Stephen Rochford relishing Mayo’s return to Croke Park

Mayo 1-19 Roscommon 0-14: Time will tell just how much anybody learned about the long-term prospects of either of these teams based on how this Connacht derby unfolded in Castlebar on Saturday night.

Mayo claimed their second win on the bounce without having to overexert themselves while Roscommon were given a harsh reminder about how tough it can be at the top.

At times it was more like a challenge match than a Division 1 contest as the winners tossed the ball around with ease and picked off scores from all angles.

The fact that Mayo hit 0-17 from play and 12 different players got on the scoresheet tells its own story.

For long spells, Roscommon players were chasing shadows, and only a string of late points helped to take the lopsided look off the final scoreline.

In truth, Mayo’s margin of victory should have been even more comfortable.

It would have been too, were it not for the 15 wides they racked up on a night when the Rossies struggled to get to grips with their neighbours’ pace, power, and experience.

It was ridiculously easy at times for Mayo. However, the fact that All-Star goalkeeper David Clarke picked up the man of the match of the award for the second time in three games won’t be lost on their coaching team.

Roscommon carved open the home defence once too often for Stephen Rochford’s liking, with Clarke coming to the rescue on a handful of occasions.

The Mayo manager admitted afterwards that it would “help focus the minds” ahead of next Saturday evening’s litmus test against Dublin.

“We really look forward to going to Croke Park each and every time that we get that opportunity,” said Rochford.

“It’s a big challenge but we’re positive about it and we’ll look forward to it. We’re eager to get to six points in the league, and that’s what the focus of next week will be, regardless of who we are playing,” he added.

Meanwhile, Kevin McStay’s Roscommon project remains a work in progress, but three straight defeats has lengthened the odds on them staying in the top flight for a third term.

Afterwards, he was making no excuses about this latest setback.

“On the night, we were just overpowered, overrun, and bettered by Mayo,” admitted the former RTÉ GAA pundit.

“The display by us wasn’t what we were hoping for. It was a steep learning curve tonight. You’re a realist, you always knew this was going to be an uphill struggle for us but every game still is important to us,” he continued.

“There’s plenty of learning to be done in these games and, again tonight, we’d a few guys that are really moving in the right direction and a few players that didn’t quite get to the pitch of it again, so that’s stuff we’ve to go back on.

“They’re a young team and they’ll bounce back. These are some of the tough lessons you get on the route and that’s just life.”

A crowd of 11,657 turned out to see the teams meet in the league for only the third time in 16 years.

By half-time, the writing was on the wall for the Rossies as they trailed by 0-5 to 0-11 as Mayo moved through the gears.

Mayo played their best football midway through the half, delivering eight points (seven from play) without reply between the ninth and 22nd minutes.

It was devastating to watch, as Cillian O’Connor (4), Fergal Boland (2), Diarmuid O’Connor, and Jason Gibbons all swung over scores, with Roscommon men trailing in their wake.

The loss of midfielder Shane Killoran to a black card was a big blow to the visitors’ chances, but Mayo’s Colm Boyle also departed the game for an almost identical ‘third man tackle’.

A goal from a penalty from Cillian O’Connor five minutes into the second half ended the argument completely.

Roscommon tried to mount a comeback but were denied goals time and again by Clarke, although Conor Devaney (3), Donie Smith (3), and Enda Smith (2) did land consolation scores.

Mayo introduced Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan, All Star Brendan Harrison, and All-Ireland under-21 winner Conor Loftus as the game progressed, all three landing two points each from play.

It was that kind of evening for Mayo, but will be long forgotten when they run out at Croke Park next weekend.

Roscommon will want to forget this experience fairly quickly too, especially with Kerry coming to town next Sunday.

“They’re young and they’re disappointed, but we’ll get back up on the horse Tuesday night and get ready for Kerry,” McStay said.

Scorers for Mayo:

C O’Connor (1-4, 1-0 pen, 1 free); F Boland, L Keegan, B Harrison, C Loftus (0-2 each); D Vaughan, D O’Connor, J Gibbons, K McLoughlin, C O’Shea, A Moran, E Regan (free) (0-1 each).

Scorers for Roscommon:

D Smith, C Devaney (0-3 each); C Murtagh, E Smith (0-2 each); S Killoran, F Cregg, T Corcoran, N Kilroy (0-1 each)

MAYO:

D Clarke; D Newcombe, K Higgins, P Durcan; S Coen, C Boyle, D Vaughan; D O’Connor, J Gibbons; F Boland, K McLoughlin, C O’Shea; A Moran, C O’Connor, E Regan.

Subs used:

L Keegan, B Harrison, C Loftus, S Nally, M Plunkett, L Irwin.

ROSCOMMON:

C Lavin; D Murray, S Mullooly, N McInerney; R Stack, S McDermott, J McManus; S Killoran, T O’Rourke; F Cregg, C Murtagh, E Smith, D Smith, T Corcoran, C Devaney.

Subs used:

C Cafferkey, G Patterson, K Higgins, N Kilroy, C Connolly, B Murtagh.

Referee:

J McQuillan (Cavan).

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