After a rollercoaster year so far, Roscommon joint manager Kevin McStay says that Sunday’s Connacht semi-final is “by far the most important game that we have played this year” and adds that despite the fact that he is expecting a very strong challenge from Sligo, this is a game that Roscommon must win.
A 13-point win against Leitrim might suggest that Roscommon played really well in Carrick-on-Shannon but Kevin says that Roscommon have much to work on after that game.
“I know that Roscommon don’t often beat Leitrim in the championship by 13 points, but we have looked at the game in detail and our display was very patchy, to be honest. But our training since has been very intense and the lads have shown a great appetite for work, which is very pleasing to see.
“In terms of injuries, Cathal McHugh was injured at the end of the Leitrim game and is almost certainly ruled out and Ronan Daly has left the panel, which is very disappointing. However on the plus side we have plenty of players coming back from injury. Enda Smith and Ian Kilbride are back training, but this game may just be a little soon for them. Cian Connolly is making great progress too. Cathal Compton and Kevin Higgins are back in full training and in contention for places. The news on Ronan Stack is not as good though and he remains out of contention.”
McStay says that while Leitrim were poor in the last round, he is expecting a much stronger challenge from Sligo on Sunday.
“We have looked at Sligo very closely and they have plenty of good players. We looked back at last year’s game and Sligo won that game convincingly. We have looked at Sligo players that might be a threat and they have plenty of players on that list so this is going to be a tough game for certain. What happened last year is a warning to our players but it’s also a chance for them to redeem themselves against Sligo and of course the prize for a win is a huge one.”
Kevin says that the team wants to give the Roscommon fans a performance that they can latch on to in order for them to really get behind the side.
“The crowd hasn’t been as much behind us as they were in the league and there are good reasons for that. Roscommon have been fairly poor in the championship in recent years and the performances against New York and Leitrim were not great so we are very eager to put in a good performance on Sunday and win the game and get the crowd behind us.”
Kevin says that the team selection will not be finalised until Wednesday or Thursday and that everyone on the panel is in contention for a place.
“The facts are that our training has been really, really intense over the past few weeks and the players are giving it everything. The team selected on the day will be down to what is happening on the training field. What happened in the Leitrim game will have no bearing on what the team selected will be on the day. There are lads who are really putting in a big effort and are putting up their hands for selection and we will be acting on that.”
Managing expectations is another thing that Roscommon must be able to do, the joint manager accepts.
“The first week I took on the job I said to you that Roscommon will have to start winning the games that they are expected to win and to be able to cope with being favourites and we are in that situation now.”
McStay says that the importance of this game on Sunday cannot be overstated.
“This is the pivotal game of our whole season. If we can win it the whole season opens up for us. If we lose it then we will have a lot of soul-searching to do, but we are not thinking about that.
“The training has been very intense. The players have put in a massive effort. We are playing at home and hopefully the weather will be good and although we are expecting a tough game, we are going out to win it. This game is our sole focus and we are putting everything we have into it,” he concluded.