A Fintan Cregg point in the third minute of second-half stoppages scored Roscommon a famous Connacht semi-final win over Mayo, the county’s first championship triumph at the venue since 1986.
With the sides having been level three times from the 49th minute onwards, Lee Kegan looked on course to nudge the hosts in front at the end of regulation time, only for his effort, which he kicked uncontested from 30 metres out, to drop into the grateful arms of Roscommon ‘keeper Darren O’Malley.
The visitors were playing with 14 men by this juncture, David Murray’s 67th minute black card coming after Anthony Cunningham had used his full complement of substitutes.
The winning score, supplied by second-half sub Cregg, had its roots in a brillant block by Niall Daly to deny Andy Moran at the other end. Possession was worked down the other end of the field, with Donie and Enda Smith finding Cregg and the Elphin man’s score would be the kick to end a 33-year wait for a Roscommon championship victory at Castlebar.
The result also means a fourth successive year of Mayo being banished to the qualifiers. The league champions tallied 15 wides, most crucial being Kevin McLoughlin’s 75th minute free which sailed wide. They did not lead between the third and 60th minute and although Fergal Boland’s second briefly nudged them in front on the hour mark, they were unable to push on.
Roscommon, despite their own restarts being a source of constant misery, not to mind their failure to score from play from the 20th minute onwards, held a 2-6 to 0-10 interval lead.
Those two green flags, which arrived on 11 and 16 minutes respectively, had shoved the visitors into a three-point lead, later extended to five, and although Mayo grew dominant in the closing stages of the half, there was enough meet in those two goals to sustain Roscommon’s advantage to the break.
Both majors, in truth, were conjured out of nothing. The first was a direct result of Cathal Cregg showing Keith Higgins a clean pair of heels 30 metres from goal, the Roscommon centre-forward galloping right the way through before blasting the ball into the top right corner of Rob Hennelly’s goal.
The Mayo number one was at fault for Roscommon’s second goal, his over-cooked short kickout gathered by Ultan Harney, who, after a brief one-two with Andrew Glennon, palmed the ball into the empty net. That left the scoreboard reading 2-1 to 0-4 and although Darren Coen and Evan Regan (free) kicked a point each in response, three-in-a-row from Cox (free and play) and goalkeeper Darren O’Malley (free) sent Anthony Cunningham’s side 2-5 to 0-6 clear on 27 minutes.
Of the six remaining scores in the first period, five were kicked by men wearing green and red as James Horan’s side continued to make hay off a Roscommon restart which was malfunctioning terribly. It didn't improve a whole pile upon the change of ends, but, nonetheless, Roscommon were still able to eke out a rare championship win on Mayo soil.
D Coen (0-5); E Regan (0-3, 0-2 frees); M Ruane, F Boland, P Durcan (0-2 each); L Keegan, J Doherty (0-1 free), A Moran (0-1 each).
C Cox (0-5, 0-3 frees); U Harney, C Cregg (1-0 each); D O’Malley (0-3, 0-2 frees, 0-1 ‘45); C Daly, A Glennon, C Daly (0-1 each).
R Hennelly; C Barrett, B Harrison, K Higgins; P Durcan, M Plunkett, L Keegan; M Ruane, A O’Shea; F Boland, J Doherty, D O’Connor; E Regan, D Coen, K McLoughlin.
A Moran for Regan (45 mins); C Diskin for Coen (60); C Loftus for J Doherty (70); C Treacy for Moran (bc, 74).
D O’Malley; C Daly, S Mullooly, D Murray; C Hussey, N Daly, R Daly; T O’Rourke, S Killoran; H Darcy, C Cregg, N Kilroy; U Harney, C Cox, A Glennon.
D Murtagh for Lennon (HT); B Stack for R Daly (45 mins, inj); C Devanney for Darcy (48); E Smith for C Cregg (50); D Smith for Harney (55); F Cregg for Killoran (60).
D Gough (Mayo).