Mayo relentless march to another Connacht title continued at pace with Sunday’s 0-21 to 0-9 win over Roscommon in the semifinal at Castlebar as talk again turned to a reform of the championship.
Pundits like Donegal legend Martin McHugh repeated their calls for an overhaul of the entire championship set-up after Mayo followed their demolition job on Galway with another easy win.
The reigning champions never looked in any danger as they followed their 17-point rout of Galway with a 12-point victory against the Rossies.
Already the bookies have installed Mayo as firm favorites to win a third successive provincial crown against Leitrim or London next month, with the final set to return to McHale Park.
But Mayo defender Keith Higgins has refused to take anything for granted regarding a third Connacht medal in a row and insisted his team can only beat what is put in front of them.
Higgins told reporters after Sunday’s win, “The same thing was said last year before we played Sligo in the Connacht final after beating Leitrim. There’s nothing that we can do about it. All we can do is keep working on our own things and hope that once we get to Croke Park we’ll be in good form.
“All we can do is go through our game and play our game. If that means that we’re winning handy, what can we do? We have a few things we have to work on and we’ll just focus on the next day.”
The Mayo boss James Horan admitted the spectacle was poor for the 20,000 fans in McHale Park as his side appeared to ease up in the second half of a game that was already won.
“The last 20 or 25 minutes of the game was poor from both sides. From our own point of view we got sloppy and lazy and were doing our own things a little bit,” Horan said.
“You know you’re always trying to strive to keep doing the right things all the time, so from that regard the last 20 minutes weren’t great.
“But sure look it, we won a Connacht semifinal and we won it comfortably so we’re happy from that regard.”
Mayo still shows signs of a side struggling to create and finish goal chances, but Horan sees nothing to worry about on that front despite the lack of a three pointer on Sunday.
He added, “We’ve good players and we’ve really good players up front, and when you think Cillian O’Connor, Mickey Conroy and Jason Doherty aren’t there, I’d be happy with how we’re scoring.
“But I would say we had 16 more easy chances that we should have scored so there’s plenty of stuff for us to look at.”
Forward Kevin McLoughlin actually believes that Mayo are a better team now than they were when they lost last year’s All-Ireland final to Donegal.
He said, “It is hard to tell but I think we are a better team. We have to concentrate on one game at a time. That’s the big thing for us; taking each game at it comes. We’re not thinking two games ahead or three.
“One thing we have this year is a stronger panel and I think that’s pushing everyone a small bit more. It’s making people do better things. That has made a big difference to us this year.”
Football Matches Set
LAOIS will travl to play Carlow on Friday of next week in the All-Ireland qualifiers as the GAA tries something new.
Some Laois players have already voiced objections to their role as “guinea pigs,” but the GAA have confirmed that the game will go ahead on June 28 at Dr. Cullen Park.
The stand-out game in the draw for the first round of the qualifiers sees Derry take on a Sligo team shocked by London in the Connacht championship.
Longford will take on Limerick in Pearse Park and Galway will host meet Tipperary on Saturday, June 29 in Pearse Stadium.
Armagh and Wicklow will meet in the Athletic Grounds on June 30, with the remaining fixtures dependent on hurling qualifiers.
Here are the football qualifiers: Friday, June 28, Carlow vs. Laois, Dr. Cullen Park at 7:45 p.m.;
Saturday, June 29, Longford vs. Limerick, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, 7 p.m.; Galway vs. Tipperary, Pearse Stadium, 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 30, Armagh vs. Wicklow, Athletic Grounds, 3 p.m.; Derry vs. Sligo, Owenbeg, 5 p.m.;
Saturday, June 29/Sunday, June 30, Offaly vs. Tyrone, O’Connor Park, Tullamore, TBC; Louth vs. Antrim, Drogheda, TBC; Westmeath vs. Fermanagh, Cusack Park, Mullingar, TBC.
Daly Not Afraid of Cats
DUBLIN boss Anthony Daly has hit out at the “apes” who suggested his team should have opted for the back door rather than a Leinster SHC semifinal showdown with Kilkenny on Sunday.
Daly’s team booked their place against the All-Ireland champions with a 1-17 to 0-12 replay win over Wexford at Parnell Park last Saturday night.
The Dubs will start as rank outsiders against Kilkenny, but Daly is annoyed at suggestions that they should have opted to lose the Wexford game and go down the All-Ireland qualifier route.
“You have apes that will say we were better off if we lost it and going to the other way, into next Saturday’s All-Ireland qualifier against Antrim, but I wouldn’t think like that,” Daly said.
“Championship hurling is for trying to get a win. That’s the way we went at it.
“I know that the Kilkenny mentors won’t be shaking in their boots on their way home, but all we can do is be the best we can be next week and see what we can take out of it.”
Galway Looks for Challenge
GALWAY can only benefit from a Leinster SHC scare against Laois in Sunday according to manager Anthony Cunningham as he prepares for a final date with Kilkenny or Dublin.
Laois led at halftime but ran out of steam before succumbing to a Davy Glennon goal with 12 minutes remaining to lose by 2-17 to 1-13.
“We were expecting that. Laois have been going very well this year. We were a bit rusty,” Cunningham said.
“We would be happy with how we finished, but there is a lot of room for improvement. Laois were very good, very gutsy, they took some great scores.
“It’s great for hurling to see Laois back playing like that. That game will sharpen us up a lot.
“There’s no point being in the Leinster Championship unless you have the ambition to go on to win it. That’s our aim -- one game at a time to try to retain the Leinster title.”
Bizarre Win for Meath
MEATH benefitted from a bizarre Kevin Reilly goal seconds after goalkeeper Paddy O’Rourke had saved a penalty to ease past Wicklow in the Leinster SFC in Aughrim on Saturday night.
A bizarre sequence of events saw O’Rourke deny Seanie Furlong from the penalty kick before Meath worked the ball up the field and a huge kick from inside his own half from Reilly bounced over ‘keeper John Flynn and into the Wicklow net.
Garden County boss Harry Murphy admitted the Meath goal wrecked his team’s dream of an upset.
“Madness -- 30 seconds of madness. We missed a penalty and they came down and got that goal.
“John Flynn made some great saves for us and that thing happened. I feel sorry for the chap, he’s devastated in there but that’s football. The wind played a huge part in the game. We played very well in the first half. It’s hard to take.”
No Kerry Match for O’Dwyer
CORK ended Mick O’Dwyer’s dreams of a Munster SFC final crack at his native Kerry with a nine point, 1-20 to 1-11, semifinal win over Clare in Ennis on Sunday, but manager Conor Counihan saw room for improvement.
Counihan saw his side concede a five point lead early on to let Clare back into the game but he insisted afterwards, “I wasn’t worried, annoyed is more the description you would use for the way we sat back and let them come at us. We gave them the initiative, but you have to give them credit as well.
“Clare weren’t going to lie down, we knew that after last year. We were fortunate last year because we got three handy goals, this year we didn’t get those. We were lucky we had that bit of a cushion all the time.”
Cavan Holds On for Win
CAVAN held out in light of a late Fermanagh challenge to win their Ulster SFC quarter-final clash by 0-13 to 0-11 at Brewster Park on Sunday.
Peter Canavan’s side failed to score in the first 26 minutes and ultimately left it too late to deny Cavan a place in the semifinal.
Boss Canavan felt his team’s 10 week layoff from the end of the National League didn’t do them any favors.
He said, “Cavan had already played in the championship and were up to the pace much better than us. The benefit of having played recently worked for Cavan and we are left to rue our bad start.
“I felt that if we were within touching distance with five or 10 minutes to go we could win it. I was expecting a big finish from our boys and maybe with a bit more composure they would have won.”