On first viewing, there was nothing extraordinary about the Roscommon outpost of Loughglynn. It appeared neat and tidy on the drive up, and the locals certainly weren’t afraid to put out the bunting in support of their team – be it Éire Óg, Roscommon or…Dublin! – but all in all, it was quiet.
However, a murmuring could be heard at Hester’s Garage last Wednesday morning. The scene there caused a craning of the neck from passing motorists and a double-take from those on foot.
The new parish priest, Canon Liam Devine, was sitting in a chair chatting football with James Hester and his son Joseph, Mick Jordan, Roscommon PRO Hugh Lynn and Kevin Murtagh, uncle of Ciaráin, Diarmuid and Brian. Sitting proudly in the middle of them was the JJ Nestor Cup, won so convincingly in Salthill ten days previously.
The lads were discussing the Connacht Final win and the various permutations ahead of this weekend’s qualifiers. They were in good spirits as they admired the silverware, which had been hoisted up on a jack.
Canon Devine greeted me warmly. He missed the action in Salthill due to a hospital appointment, but assured those present he’d be fighting fit for Croker. Throughout the course of the morning his encyclopedic knowledge was mined by the rest of the group as great games were recalled and local heroes remembered.
None of those present had to borrow Canon Devine’s memory bank for the most recent local success, however, and the PRO, Hugh Lynn, himself an Éire Óg man, led the glowing tributes to local goalkeeper Colm Lavin as well as his Roscommon teammates.
The general consensus was that this young Roscommon team was heading to Croke Park on merit and that whoever emerged from the weekend’s games would be given a rattle!
On Connacht Final…
“I’ve been at 48 Connacht Finals – including replays. As for favourite memories…Derek Duggan’s long-range free in Castlebar would be one of them, Gerry Lohan’s two goals in Roscommon in 2001 and last Sunday week in Salthill; they’d be the three highlights for me.”
“People outside (the camp) don’t really know what’s going on inside and anyone who asked me in the run-up to the game I would have repeated the party line that we were hoping for a good performance. Genuinely, talking to the players, I knew deep down the belief that was there in the squad. It was a fantastic performance.”
Canon Liam Devine
“Ironically, the two finals I’ve missed have been 2010 and last Sunday week (laughs). Maybe there’s an omen there; keep away from Connacht Finals when Roscommon are playing!”
“Roscommon won’t be afraid of anyone in the quarter-final. We’ll be there too, there’s four of us travelling together, we go to all the games and we’ll be heading up on Sunday week.”
“The last time we were up there this year it wasn’t such a great evening. I was involved that evening and afterwards we had a meeting and it was highlighted that we had created plenty of goal-scoring chances against Dublin, which many people didn’t notice. There were positives taken out of the game. It’s a very young side on a learning curve and we’re really looking forward to the quarter-final.”
“It was a brilliant performance against Galway. There are eleven players under 23, they came through from U-21 and they got to two All-Ireland Finals and were unlucky not to have success at that level. As for the quarter-final, it’s always good to get a trip up to Croker and we’re hoping for Mayo!”
Canon Liam Devine
“I have the distinction of being the PRO of two County Boards – not all at the one time of course! I was six years in Sligo and then when I came to Roscommon I was five years here, so eleven consecutive years as PRO of County Boards. It’s a very difficult job, it’s demanding, but Hugh (Lynn) has done a wonderful job.”
“The one thing about all the players in Roscommon, that I’ve come across, is that they’re wonderful ambassadors. I was with them for the homecoming on the bus and my God they’re wonderful young men.”
Canon Liam Devine on his new parish…
“The goalkeeper Colm Lavin and of course one of the greatest full-backs we ever had was from this parish, Pat Doorey, and of course Dermot Earley, so it’s an historic parish and it’s a great GAA parish and it’s great to meet people like James (Hester) here, who is such a GAA fanatic.”