Rossies face ‘live or die’ Leitrim battle
Despite the fact that there will have been an 11-week gap between competitive games for Roscommon from the Cavan game in the league to Sunday’s Connacht semi-final, the pressure is on the players and team management to deliver a winning performance.
Relegation, after a disappointing league campaign, is now in the past and the minimum that will be required from this season is a good win against Leitrim and a place in the Connacht final.
So considering they’ve had such a long break, does manager Kevin McStay believe that the time has been used wisely in the build-up to Sunday’s game?
“We think so, we are coming to the boil nicely, and we are really looking forward to this match. It seems like such a long time since we played a big game. The lads are itching to get out on the field and play championship. We have been gearing for this game all year. The lads have got in a bit of club activity and we think that there has been a nice balance. We trained extremely hard under David Joyce and we got a good few games in as well so we have a good mix in there. Of course we will see on Sunday how we are, but we have a great sense of anticipation about this challenge,” he said.
Roscommon have played a number of challenge games in recent weeks and in the last two, against Sligo and Wexford, have put up big totals. Kevin says that despite the fact that they were only challenge games and not very intense, there were a lot of positives.
“I was very happy that we got in to score a good few goals and the manner of how they came about was pleasing. I liked our support play and the fact that we are beginning to settle on a pattern of play and a starting team is positive. The players are playing well and the challenge games are just confirming what I have been seeing in training. But you have to realise that Sligo and Wexford had been beaten in the championship and you have to realise how hard it is to get things going again after a defeat. We know ourselves from last year but we can only play what’s in front of us. It’s very hard to actually get challenge games at this time of the year. What I was happy about was the attitude of the players and that we were clinical in front of goal and we won those games early. That’s very positive but we are not getting carried away or anything,” he added.
McStay is under no illusions however and the Roscommon manager described Sunday’s encounter with Leitrim as “live or die”.
“Oh yeah, this is huge for players and team management. It’s a big fence to jump but we are at home and we have to jump that fence and whatever it takes to win that match is what we have to do. I know that puts pressure on the lads but that pressure has been in our dressing room since the draw was made. This game has been on our radar from a long way out and we have had no distractions. It would be very, very difficult to have to go into a qualifier after a defeat to Leitrim so we are putting all our eggs into this basket and we have to arrive here on Sunday ready for this,” he said.
Leitrim will be long odds outsiders for this game, but what does Kevin McStay make of this Leitrim outfit?
“Well, I saw the tapes of the London games and (selector) Ger Dowd went over the see the match and it was a good championship game. It was tight, and our feeling in the run-up to that game was that Leitrim were always going to win it. We watched them in the National League and although they started slowly, they improved as it went on and we always thought they would beat London. I like their midfield which is strong. They would hold their own in that department with many teams. I like their full-forward line and their defence is tasty enough too. Then again we have a strong full-forward line. But we have to make sure that we do well at midfield and that’s a huge challenge for us. We are likely to have one rookie there with an experienced partner so that’s a challenge for us. But if we get enough ball in that area, there are enough scores in our team to win it.”
It’s the first championship game on the newly laid pitch at Dr Hyde Park and with a crowd of 8,000 to 10,000 expected, it’s a huge day for Kevin and his players after such a long wait. The manager seemed anxious to get started.
“We are bursting to get out there to be honest. We are the last team in the country out in the championship and the pitch here at Dr Hyde Park is magnificent and they tell me it’s the biggest pitch in the country now, which is interesting. It is a really fast surface and that should suit the type of game that we want to play,” he said.
Finally a word for the Roscommon supporters: Kevin is appealing to them to come out in force on Sunday and encourage this young team.
“I just hope that the Roscommon supporters come in numbers on Sunday. I know that they are curious to see what we are at, and they are wondering can we pull this off but it would be great to see them really get behind this team. Remember that most of the players are only 22, 23, and 24-years-old. They deserve all the support they can get and I know that they will support this team in big numbers if we give them something to bite on and it is a major ambition of ours to put on a huge effort on Sunday against Leitrim,” he concluded.