Cunningham: ‘Essential to stay at this level’

In his third year in charge of the Roscommon footballers, and with one Connacht title already under his belt, Anthony Cunningham’s league focus this year must be to stay in Division One, in order to ensure top-class opposition on a regular basis.

“For the development of the players and the team, it is essential that we are playing at the top level,” he told People Sport this week.

“I would have preferred to have had a few more weeks to prepare, but it is what it is now and we have to just get on with it. We are delighted to be back. We are all a bit rusty, but that was to be expected.

“The players have worked hard on their own, but being involved with a team is different. Our new strength and conditioning coach Gary Flannery has been great, and I have to praise the attitude of the players. They are super athletes and are very professional about their approach. They all want to get better and are looking forward to the game against the Dubs”.

The Galwayman is relishing the chance to play against the All-Ireland champions but admits it’s disappointing that there will be no supporters at the Hyde.

“We couldn’t ask for a bigger challenge than playing the Dubs at home in our first game of the year, but the biggest disappointment is that there will be no supporters there. You cannot replace the fans, who are the ones that really count. Having said that, the Roscommon supporters will be there in spirit, and hopefully we will give them something to shout about on Sunday,” he said.

Player rotation will be crucial for all teams this year and Cunningham says Roscommon will be no different.

“There are three league games in quick succession and then a play-off game, so we will be looking at as many players as we can this year. We are allowed seven subs in the league so that’s a help, and it will mean game time for players,” he said.

While the league campaign is important for development, the main focus is still the championship clash with Galway on July 4th: “That’s the big game, and we are hopeful that there may be some supporters allowed to attend that game. But that’s a long way off, and we are getting ready for the Dubs now this week,” he concluded.