‘If we are tuned in on the day, we can win this game’

Mixer sets sights on final place ‘Mixer’ Ryan on Saturday’s Connacht U-21 semi-final and his transition from player to manager. Interview by SEAMUS DUKE  Michael ‘Mixer’ Ryan must be one of the youngest inter-county team managers in the country. The Crumlin-based Garda has just turned 30 and he fully intends to play for his club Roscommon Gaels later this year. A member of the Roscommon senior football team for seven years, where he started in the half-back and full-back lines, Michaelk Ryan was dropped from the Roscommon senior panel when John Maughan took over the senior reins two and a half years ago.   There was surprise when ‘Mixer’ was named as the new Roscommon U-21 team manager at the end of last year and he had to survive a vote and some criticism at Roscommon County Board before taking up the reins. However since his appointment as U-21 manager all the news has been very good. The players have taken a real shine to the new manager and his selectors Emmett Durney and Derek Thompson.    The Roscommon U-21 team, which is packed with talented players, most of whom have All-Ireland minor medals in their back pockets from 2006, won the Hastings Cup without much fuss and the team have played several challenge games against highly-rated teams in recent weeks, losing only once (to Kerry). I met the Roscommon team manager Michael Ryan on Saturday evening after he had watched Sligo beat Galway to set up Saturday’s Connacht semi-final against Sligo in Kiltoom. How have the preparations gone given that it is very hard to prepare an U-21 team, what with senior training, colleges football and other distractions? I would say that preparations have gone as well for us as they have for any other team but as you know it’s difficult to prepare an U-21 team. Here in Roscommon we have so many players involved with the senior panel but in fairness to the senior management they have been understanding towards our situation. They have met us half-way which is all we wanted so I have no complaints in that regard. You have played a lot of challege games against good sides in recent months. That must have been beneficial? Yes. There is no substitute to playing games and we played some good challenges. The only team that beat us was Kerry and we were happy with that but you have to remember that they were only challenge games. Championship is championship and it is much different and we have to keep that in mind. Have you been hit with injuries? Not too bad in that regard. We have three lads carrying ‘niggles’ – Donie Shine, Paul Garvey and Paul Gleeson – but we are hopeful that they will able to take their places for Saturday’s game There are so many talented young player in this panel. Will it be a hard to pick the first fifteen? It is by far the hardest thing that we will have to do this week. The worst thing of all is that we will have to tell six players on our panel that they will not be togging out on Saturday – and that is even harder. It’s a crazy rule that we can only tog 24 players. It’ a disaster really. We have lads that have given everything to us who will not even be allowed to tog out on Saturday evening and that is wrong. That having been said, it will be a very hard task to pick the team. We will be doing it on form and the way that’s going it’s changing from week to week! We will be picking a first draft on (last) Tuesday night but we will finalise it on Thursday night. We will have 24 lads that are well capable of being on the first 15 so we can only hope and pray that we get it right. You watched Sligo beat Galway. What do you make out of them and the challenge they will provide?  When the draw was made I would have been of the opinion that Galway were going to win that game fairly well. However as the weeks moved on and from talking to people who knew what was going on in Sligo and how well they were preparing, I knew that they were going to be hard to beat. I had them watched a few times and to be honest I was not that surprised that they beat Galway. They have some very good players and they were were really up for the game. They were well disciplined, they had a definite gameplan and they stuck to it right to the bitter end. I was very impressed with them. They will be  very tough opposition and extremely hard to beat – take it from me. I’m sure you are asking the  Roscommon supporters to come out in force on Saturday? Oh yes definitely. You know that a lot of those young players owe the Roscommon supporters nothing after what they have done in the past with the minors, however that doesn’t mean that they don’t want support on Saturday. In fact we want the support of the Roscommon fans now more than ever. The minor championship win of 2006 was a great win but it is long over and it is in the past. This is a new championship and a new year so I really hope that the Roscommon people come out and support us on Saturday. These are super young players and great lads to work with, and we need all the support we can get on Saturday. What have you made out of inter-county team management? I have to say I’m enjoying it but it’s a totally different discipline than playing. When you are playing you have only yourself to worry about – that you’re properly prepared and fit for the game, etc. and you just hope that the rest of your team-mates have done the same. However as a team manager you have to worry about everybody. I appointed two great guys, Emmet (Durney) and Derek (Thompson) along with me and they have been fantastic and that side of it has been great. They are two great guys to have with me. I also want to say that they county board officials have been good too and we have no complaints in how we have been treated there either. So finally, you’re looking forward to the game on Saturday? Oh we are surely. Just remember that these guys are not really senior players. A lot of them are just out of minor ranks and a lot of people tend to forget that. These are very young players. If we are tuned in on the day, we have the ability to win the game and I think we will be tuned in. There is fierce ambition within the whole group to do well. These are talented, well-educated, confident and ambitious young men who want to do well on the football field for Roscommon. It is a pleasure to work with them and hopefully that work will go on for a good while more!