Monday 21 January 2019

Second chance for Ros, last chance for Mayo

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final replay Mayo v Roscommon Croke Park, Today 2.0 Live RTÉ 2

Lee Keegan. Photo: Sportsfile
Lee Keegan. Photo: Sportsfile

Second chance, or big chance blown? That's the question people are asking of Roscommon after last Sunday's error-strewn yet utterly engaging stalemate.

But maybe they should be asking a different question to a different team. And it's this: will Mayo have the reserves of energy and the ambition, even bravery, to finish off the job?

This is not to question their on-field bravery. Mayo's resilience is beyond remarkable. Every week they find a new way to extricate themselves from a freshly dug hole. But they need to show courage in other ways. Starting with management.

Some of the flak directed at Stephen Rochford has been wilfully overstated. He hit the tactical jackpot last Sunday with his switch of Lee Keegan to midfield.

Moreover, even if Kevin McStay cleverly countered by moving Enda Smith close to goal in the second half, it's a moot point whether Mayo could have gambled by leaving Keegan to loiter around the middle.

After all, Keegan also happens to be annoyingly brilliant man-marker ... and, as it stands, Mayo have a serious issue with the form of full-back Ger Cafferkey.

All of which brings us to the importance of Mayo's selection and match-ups today.

As ever, their "unchanged" line-up announced on Friday night can be dismissed as a discussion document to keep the programme editors happy.

But will Rochford actually make the switch or switches that, you suspect, are a must if they're to (a) get over the Rossies and (b) hit upon a formation that might actually trouble Kerry.

Cafferkey certainly wasn't skinned by Cian Connolly but, perhaps not surprisingly given his legacy of injury travails, he remains off the pace.

But does Rochford have a full-back alternative? Is it too late to try Stephen Coen?

Midfield mobility, or lack thereof, is another issue amplified by Tom Parsons' recent hamstring issue. Keegan has legs to burn, but he is not a midfielder in the strictest sense and Mayo need Parsons fit to start, even if only at 80pc. And would it be such a gamble to go with Conor Loftus from the start?

McStay has less scope to shake up his starting 15 - but less reason to do so as well.

They've a fighting chance, more than their match odds below suggest, because Mayo invariably give you one. But we're sticking with the tried and not so totally trusted.

ODDS: Mayo 2/5 Draw 8/1 Ros 11/4


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