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Championship Deep-Dive: Rossies Extra Element Piles Misery On Mayo

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It’s Roscommon who march on to a Connacht final meeting with Galway after pipping Mayo to the post for the first time in championship football since 2001. 

All the talk in the lead up to the game centred on James Horan’s return to the Connacht Championship where he held a 100 per cent record as Mayo manager, however, his side came unstuck against an Anthony Cunningham led outfit that had flown in under the radar and peaked when it mattered most.

Roscommon’s win is being billed as the shock of the weekend which it most definitely is, however, is it really a shock considering that both sides played Division 1 football this year? Given that Mayo are league champions and Roscommon got relegated, it’s safe to say it was a result that not many foreseen.

Upon reflection, many will point to Mayo’s frailties as the reason for their defeat. They will question Horan’s decision to pick Rob Hennelly in goals or why they didn’t have a suitable free-taker to kick the final free and force extra-time.

While Roscommon’s victory may well be, in part, down to Mayo’s perceived shortcomings. It’s important to give credit where it is due. The Rossies were the better side for much of the match. They were more efficient in front of goal and had Mayo feeling uneasy from start to finish. They fully deserved their win.

In this week’s edition of the Championship Deep-Dive, we’re going to break down the key elements in Roscommon’s victory over Mayo in Saturday’s Castlebar classic.

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Conor Cox – The Classic Full-Forward

The Kerry native has proved a revelation since making the inter-county switch and plying his trade with the Rossies out west. Roscommon haven’t exactly been in the doldrums the past few seasons. They’ve been competing for Connacht titles and have made Gaelic football’s final eight the last two seasons.

However, they have lacked an out-and-out full-forward in that time. A scorer-in-chief who they can turn to for points from placed kicks and open play.

Cox is that man. His performance in Castlebar last night was almost flawless. He kicked 0-5 in total, three of which came from play including this booming kick to put them three-up mid-way through the second half.

Note how Cox comes from deep inside the full-forward line to win the ball out in front of Brendan Harrison on the 45-metre line. Harrison is on his shoulder the whole time but Cox is able to shrug off the challenges of the All-Star before cutting inside and kicking a real pressure shot from distance.

Mayo scored the next two points but Cox stepped up again to get another pressure score soon after, this time with his left, to keep Roscommon in front. Cox was a thorn in Mayo’s side all afternoon. He gave Brendan Harrison the run around which is no mean feat given his All-Star credentials.

A great find for Roscommon who could prove vital in their pursuit of honours in 2019.

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Goals Win Games 

Roscommon struggled in the opening stages of the match as Mayo settled into the game quicker. However, not only did they manage to rattle the net twice to settle the nerves but they rattled Mayo’s in the process.

The first three-pointer was scored bang on five minutes and brought a huge roar from the vocal away support. Cathal Cregg collects a pass out on the wing where he is closely shadowed by Keith Higgins. Roscommon’s stand-in captain rounds Higgins with relative ease before unleashing an absolute rocket into the top corner.

Six minutes later and the ball was in the net again.

It’s easy to put the goal solely down to Mayo’s loss of concentration coupled with Rob Hennelly’s poor kick-out. However, credit must be given for the speed with which Roscommon react to the situation.

Ultan Harney pounces on the loose ball before off-loading to debut-boy, Andrew Glennon, who slips it back inside to give Harney the easiest fo finishes.

One goal a gift, the other gift wrapped but that matters none for Roscommon as the two early goals gave them a platform to go on and dominate throughout mainly because Mayo seemed to be walking on egg-shells for the remainder of the game in fear that they would breach Hennelly’s goal for the third time.

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Roscommon Bench Made A Telling Difference

One criticism that has been levied at this Mayo team down through the years is that they lack the firepower to spring from the bench and it proved an issue again yesterday.

Andy Moran showed flashes of his brilliance after being introduced but when the game was in the melting point he decided to take on a hopeful effort to win the game instead of passing. His kick was blocked down by Conor Daly and before long, Roscommon had kicked the winner. Mayo’s other introductions, namely; Conor Loftus, Conor Diskin and Ciaran Treacy failed to make an impact.

Roscommon, on the other hand, brought in substitutes who essentially won the game for them. First, it was team captain, Enda Smith, who came on to a rapturous reception from the away support before kicking an inspirational score as the final minutes ticked down.

Credit: GAA NOW

Then came the glorious winner kicked by substitute Fintan Cregg.

Cregg was introduced to the action late on and was exactly the type of experience Roscommon needed to get them over the line. Following Conor Daly’s block on Andy Moran, Roscommon turned the play from defence into attack in a flash before eventually finding Cregg who showed nerves of steel to clip it over the bar and win the game.

Credit: GAA NOW

Roscommon march on to a Connacht final meeting with Galway and following that performance you will be hard pressed to bet against Anthony Cunningham’s side causing yet another upset.

For Mayo, it’s back to the drawing board. They face a long and arduous road if they are to reach the Super 8s, nevermind an All-Ireland final. It’ll be tough but they have done it before.

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