Less ‘swash’ this time, but Roscommon didn’t buckle on calm journey back to top flight





It could almost be either the catchphrase or the definition of an Irish optimist.

  With Roscommon three points ahead and four minutes of extra time announced, the two men behind me were in agreement.

  “A dangerous lead” one of them said with a touch of worry – to his colleague’s obvious approval. 

  As ever, it’s the hope that threatens to kill us.

  Then, the Roscommon goalkeeper, advancing with the ball, suddenly dropped to his knees right in front of a Cavan forward, as though he was about to be knighted. Time stopped.

  Thankfully, Colm Lavin regained his footing and the moment of potential danger passed.

  Moments later, all fears of a high lobbing ball giving birth to an unlikely late goal were gone. The final whistle blew. Roscommon were promoted in the manner they would have wished for: winning on the field, the virtue of their campaign in no doubt whatsoever.

  A couple of years ago, Roscommon put new levels of ‘swash’ into swashbuckling, with an electrifying league campaign that included wins in Kerry, Donegal and Cork, the latter by a cricket score. But that was a season of sorrows in the end; we spent so much in the league, we were penniless by the time the championship invoice was presented to us. New York almost humiliated us; when Clare finally did, no-one was that surprised.  

  That league rollercoaster was great and in fairness some of the wins must have been of significant psychological benefit to Roscommon players -– amongst many more positives – but there’s something more satisfying about this season’s controlled, calm ascent.

  A couple of years ago, when Roscommon were rampaging through Division One, it was fairly evident that we were putting more into that league campaign than other teams were, that burn-out might be a legacy of the toil and thrills.

  This year, Roscommon haven’t bothered too much with the ‘swash’ but they have ‘buckled’ down to the task in hand.

  What’s really encouraging about the Division 2 campaign that has just ended is how Roscommon calmly and steadily navigated through it, achieving their ultimate goal, but without any sense of over-expending themselves or of peaking too soon.

  There has been a maturity about Roscommon’s approach this season which augurs well for the future. After the disappointing loss to Down, Roscommon have responded with four wins in a row, clinically and calmly taking control of this league, rising to its summit with growing assurance.

  The last two wins (against Cavan and Cork) have told us things about this team that a facile win by a big margin could never reveal. Roscommon were seriously tested by both Cavan and Cork and it was all to play for entering the final quarter of both games. On both occasions, Roscommon responded to the challenge with maturity and calmness, finishing stronger than they had started, emptying their subs’ bench to great effect, wrestling the initiative from their opponents and closing the deal pretty convincingly.

  Now Roscommon are facing into a third season out of four in Division One, invaluable top level game time for our ever-improving squad. 

  One of the most pleasing things about Sunday’s win was the absence of any celebrations by the Roscommon players and management: no back-slapping, high fives or fist-pumping, not that I could see anyway. I can’t imagine there was champagne on ice in the dressing room either!

  It was a good match on Sunday, with encouraging evidence of growing options for the Roscommon management. It’s been a good campaign, and the return of Division One football next season is a great dividend, one that will be welcomed by the County Board, management and team, fans…and indeed by local businesses in Roscommon town. 

  I watched ‘fourth-win-in-a-row’ from the Stand on the Athlone Road side, which was occupied by several hundred Rossies and about three philosophical Corkonians.

  As we all trooped off happily – well, philosophical Corkonians aside – there was no whooping or back-slapping amongst the fans either, and that’s probably a good sign too.