Mayo To Make Light Work Of Rossies Resurgence
Last year’s All-Ireland finalists Mayo travel to Hyde Park to take on John Evans’ resurgent Roscommon side in the Connacht SFC semi-final. In this preview, I’ll guide you through what could be a tricky encounter for James Horan’s men.
Last year’s All-Ireland runners up travel to the Hyde as 1/5 favourites. Easy-peasy lemon squeezy? Well, Roscommon boss John Evans reckons that anyone who thinks Roscommon can win is in ‘dreamy dreamy’ land. Evans is hardly trying to pull the Sheepstealers’ wool over our collective eyes about the chances of a 4/1 win for the home side?
James Horan would appear to be under more pressure than his affable, talking about himself in the first person character that is Kerryman John Evans. For Horan, it’s been more of a surly demeanor of late. Their league was poor; a second string Derry outfit lulled them into a semi-final before outfighting and outplaying them. All the old clichés about Mayo in Croker surfaced faster than spots on a teenage fast food worker.
Horan has taken his fair amount of stick over last year’s final loss too, with some of the sideline switches baffling the Green and Red army. James Nallen’s leaving the backroom team kept the rumour mill in full spin. There were more stories about Vinnie Feeney’s absence than notches on Colin Farrell’s bedposts (plural: the bedposts had to be regularly changed for safety reasons). Recently there’s been the non-show of Mayo player’s at a fundraiser before the New York landslide. Even the good news story of Gavin Duffy donning the county jersey again has had naysayers naysaying.
Horan won’t care about all that though. Getting Mayo to the ‘promised land’ is his driving ambition. To that end, Mayo may well have peaked too soon last year when one looks at their annihilation of Galway and Roscommon before swatting Donegal aside. There was a dip by some of the big-hitters in the semi win over Tyrone and while they got within one of Dublin, their performance wasn’t where it could have been. If they can time their run better they might just get their nose across the line this September. 6/1 about that eventuality is good value.
For Roscommon, winning Division 3 at their relative ease was a positive. They did a Derry on Cavan, sending a second string up to lose in Breffni before a gutsy performance saw them deliver Cavan’s onl;y league defeat in the final in Croker.
Home advantage aside, it’s difficult to see where Roscommon have improved, or Mayo fallen back, enough to eat sufficiently in to the 0-21 to 0-9 drubbing that the Rossies endured in Castlebar. While Mayo may not feel they have to hit full throttle just yet, they have a world of experience and hurt within their team. Aidan O’ Shea has surely been stirred up by Pat Spillane’s questioning of his collapse in last year’s semi and final; I get an image of Pat prodding a bee-hive with a stick. O’Shea will be buzzing and keen to sting the SG analyst.
Roscommon have some fantastic potential up front in Cathal Cregg, Donie Shine and Senan Kilbride but all three would have to be in top form to see the Rossies close. Mayo’s backs are experienced and hardened campaigners. It’s when you start comparing Roscommon’s supporting cast with the Mayo personnel that the gulf in class stats to open.
While Roscommon won well against Leitrim, that game looked pedestrian at times. Mayo will be full of movement, speed and power. Kevin McLoughlin looks to be back to form after a disappointing 2013 and Cillian O’Connor can guarantee a healthy scoreboard return. It’s difficult to see the O’Shea’s being outplayed by Kevin Higgins and young Cathal Shine, and if Mayo control the middle then the 4 point handicap will crumble.