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Saturday 24 August 2019

A special delivery for the Rossies

Cregg lands killer blow against wasteful Mayo

PURE JOY: Roscommon players and supporters. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
PURE JOY: Roscommon players and supporters. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Roscommon postman Fintan Cregg made the biggest sporting delivery of his career on Saturday night in Castlebar kicking a 73rd-minute point to knock League champions Mayo out of the Connacht championship.

In his programme notes Council president Gerry McGovern bemoaned the lack of compelling matches in the series to date.

But nobody could complain after this enthralling contest, which ticked all the boxes. The attendance of 20,471 were oblivious to the teeming rain as the two 2019 Division 1 sides slugged it out down the final stretch like heavyweight boxers.

Ultimately Mayo's profligacy cost them yet again. Even at the death their wastefulness denied them a deserved draw and the chance of redemption in extra-time.

Kevin McLoughlin, acting on the instructions of team captain Diarmuid O'Connor, stepped up to take a free which the excellent Matthew Ruane had secured on the right flank.

But McLoughlin's kick drifted wide of the right-hand post.

It was his first but Mayo's 15th wide. The final whistle blew soon afterwards signalling that, for the fourth season in-a-row, they had failed to reach the provincial final.

The Roscommon fans swarmed on to the pitch to celebrate their first championship win over their neighbours since 2001 and their first in Castlebar for 33 years.

Remarkably this was the third time in-a-row that Mayo have lost to Roscommon in the Connacht championship when they were league champions. The previous defeats coming in 2001 and 1970.

So Mayo take the familiar backdoor route entering the series in Round 2. But it is new territory for team boss James Horan, who during his previous term as Mayo boss between 2011 and 2014 had never lost a provincial game.

Change

"You lose a game in the Connacht championship, it is not great, no matter what way you look at it.

We have four weeks to our next game. We'll definitely change a few things, we'll have to because we got beaten. We will see where we can make improvements.

"We've a lot of new guys in there and we've a lot of guys coming back from injuries so we'll see how it pans out"

Mayo badly missed specialist free-taker Cillian O'Connor as they used four different free-takers, Jason Doherty, Evan Regan, McLoughlin and goalkeeper Rob Hennelly.

He missed three long-ranged placed balls whereas his counterpart, Darren O'Malley, nailed two 45s as well as a free - two of them against the wind.

Roscommon's Kerry-born 'import' Conor Cox excelled, kicking four points from play and landing a crucial free in the tense final quarter, while their replacements made a more telling impact than did Mayo's substitutes.

And Mayo's decision to replace Darren Coen, who kicked 0-5 from play, 10 minutes from the end, was puzzling.

The historic nature of the win was recognised by Roscommon boss Anthony Cunningham who challenged his team "to aspire to be a Mayo of the future It was astonishing really to see the happiness. That is what the GAA is all about."

Scorers - MAYO: D Coen 0-5, E Regan 0-3 (2f), M Ruane, F Boland , P Durcan 0-2, each L Keegan, A Moran, J Doherty (f). ROSCOMMON: C Cox 0-5 (2f), C Cregg, U Harney 1-0 each, D O'Malley 0-3 (2 45, 1f), A Glennon, C Daly, E Smith, F Cregg 0-1 each.

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