You might think that a team that shoots 10 wides before half-time has little to be confident about, but such was their dominance, they never looked in danger of losing to a Roscommon side that already had four wins to their name this season.
This win means there is still hope for Stephen Rochford’s side in their quest to avoid the drop. They need to beat an already-relegated Down side at MacHale Park, while they’ll also hope that Donegal can beat Monaghan.
In the end, Mayo had to fend off a strong challenge from Roscommon in the last 10 minutes as Diarmuid Murtagh’s 61st-minute goal and a few quick points reduced the lead to three points.
But Evan Regan’s goal early in the second half had given Mayo the cushion they required, and when the returning Cillian O’Connor converted an injury-time free, that put a halt to the Rossies’ retaliation.
“Four points, the better team won,” admitted Roscommon joint manager Fergal O’Donnell. “I suppose if you look at it, the conditions were tough but you would say that Mayo are a stronger team. They’re longer on the road and the conditions would have favoured them today over ourselves.
“Mayo are a lot stronger. The three O’Sheas... we don’t have lads as strong as that. We’re in stage one of our development. Those guys have been in five All-Ireland semi-finals, maybe. You’re talking different stages.
“Again, I’m happy, having played in teams myself with Roscommon when we got big beatings from Mayo, we would have fallen away but today we didn’t fall away.”
Up until 45 minutes before throw-in, it look as if Dr Hyde Park might fall foul of the heavy rain that lashed the area yesterday morning. After a few particularly heavy showers, standing water was visible at one end of the ground, but after a pitch inspection from Maurice Deegan and a discussion with managers Fergal O’Donnell and Rochford, the match went ahead.
The Mayo boss admitted he was a little concerned at the state of the playing surface, but once the referee was happy to play, so were Mayo.
“About 10 minutes out from here we got word that there was a bit of a pitch inspection going on, but once Maurice Deegan says ‘yeah, he was happy to go ahead with it’, (I was happy),” said Rochford.
“I think at the start of the game it was a little bit worrying maybe about some of the bits of water on the field but as the game went on and lads got trodding through it, the pitch was grand. It was difficult conditions certainly but we came here focused to go and win a game and that’s what we were about. We were always in mind for that.”
Things certainly look brighter for Mayo than they did a few weeks ago. With two league wins under their belt, Rochford’s side are returning to their top form, while first appearances of the season for players like Cillian O’Connor and Alan Dillon is a real plus.
Regan was the man who proved the difference between the sides though. He was first on the scoresheet with a point from play after two minutes, but at the start of the second half, he won the game for Mayo.
His chipped pick-up under pressure from Sean McDermot was sublime, and after a smart turn, he lost his marker. Quite how many steps he took was unclear, but at first viewing it looked like referee Deegan should have given a free out. But Regan carried on when no whistle came and beat the heretofore unbeatable Geoffrey Claffey with a low shot.
A minute later he dropped a free over the crossbar to help Mayo into a nine-point lead which they held until 12 minutes from time. It was whittled down but proved sufficient.
There was also a welcome back for the Castlebar Mitchels contingent. Paddy Durcan was the only one to see game-time and his fine point in the second half showcased his ability to run at pace from deep. But there could be a couple of additions to the sick bay, with Ger Cafferkey a worry with a groin injury, while Donal Vaughan is still suffering with a calf injury.
“I spoke about getting to six/seven points at the start of the year,” said Rochford. “We won’t get to seven now but we have the opportunity to get to six. Donegal and Monaghan will go at it themselves hammer and tongs and we have just to win our game and see where we come from.”
E Regan (1-3, 2 frees); A Freeman (0-3f); R Hennelly (0-2 45s); C O’Shea, P Durcan, C O’Connor (f) (0-1 each)
D Murtagh (1-1); C Murtagh (0-3, 2 frees); C Devaney (0-2); F Cregg (0-1f)
R Hennelly; B Harrison, G Cafferkey, C Barrett; C Boyle, L Keegan, D Vaughan; T Parsons, S O’Shea; D O’Connor, A O’Shea, J Doherty; E Regan, A Freeman, C O’Shea.
P Durcan for Vaughan (h-t), S Coen for Cafferky (45), C O’Connor for C O’Shea (52), A Dillon for Freeman (57 BC), D Drake for D O’Connor (61), J Gibbons for Doherty (63).
G Claffey; S McDermott, N Collins, N McInerney; N McManus, S Purcell, D Murray; F Cregg, I Kilbride; C Daly, C Murtagh, C Devaney; N Kilroy, E Smith, C Cregg.
S Mollooley for McManus (57), D Murtagh for C Daly (59), R Daly for Devaney (63), J McDermott for Smith (66).
M Deegan (Laois).