The opening weekend of the Connacht championship served up a second shock in less than 24 hours as Roscommon upset the odds to knock Mayo out of the provincial title race at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park.
First half goals from the Smith brothers — Enda (from a penalty) and Donie — set Roscommon on their way to a deserved victory as league champions Mayo crashed to only their second defeat of the season.
The Rossies, who led from start to finish in a match that never really caught fire in front of a crowd of 19,361, will now face Galway in the provincial semi-final on Sunday week next.
This was just their second time to beat their neighbours in championship football at this venue since 1986, coming four years after their last successful visit.
Kevin McStay's Mayo, meanwhile, will now have a six-week break before they are back in action in the group stages of the All-Ireland series.
The Smiths' goals helped Roscommon to lead by four points at half-time, but Mayo came roaring back in the third quarter and scores from Mattie Ruane, Tommy Conroy and Aidan O’Shea left just the bare minimum between the teams after 50 minutes.
But the Rossie’s defensive system, allied to the pace of their counter-attacks, continued to pose problems for a Mayo side that seemed to feel the effects of last week’s National League Final in the last quarter.
The winners outscored the homeside by 0-05 to 0-02 in the last 20 minutes with Enda Smith leading the charge, time and time again.
A couple of inspirational points from Diarmuid Murtagh, along with a free from the St Faithleach’s attacker, were followed by a fine score from Conor Cox to leave Roscommon up by 2-07 to 0-09 after 67 minutes.
Down at the other end, Mayo were unable to find a way through a well-organised and very disciplined Roscommon defensive unit.Their only scores in the last 26 minutes came from Cillian O’Connor and Ryan O’Donoghue (free) in the 62nd and 73rd minutes respectively.
Roscommon managed the game well in the closing stages, and Enda Smith drove through to fist over the insurance score in the 75th minute to put the gloss on their win.
Despite playing against a stiff breeze, Roscommon had led at the end of a disappointing first half by 2-02 to 0-04, thanks to goals from Enda and Donie Smith.
The visitors were also a point in front (0-02 to 0-01) after a low-scoring and scrappy first quarter with Mayo’s Stephen Coen denied a spectacular eighth minute goal when his left-footed piledriver crashed off the Roscommon crossbar.
The slippery underfoot conditions mitigated against open, free-flowing football and it took 24 minutes for the game’s first major talking point to arrive.It came when Roscommon defender David Murray was adjudged to have been fouled by Conor Loftus in the large parallelogram, and referee Noel Mooney awarded a penalty.
The experienced Enda Smith stepped up to send Colm Reape the wrong way with a well-taken effort that catapulted the visitors into the lead.
That score seemed to spark a lacklustre Mayo into life and they responded with three unanswered points from Paddy Durcan (their only score from play of the half) and Colm Reape (a long-range free and a '45).
That scoring burst trimmed Roscommon’s lead back to a solitary point, and Mayo seemed to have found their rhythm.However, the favourites were rocked back on their heels two minutes later when Ciaran Lennon’s goalbound effort was blocked into the path of the inrushing Donie Smith, who slammed the loose ball into the Mayo net.
Determined Roscommon work it all the way up the pitch, stopping Mayo an attack.— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) April 9, 2023
Diarmuid Murtagh with a score to extend their advantage.
They're so close
Highlights on #sundaygame tonight pic.twitter.com/grNU4y4vnL
That goal sent Roscommon to the dressing-rooms with a spring in their step, leading by double scores.By that stage Mayo had shot five wides and also spurned a number of other scoring chances.The second half was much more exciting and entertaining than what had come before, but Roscommon’s game-plan proved to be the winning one and they march on to a mouth-watering semi-final against Galway later this month.
Roscommon: C Carroll; C Hussey, C Daly, D Murray; N Daly, B Stack, E McCormack; D Ruane, K Doyle; C Murtagh, C Lennon, E Smith (1-1, 1-0 pen); D Smith (1-0), D Murtagh (0-6, 4fs), B O’Carroll.
Subs used: C McKeon for Lennon (temporary, 54); C Cox (0-1) for D Smith (59); R Hughes for Daly (66); N Kilroy for Ruane (70); C Connolly for O’Carroll (72).
Mayo: C Reape (0-2, 1f, ‘45); J Coyne, S Coen, D McHugh (0-1); E McLaughlin, C Loftus, P Durcan (0-1); M Ruane (0-1), D O’Connor; F McDonagh, J Carney, J Flynn; A O’Shea (0-1), T Conroy (0-1), R O’Donoghue (0-2, 2fs).
Subs used: D McHale for McDonagh (46); C O’Connor (0-1) for McHale (temporary, 47); J Doherty for McLaughlin (61); C McStay for Flynn (61); D McHale for Ruane (70).
Referee: N Mooney (Cavan)