Last year, Roscommon inflicted Championship defeat on Mayo at this stage of the Championship. While the Mayo men ultimately went further in the competition, they will have revenge on their mind this Sunday. The winner advances to the Connacht Final against Galway the following Sunday.
Mayo are the only side still in the Connacht Championship who have actually played a game so far. Last Sunday, they fought off a spirited Leitrim team to advance.
Terrible conditions in Carrick-on-Shannon saw Leitrim fight to a four-point lead. However, once Mayo got off the mark they battled into the lead. A Tommy Conroy goal on 23 minutes was the difference between the sides at half-time.
Then, Cillian O’Connor found the net on 48 minutes to give Mayo some much-needed breathing room. James Horan allowed his subs to get some valuable Championship minutes in the second half. Mayo ran out 11-point winners by full-time.
James Horan has decisions to make ahead of the Roscommon fixture. While Mayo’s superior fitness was evidence against Leitrim, Roscommon have become a very well-conditioned team. Hence, a war of attrition awaits in Hyde Park on Sunday.
Furthermore, the heavy conditions Mayo played in last weekend will have left the players with tired legs. Horan has to ensure the recovery is right with just a week between games.
Journeymen Colm Boyle and Chris Barrett are available for Horan with the latter seeing ten minutes of action against Leitrim. While Stephen Coen wore number 3 on the day, he may be required further out the field and Barrett could find himself at full-back.
Likewise, the centre-half back position remains up for grabs in the Mayo team with the last three games seeing three different players wear the number 6. Michael Plunkett gave a good account of himself there last weekend. But, Coen or Colm Boyle could offer more solidity against a powerful Roscommon half-forward line.
Diarmuid O’Connor also came off the bench against Leitrim. If fully fit, he could feature from the start on Sunday.
Roscommon on the up
Roscommon have now won two out of the last three Connacht Championships, coming off best against Galway in 2019 and ’17. However, they haven’t made it past the quarter-finals on either occasion. In fact, their win in ’17 saw them come up against Mayo in the quarter-final. It took a replay for the eventual runners-up to see off the Rossies.
In spite of this, Roscommon have proved themselves a force to be reckoned with in the Championship. Recently, they returned to the top Division by winning Division 2. Manager Anthony Cunningham oversaw last year’s Connacht conquest and will be backing his side for a repeat.
Cunningham will have been grateful for the week-long break following their Division 2 finale. It took tough games against Armagh and Cavan to win the title. Now, they return to action full of confidence and refreshed.
Roscommon fans will be excited for the Championship as their players are finding form at the right time. Donie Smith has been excelling in corner-forward while Sean Mullooly has developed into an attacking full-back.
Roscommon’s forwards have the potential to do serious damage to Mayo. Conor Cox showed last year that he was a handful. In addition, Sunday’s game could see Enda Smith moved up to centre-forward where his pace and power will require close attention.
Either way, on paper this is the game of the week as Mayo attempt to return to the crest of Connacht football. But, Roscommon are further along their development line and will know how to win.
Mayo carry the title of favourites with Paddy Power. James Horan’s side are 8/15 while Roscommon are 15/8. Otherwise, a draw is 15/2.
The game is live on RTÉ 2.
Connacht Championship Semi-Final: Roscommon vs Mayo, Sunday, November 8th, 13:30 (Dr Hyde Park).
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— The GAA (@officialgaa) November 3, 2020