Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham cut a satisfied figure following his side’s gutsy Super 8s victory over Cork at a blustery Pairc Ui Rinn last Sunday afternoon.
After the disappointment of back-to-back defeats at the hands of Tyrone and Dublin – not to mention their three straight reversals in last year’s group – there was a clear determination within the squad to end 2019 on a positive note.
“We targeted a win this weekend. We really wanted this year’s campaign to finish with a first Super 8s win for Roscommon. We were questioned in the last few weeks by a few people. Were we up for the Dublin match and other matches? This set of players set out at the start of the year and finished off today with what they wanted, which was a win in the Super 8s,” Cunningham remarked.
Despite the contest effectively being a ‘dead rubber’ (both Cork and the Rossies were out of contention for a semi-final spot), the two sides left no stone unturned in their quest for a win. In a seven-goal thriller, it was Shane Killoran’s 69th minute finish that swung the tie in Roscommon’s favour.
While clearly disappointed that his team’s campaign has now drawn to a conclusion, Cunningham believes his debut season at the helm has ultimately proven to be a success.
“We are disappointed, obviously, that it wasn’t a match that put us through to an All-Ireland semi-final. We have to take the harsh lessons of the Tyrone defeat. The panel and players will take that on board.
“Today was significant because questions were asked in the last few weeks. Questions such as, have we moved on? For us, unbeaten in the Connacht Championship, a very good performance against Tyrone, albeit a bit unlucky. Today we wanted to back those performances up. In very tough conditions away from home, to come out of it with a win, we are very happy”.
Indeed, torrential rain descended upon the Leeside venue for the majority of the game – leading to some understandable handling errors on both sides. Nevertheless, there was also an abundance of quality football on display and this is something that Cunningham was keen to highlight.
“We haven’t seen rain all summer and to get those conditions today. The ball was really greasy. Very, very hard to hold the ball, but a lot of good play. Great scores and great goals,” Cunningham said.
It was also a day that saw referee Noel Mooney kept on his toes, the Cavan official having issued an astonishing 13 yellow cards and three black cards over the course of the proceedings.
Cunningham believes the conditions had a part to play in this, but was thrilled with the physical approach his charges brought to the game.
“I think with the conditions, lads were flying into tackles. We wanted that really, we wanted to win our own ball. We’ve seen that over the weekend, you’ve really got to commit in the heat of championship and conditions today led to a lot of clumsier tackles than normal,” he added.