John Rogers was part of the Strokestown team that won the senior title in 2002. Since his return as senior manager the belief amongst the players has soared. John says a number of factors have led to Strokestown’s improved form as the year went on.
“Our league form was not great and we had a lot of injuries and that affected us in nearly all the league games. But when the championship started the injuries were clearing up and we played well in the second half against St Brigid’s. We were happy with that. Against Tulsk it was a local derby and form goes out the window in those games and we were very lucky to draw it. Then against Pearses we played well and it boiled down to the fact that they took their goal chance and we missed ours.
“We had a bit of luck getting a bye into the quarter-finals and we had a real cut at it then. But it was when Ciaran Regan got that great goal against Oran that the lads really started to believe. I’m sick and tired of telling these lads that they are good enough to win a county final”.
John says there is a fantastic atmosphere between all the players at the club and family ties are strong. “There is a great bunch of lads here between young and older. There are ten sets of brothers involved in the panel. There is a very tight bond between us all. There has been stuff going on off the field too with various problems like lads losing friends and addiction and other stuff, and we have been there to help them and it helps with the bond between us all. But when that great goal went in against Oran our lads started to really believe that this could happen.
“Against Roscommon Gaels we got the goals at just the right time. We weathered their purple patch early in the second half, and then Paddy (Brogan) stepped up with that great goal. It is great to be in the final now. But it’s not much good now if we don’t follow it up and get the silverware”.
Every year Strokestown are touted as a team with massive potential, only to go out of the championship prematurely. So it must be a relief that the team are in a final this year.
“You get sick of everyone saying that we have potential. We have players who have represented Roscommon at all levels but some lads have realised that it is now or never and it has dawned on them that this is a great chance. The younger lads don’t know what the fuss is all about. They have been such a boost to the team. They have taken to senior football like ducks to water and they have led us over the line in the past couple of games. I don’t think they realise what a big thing it is to get to a senior final but the buzz around the town this week might change that”.
The fact that he actually has a senior medal for Strokestown is something that John is able to draw on when he is chatting to his players.
“Well, I try to tell them what happened in 2002. In fact in 1992 I was under the big tree (behind the goal) at the Orchard Park as a follower when Strokestown beat Roscommon Gaels. I didn’t play well in the final in 2002 and I was taken off and I try to tell the lads not to get too nervous about it because at the end of the day it’s just another game of football”.
John says that there is a very healthy respect between the two clubs who will do battle on Sunday. “Don’t be surprised if it goes to a second day because there is a history of draws between the two teams over the years. If we were not there we would be supporting Boyle and if Boyle were not there they would be supporting us. I have loads of great friends in Boyle that I soldiered with over the years for the county. At the end of the day if it wasn’t for football we wouldn’t have those friendships and while we all will be trying our best to win the county title there is more to life than football. When you look at what happened in Creeslough and is happening in other places around the world there are more important things”.