scores.
 Two pressing questions. Can we now be the ones to topple Donegal’s impressive home record in Ballybofey in two weeks’ time? And where should we go for the spuds?

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