Ruthless Mayo show their class to see off Roscommon
Winning All-Ireland quarter finals has never been a chore for Mayo and they chalked up their seventh in the spin when they demolished Connacht champions Roscommon in a totally one-sided replay at Croke Park.
Mayo will now meet Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final on Sunday week - in a repeat of their epic 2014 clash which the Kingdom won after a replay on their win to securing their last All-Ireland title.
Kevin McStay and the Roscommon team will ruefully remember the saying 'be careful what you wish for' as they make their way home after this 22 point annihilation which will have brought back painful memories of their 12 point loss to Galway in last year's Connacht final replay.
Donie Smith's late, late free secured them this replay – but arguably they would have been better off to lose a close game than suffer this utter humiliation.
Three first half goals from Kevin McLoughlin, Andy Moran and Keith Higgins sunk Roscommon without trace as Mayo with Aidan O'Shea leading the charge totally dominated from the moment the latter caught the throw-in.
Stephen Rochford's side have taken a particular circuitous route to the last four this season. This was their seventh game in the 2017 championship – not including the extra time they played against both Derry and Cork.
It was their first win in a championship replay since beating Laois in the 2006 All-Ireland quarter final but the only prize that matters to Mayo now is the big one.
The absence of Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan – reported to be suffering from cellulitis in his heel – dominated the pre-match discussions overshadowing the fact that Roscommon boss, Kevin McStay took a huge gamble by introducing rookie Caoilteann Fitzmaurice who had never played at senior level for Roscommon.
A son of former Roscommmon player Gerry Fitzmaurice, he teamed up at midfield where he was marked by Tom Parsons, who replaced Keegan. Enda Smith moved to the half forward line where he was marked by Mayo's other replacement Donal Vaughan – who got the nod ahead of Ger Cafferkey.
Roscommon also left out their team captain Ciarain Murtagh – his place was taken by Cathal Compton. But the dry sod probably suited Mayo more than their opponents.
From the moment referee Anthony Nolan threw in the ball it was obvious that Mayo had their game face on. Aidan O'Shea caught the throw-in and and after an exchange of passes he was fouled and Cillian O'Connor kicked the free.
This was a cameo of what transpired in a woefully one-sided first half. Roscommon's difficulties began with their kick-outs; initially Colm Lavin tried the long route but it proved unproductive. Worst still, for the Connacht champions, Mayo were scoring from these turnovers.
O'Shea was immense in the early exchanges while Andy Moran was proving a handful for both Sean McDermott and David Murray. By the sixteenth minute Mayo were 0-6 to 0-0 score ahead, but the worst had still to come.
Ironically, the Mayo goal burst came after Roscommon had finally broken out of their own half and hit two points on the spin from Enda Smith and Sean Mullooly respectively. But such was the pressure that Mayo were exerting on Colm Lavin's kick out that their defence couldn't hold out for ever.
The dam burst 11 minutes from the break when Tom Parsons fielded a Roscommon kick out and sent Kevin McLoughlin racing through on the right – he beat Brian Stack initially on the run and then on a cut-back which left him in the clear and he made no mistake from close range.
Mayo sensed blood and they turned the screw immediately with Seamus O'Shea winning the next kick out under the Cusack Stand. He linked up with Keith Higgins, the unmarked Mayo sweeper, grabbed the soloed unchallenged through the shell shock defence before linking up with Andy Moran who made no mistake no close range.
Suddenly Mayo were ten points clear and the game was over. But the misery continued for Roscommon. In the 28th minute another lost kick out caused consternation in the Roscommon defence. This time Keith Higgins went all the way and beat Lavin.
By half time all six Mayo forwards had scored – Cillian O'Connor's hat trick of points came from frees and Roscommon were fortunate not to have conceded another two goals.
After another disastrous short kick out Mayo were through again but O'Connor touched the ball on the ground while Lavin denied corner-back Brendan Harrison with a brilliant save.
Mayo also kicked six wides but still led by 13 points at the break (3-8; 0-4).
Roscommon introduced three substitutes at the break, Gary Patterson, Ciarain Murtagh and Fintan Cregg – but the latter only lasted until the 53rd minute. He was sent off are a double booking.
By then, Roscommon had shipped a fourth goal after another intercepted restart. A quick exchange of passes between Moran, Diarmuid O'Connor and Cillian O'Connor culminated in the latter finding the net.
The game was now been played at the pace and intensity of a challenge match; Roscommonn's discipline started to crumble as Mayo looked to be enjoying themselves for the first time in the 2017 championship.
It was their biggest win the championship since demolishing Sligo by 26 points in the 2015 Connacht final and the return to top form of Keith Higgins will encourage them ahead of the showdown against Kerry.
They had 13 different scorers with the substitutes contributing 0-4 but by then it mattered little. As Man of the Match Aidan O'Shea remarked the team were already looking forward to the semi-final encounter against Kerry.
And so it comes to pass that the four teams, Dublin, Kerry, Tyrone and Mayo were were tipped to reach the last four in the All-Ireland series before a ball was kicked in the championship have made the cut. There is no history in the All-Ireland series at the moment, just the past happening over and over again!
Mayo: D Clarke; B Harrison, C Barrett (0-1), K Higgins (1-0); C Boyle, D Vaughan (0-1), P Durcan; T Parsons (0-1), S O'Shea; K McLoughlin (1-0), A O'Shea (0-2), D O'Connor (0-1); J Doherty (0-2), C O'Connor (1-6, 5f), A Moran (1-1). Subs: C Loftus for Doherty 46m, D Drake (0-1) for McLoughlin 55m; A Dillon for Moran 61m; S Coen (0-1) for Vaughan 61m; D Kirby for A O'Shea 63m; S Nally (0-2) for Barrett 67m
Roscommon: C Lavin; S McDermott, N McInerney, D Murray; J McManus, S Mullooly (0-1), B Stack; T O'Rourke, E Smith (0-1); C Fitzpatrick, N Kilroy (0-1), C Devaney (0-1); C Compton, D Murtagh (0-4, 2f), C Connolly. Subs: G Patterson for McDermott; F Cregg for Connolly, C Murtagh for Cathal Compton all ht; D Smith (0-1) for Stack 47m; I Kilbride for Devaney 60m, Colin Compton for E Smith 63m
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow)