St. Dominic’s manager, Tomás Gilleran said that while last year’s Intermediate final defeat to St. Faithleach’s was a difficult one to take, it has been another year of growth and development for the Knockcroghery team.
“There was disappointment and the rest of it (last year) but the following Friday night we had 26 at training. We didn’t leave the Hyde before making the promise to ourselves (to return)…we felt a lot of things went against us on the day but if we were really honest with ourselves and while we were disappointed to lose, we didn’t do enough to win it. We left it as a close game and when you leave it as a close game anything can happen,” he said.
The achievements of this group in reaching the last two Intermediate Championship deciders has seen key players Keith Doyle, Eoin McCormack and Daire Keenan being selected for the Roscommon senior team. This, Tomás says, has been a boost for the entire panel.
“We had fellas who were getting a chance to step in and they were improving and growing at senior league level. When we look at where we are now in terms of the championship, we’re picking our 15 off 22/23 starters all the time. That strength in depth is improving all the time and we hope that it continues to improve,” he said.
So, what if anything has changed as the team aims to make it third time lucky this Sunday?
“The difference this year is the composure. The lads are comfortable in themselves. Maybe last year it was a bit more ‘guts and gusto’ and swashbuckling football, whereas this year it’s controlled and patient and a higher level of consistent intensity. That consistency has got us through our games. We’re only winning by a couple of points here and there but we are far more controlled in our football this year,” Tomás said.
St. Dominic’s refuse to dwell on the heartbreaking defeats of 2020 and 2021. ‘Win or learn’ seems to be the motto Tomás and Co. are working off.
“Hunger or hurt is a great sauce! Going back to the league when Brigid’s were seven or eight points up on us, they could have packed up the tools and said ‘this is just a league game’ but it’s not. Everything was about becoming better for where we needed to be for the championship,” he said.
“If we had won in 2020, I’m not sure we would have been in the senior championship in 2023. In last year’s final we were there or thereabouts…we were good enough…but ‘good enough’ isn’t good enough. You need to be the best and if we’re honest with ourselves we weren’t the best on either of those days (final and replay) and that’s why we came second.
“As a group they’re two years further on and four or five U-20s have come into it now. The group is getting stronger. If we did go up, I think we’d be in a better place than where we were in 2020 and if we don’t…these lads just love their football, we’ll be back down here next year. It’s not going to be the end of the world, this group isn’t going to fall off the edge of a cliff. We’ll be back next year, playing O’Rourke Cup (League Division One) and setting our eyes on whatever championship competition we’re in”.
Looking ahead to this year’s decider, ‘ferocious’ is the word the St. Dominic’s manager kept returning to when asked about Sunday’s opponents.
“I’m looking forward to it to be honest. There’s a big challenge ahead of us but if we’re able to match the intensity and the ferocity of our opponents then we have a chance,” he said.