Roscommon produced a magnificent performance at MacHale Park to dump Mayo into the Qualifiers, 2-12 to 0-17.
An attendance of 20,471 could barely cope with the high drama in Castlebar as the Rossies sealed a fourth successive provincial final meeting with Galway on June 16th, courtesy of their first competitive victory at this venue since 1986.
Substitute Fintan Cregg was the match-winner, firing over a superb injury-time clincher for Anthony Cunningham’s charges, who were down to 14 men at the time. With extra time looming, Cregg held his nerve to split the posts from distance. Conor Cox and goalkeeper Darren O'Malley also contributed enormously to Roscommon's famous night.
Having played catch-up for most of the evening, Mayo snuck ahead on the hour but crucially failed to muster another score in the ensuing 15 minutes of nerve-shredding action, their wastefulness in front of the posts proving their Achilles heel yet again while, in contrast, Cox and Cregg stuck over vital points in the tensest of finishes.
Goals from Cathal Cregg and Ultan Harney had ensured the visitors of a 2-6 to 0-10 lead at the end of a very exciting and fiery opening period.
Cregg netted in serious style in the fifth minute, finding the top right corner at the end of a searing run past Keith Higins after Matthew Ruane and Darren Coen had pointed for Mayo, Jason Doherty (free) and Paddy Durcan restoring the home side’s lead only for the winners to hit back with Harney’s goal double-palmed to the net in the eleventh minute (after Rob Hennelly's short restart was turned over by the Roscommon No.13) followed by a point from Conor Daly as they led by four with 15 minutes played – 2-2 to 0-4.
Lee Keegan and Evan Regan halved the deficit but a Cox brace ensured that the gap was still four points with 20 minutes played. O’Malley’s ‘45’ nudged the lead out to five but the hosts landed four of the last five points before the break, Coen, Regan, Keegan and Ruane keeping them very much in contention, O’Malley nailing his second ‘45’ in between.
Cathal Cregg celebrates netting an early Roscommon goal at MacHale Park
Even though Regan (free) made it a one-point game three minutes after the restart, O’Malley (‘45’) and Cox – with a stunning strike from distance - registered to push the Rossies three ahead again. Coen’s quickfire brace reduced the deficit to the minimum again with 46 minutes played, Andy Moran then cancelling out another exquisite Cox point. The sides were level for the third time on 51 minutes when Durcan landed his second point to set up a thrilling conclusion to an absorbing encounter.
Substitute Enda Smith had the Rossies back in front but Mayo mustered two massive points from Fergal Boland to lead again with an hour played, 0-17 to 2-10. Roscommon refused to wave the white flag and Cox’s free on 63 minutes tied the scores up again. Amid high drama and tension, the sides remained deadlocked going into five minutes of injury time at the end of a truly terrific contest.
The Rossies were unluckily reduced to 14 men when David Murray was black-carded three minutes from the end of the regulation 70 and couldn’t be replaced as they’d already used up their full quota of substitutes. But Cregg stepped forward three minutes into added time and lofted over an inspirational lead point after Keegan dropped a shot short at the other end and Niall Daly executed a wonderful block to deny Moran. Mayo had one last chance to redeem themselves but bowed out of the provincial championship after Kevin McLoughlin’s last-gasp free curled inches outside the upright - the league winners' 15th wide.
What a result this is for Roscommon, the perennial Connacht finalists, who will go into their meeting with Galway full of confidence. Meanwhile, the Qualifiers beckon for James Horan’s charges, who have at least avoided the opening round of the back-door route courtesy of their landslide win over New York.
Roscommon - D O’Malley (0-3, 1f, 2'45); D Murray, S Mullooly, C Daly (0-1); N Daly, C Hussey, R Daly; T O’Rourke, S Killoran; H Darcy, C Cregg (1-0), N Kilroy; U Harney (1-0), C Cox (0-5, 2f), A Glennon (0-1). Subs: D Murtagh for A Glennon, E Smith (0-1) for C Cregg, D Smith for U Harney, C Devaney for H Darcy, B Stack for R Daly, F Cregg (0-1) for N Kilroy.
Mayo - R Hennelly; C Barrett, B Harrison, K Higgins; P Durcan (0-2), M Plunkett, L Keegan (0-1); M Ruane (0-2), A O’Shea; F Boland (0-2), J Doherty (0-1f), D O’Connor; E Regan (0-3, 2f), D Coen (0-5), K McLoughlin. Subs: A Moran (0-1) for D Coen, C Diskin for E Regan, C Loftus for J Doherty, C Treacy for A Moran (BC).
Referee - D Gough.Tweet