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08th Nov 2020

Youngsters bring the innocence, old hand brings the class

Niall McIntyre

Mayo 1-16 Roscommon 0-13

Five years without a Connacht title, Mayo are men on a mission in 2020.

The O’Connors are sick of it, Paddy Durcan and Lee Keegan are sick of it, Aidan O’Shea is sick of being beaten in his own patch. Mayo were kings of Connacht, winning five-in-a-row between 2010 and 2015 but since then, they hadn’t even made a final.

Not until 2020.

Ever since the lock-down, Mayo have looked a rejuvenated force. The stalwarts have a pep in their step, the fresh faces have added a bit of bite. Altogether, that makes for a mean machine and Roscommon didn’t get much hop out of it in Sunday’s Connacht semi-final in Dr. Hyde Park.

Having lost to the Rossies in MacHale Park last year, Mayo came here to re-claim a bit of pride and that they most certainly did. Now, only a couple of weeks after handing Galway the hiding of their lives in Tuam Stadium, Mayo will set their eyes on the same opposition in the upcoming Connacht final.

Roscommon meanwhile, left the Championship with an uncharacteristic whimper.

This was all about Mayo though, and James Horan’s team started this game as they meant to go on. Cillian O’Connor had a free kicked within seconds and he was followed over the bar by the exceptional Paddy Durcan, who brought his usual energy and more in a barnstorming showing from the half back line.

Cathal Compton stemmed the flow for Anthony Cunningham’s team, catching a few tremendous ones in the middle of the field but from 1 to 15, Mayo had more energy, more vigour, more cut.

Eoghan McLaughlin looks a real find on the opposite flank to Durcan. He brings the same sort of high-octane running as well as a calmness in possession. Further up the field, Tommy Conroy is a threat and inside, he looked lively. Conor Loftus is also living up to the hype in his new station around the middle, but through it all, there’s the O’Connors and there’s Durcan.

Diarmuid is the team’s beating heart in the half forward line and his gorgeous point off the laces was a sign of things to come. The Ballintubber man put Mayo seven to the good after twenty minutes when he drove through and blasted beautifully to the net.

From that moment on, Anthony Cunnigham’s team were chasing their tail.

The Smiths, Enda and Donie, fought bravely but Mayo were just too good. Durcan picked up from where he left off and on The Sunday Game, Colm Cooper was waxing lyrical.

“He gives Mayo a great platform going forward. When Mayo are on top in midfield, this guy comes to the fore. He’s a bundle of energy for Mayo, and he can be a real game-changer for them. He has taken over from Keegan as their most important back,” said Gooch.

Afterwards, man-of-the-match Cillian O’Connor, who ended his with nine of the finest (three from play) looked revitalised.

“They brought a bit of innocence to it,” he said of his younger colleagues.

Maybe the innocence is what Mayo need.

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