By Anthony Hennigan
Anticipating a championship-size crowd for last Sunday’s Division 1 clash at Dr Hyde Park, the Mayo cavalcade was on the road good and early. A full two hours before the game was even due to throw-in and the aisles of Casey’s at the roundabout in Roscommon resembled Dunnes Stores on Christmas Eve.
You’d negotiate crossing the M50 at rush hour handier than the ducking and diving needed to find safe passage past the queue that was there for Supermacs.
No offence to Pat McDonagh but Mayo goalkeeper Colm Reape has more acquired eating habits.
We know that much from the Knockmore man’s contribution to last Sunday’s match programme – and credit to Roscommon, they produced a decent one. It’s a good job too, because there was plenty of time for reading.
I’m not sure if sitting down in the Hyde at 1 o’clock for a game not starting until 2.45pm is a sign of dedication or delirium but when the PA announcer, not much later than when the teams themselves arrived to the ground informed us that the stand was totally full, you knew that this was no ordinary National Football League game. And yet in many ways it was.
Mayo hadn’t lost to Roscommon in league fare in 35 years and nothing changed last Sunday.
Indeed when the Green and Red rushed into a 0-7 to 0-0 lead in little more than eighteen minutes, my mind was immediately drawn back to Colm Reape and that culinary fancy of his. The 26-year-old had revealed his favourite meal to be the good old Sunday roast – and that’s exactly what it looked as though Mayo were about to serve their hosts, with a big side of stuffing. An hour later however, and the visitors were lucky they weren’t the ones eating some humble pie after a storming Roscommon comeback.
Reape had also been asked to describe himself in one word. “Reserved”, he chose. An unfortunate choice perhaps for the day that was in it, because Reape actually ended up in , his place between the posts (after six consecutive starts in National and FBD Leagues) instead going to Rory Byrne.
The decision, of course, was no reflection whatsoever on the displays of Reape who has undoubtedly grown into his role since making his senior debut in January, just management’s desire to test their squad’s depth – further proof of which was forthcoming in the first starts of the season they also gave to Cillian O’Connor, Tommy Conroy, Paddy Durcan and Sam Callinan.
You did wonder, however, whether the producers of the match programme had been privy in the lead-up to something the rest of us weren’t, because their choice of Roscommon player to profile, like Reape, also played no part in the game – despite both men being listed to start.
Dylan Ruane is from not far over the border, so close in fact that the Granlahan native is a former pupil of Ballyhaunis Community School where, believe it or not, he once played alongside Jack Coyne, Mayo’s right corner-back on Sunday, in a Mayo Post Primary Schools junior hurling final. Would you also believe that Ballyhaunis lost that game by a single point to Rice College of Westport for whom a certain Jack Carney struck seven points. Carney was the deserved Man of the Match last Sunday and his second-half goal ultimately the difference between the teams.
I bet the most of you hadn’t the Kilmeena man down as a dual star, nor Bob Tuohy for that matter. The young substitute who struck a crucial point on Sunday played at midfield for the Mayo U20 hurling team as an 18-year-old two years ago and just last season scored heavily as Castlebar Mitchels hammered Tooreen in the final of the county U19 ‘A’ hurling championship final. Hurling’s loss is football’s gain.
But back to Dylan Ruane, whose Q&A was equally as informative as Colm Reape’s. His food of choice was not a roast but a burrito and where Reape chose Portugal, the Roscommon man said his favourite holiday destination was San Diego.
It was funny too how both reckoned that goalkeepers were the jokers of their respective squads, Reape listing No.1 rival Robbie Hennelly as Mayo’s comedian and Ruane naming Colm Lavin.
Lavin hadn’t much to laugh about however, when caught stranded after Colin Walsh, the man who replaced Dylan Ruane in the Roscommon defence, was too strong with a handpass which led to Jack Carney firing home the goal which gave Mayo their unsurmountable eight points lead after 48-minutes.
But speaking of comedians, Ruane revealed that his favourite of all was Jimmy Carr. I’m not sure was he talking about the one-liner host of or the Mayo full-forward.
Either way, it was the man from Ardagh and his teammates who had the last laugh.
Carr, who scored three points, was barely out of nappies when Mayo last lost a league or championship match to Roscommon in Hyde Park. Carney, Tuohy and Callinan weren’t even born. The year was 2001.
Mayo were crowned National Football League champions that season, beating the Galway team that would win the same year’s All-Ireland Championship but losing to the Rossies come championship.
The same three counties now occupy the top three places in Division 1 heading into a fascinating final two rounds of matches, Mayo on eight points and Roscommon and Galway on six apiece. At this stage it would almost be more difficult for Mayo not to reach the league final than to reach it.
Things are beginning to stir in Connacht. The M50 beckons again.