And so it was that reigning All-Ireland minor champions Mayo produced two quality strikes to deny a brave Roscommon side in an entertaining Connacht MFC final at Elvery’s MacHale Park yesterday.
Fergal O’Donnell’s Roscommon could yet have a tilt at All-Ireland glory but the holders yesterday produced the decisive scores when they were most required.
Mayo have a very good attacking unit when Brian Reape yesterday plundered 1-6 from play and where Cian Hanley, Sharoize Akram and late call-up Gary Boylan — who is being linked with a move to Glasgow Celtic — were very impressive.
It looked like Mayo could run away with the title as early points from Reape and Conor Byrne were followed by a goal from Hanley, the younger brother of AFL’s Pearce, to lead by 1-2 to 0-0 after 10 minutes.
The Roscommon response was impressive. Hubert Darcy got them off the mark a minute late and points from Noel Gately and Fergal Lennon brought them right back into contention.
Boylan and Reape hit back for Mayo but with the tempo of the game increasing all the time, Roscommon responded with efforts from Luke Carty, Darcy and Gately, with Hanley squeezing one for Mayo, as the champions led by 1-5 to 0-6 after 23 minutes. They led 1-8 to 0-8 at the break after Gately, who finished with 0-5 for Roscommon, kept them in the hunt after Hanley, Byrne and Boylan landed good points for Mayo.
Kevin Smith reduced the margin to a point with two frees in the opening five minutes of the second half and while Reape and Conor Kilkenny hit back for Mayo, the Rossies enjoyed their best spell and went ahead for the first and only time.
Another Smyth free and points from play by Gately, Carty and Darcy edged them 0-14 to 1-10 in front after 48 minutes. Tellingly, Rossies were held scoreless after that.
Mayo did not panic. Reape levelled within a minute of falling behind and then came the decisive score of the game, 10 minutes from time, as TJ Byrne and Hanley combined to send Reape through and his finish to the right corner of the net was class.
Roscommon needed to respond but Smyth sent a free off the right post and Gately was wide with the rebound. Mayo came down the field and wrapped it all up with Reape rampant as he tacked on two more points and they finished with a flourish with sub Fionan Duffy grabbing two and TJ Byrne also finding the range to secure a 39th Connacht minor title. “The second goal came at a crucial time,” said Mayo boss Enda Gilvarry. “It gave us huge impetus and knocked some of the stuffing out of a fantastic Roscommon revival.”
Roscommon boss Fergal O’Donnell, who led them to All-Ireland minor glory in 2005, felt the scoreline did not do them justice. “I don’t think we were eight points a worse team. Physically we struggled and got turned over in the challenge, but they did well.”
Scorers for Mayo: B Reape (1-6), C Hanley (1-2), C Byrne, O Horan (1f), F Duffy (0-2 each), C Kilkenny, TJ Byrne (0-1 each).
Scorers for Roscommon: N Gately (0-5), H Darcy, K Smyth (3fs) (0-3 each), L Carty (0-2), F Lennon (0-1).
MAYO: M Flanagan; E O’Donoghue, B Duffy, S Cunniffe; S Brennan, S Conlon, J Forkan; G Walsh, M Ruane; G Boylan, TJ Byrne, S Akram; C Byrne, C Hanley, B Reape.
Subs: C Kilkenny for Ruane 37, F Duffy for C Byrne 45, K Hopkins for B Duffy 50, D Hanley for Walsh 52.
ROSCOMMON: S Mannion; M Flannery, B Stack, J Casey; E Fallon, E McGrath, F Lennon; T Butler, R Raftery; D Connaughton, L Carty, K Bannon; N Gately, H Darcy, K Smyth.
Subs: C Murray for Butler 22, J Fahey for Connaughton 35, J Connaughton for Fallon 39, C Callinan for Bannon 44, B Kelly for Darcy 57.