Mayo will have a chance to make it four Connacht titles in row next month after they scraped past Roscommon by 0-13 to 1-9 in Dr Hyde Park this afternoon.
The fast, free flowing and attacking football that we saw in the National League seemed like a distant memory in the early stages of this tie as Roscommon flooded players back in defensive positions and consequently attacking players were heavily outnumbered at both ends of the field.
Jason Doherty and Kevin Higgins traded points in the first couple of minutes but there was very little for supporters to shout about in the next half hour as just two points were kicked in total, both close range frees from Cillian O’Connor. Mayo struggled to find their range and kicked nine first half wides, while at the other end Roscommon’s inside forward line was left short of support and turned over possession very easily as a consequence.
Points from Senan Kilbride and Donie Shine either side of a close range Kevin McLoughlin effort left the Rossies just one point adrift at the break with the wind to come and momentum was really on their side early in the second half when Ciarán Cafferkey scored a stunning goal with his left foot from twenty yards out.
Mayo crept back into the tie and took the lead thanks to another string of O’Connor frees, two of which really rose the ire of the home supporters.
John Evans had elected to start without his under-21 players in this tie but by the 50th minute three of them were on the field and Diarmuid Murtagh in particular made a massive impact, swinging over two fantastic points on the turn from the same position just inside the 45m line.
Roscommon led by 1-8 to 0-8 on the hour mark and it looked as if a big upset was on the cards, but Mayo too had a trump card on the sideline and that was veteran Andy Moran, who delivered two exquisite points in succession to reduce the deficit to the minimum. Seámus O’Shea produced another haymaker to draw the sides level and with momentum on their side, Mayo tacked on further points to lead by two deep into injury time.
Diarmuid Murtagh popped over a free to keep the tension boiling over in the crowd and Roscommon had one last chance to salvage a result when Fintan Cregg charged through the heart of the Mayo defence, but on a day when defenders prevailed generally, he ran into a wall of Mayo backs and coughed up his team’s last possession.
Oh, and the last time Mayo won four Connacht titles in a row? 1951, the year they last won the All Ireland.
ROSCOMMON: D O’Malley; N Collins, N Carty, S McDermott; R Stack, N Daly, C Cafferkey (1-0); C Shine, K Higgins (0-1); D O’Gara, I Kilbride, C Cregg; S Kilbride (0-3, 0-1 free), D Shine (0-1 free), C Murtagh.
Subs: E Smith for I Kilbride (42), D Murtagh (0-3, 0-1 free) for C Murtagh (46), F Cregg for O’Gara (54), M Nally (0-1) for D Shine (54), M Finneran for S Kilbride (67), D Smith for C Cregg (67).
MAYO: R Hennelly; K Higgins, G Cafferkey, T Cunniffe; L Keegan, C Boyle, D Vaughan; A O’Shea, S O’Shea (0-1); D O’Connor, C O’Shea, J Doherty (0-1); K McLoughlin (0-4, 0-2 frees), A Freeman, C O’Connor (0-5, frees).
Subs: A Moran (0-2) for C O’Shea (44), A Dillon for D O’Connor (53), M Sweeney for Freeman (60), R Feeney for Doherty (70+2)
Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Laois)