In the Hatch on Tuesday night, there wasn’t a word about Leo, Donald or Brexit. There was token acknowledgement of the fine weather and, after that, it was football, football, football.
Not knowing yet who Roscommon will be playing in the All-Ireland quarter-final gave a curved dimension to the conversation, but added lots of space for speculation. With Cork, Donegal and Mayo all possible opponents, we had to assess their respective qualities, but mostly we basked in the afterglow of Roscommon’s thrilling victory over Galway in the Connacht Final.
When I arrived in the Hatch (in Church Street, Roscommon) there were three or four well-known ‘GAA personalities’ wisecracking at the bar counter. In The Hatch, no-one ever needs an excuse to talk football, or sport in general, but there’s an extra feelgood factor just now. As more customers arrived, you could feel and see how positive this win has been. Winning a Connacht title (just our third in 27 years) has really lifted people. And, as co-proprietor of Down The Hatch Seamus Hayden said, the fact that we have beaten Galway for the first time in 16 years makes it all the sweeter, all the more meaningful.
By 9.30 or so, Seamus Duke had called his ‘panel’ to order. The ‘top table’ consisted of well-known GAA men. There was Christy Grogan, John Corcoran and Domnick Connolly. Seamus Hayden and Larry Brennan operated a very effective subbing system, with Seamus stepping in and Larry stepping out and vice versa. The great Pat Lindsay arrived and, modest as ever, had to be cajoled into the group. Willie Coffey, a mighty Roscommon fan, was also present, with relatives and friends.
Soon, the bar counter was lined with customers, and most of the conversation remained firmly fixed on Roscommon’s win over Galway and their upcoming quarter-final. Robbie McConn and Peter Mullen had popped in for a pint, as had further great Rossies, Padraig & Kathleen Walshe and their son, Henry.
Back at the top table, Seamus Duke’s guests were in full flow, discussing Roscommon’s season, their future prospects and which teams appear best placed to challenge for the Sam Maguire.
It was an ordinary Tuesday night, but these aren’t ordinary times. Andrew Fox’s camera was flashing relentlessly and Emma Healy was filming for social media.
Chamber President Sean Mahon, enjoying a pint at the counter, took a call about delivery of scores of Roscommon flags which will be erected around town. The buzz is back. Roscommon are Connacht champions and it is a very welcome lift for the county and its people.
As the guests posed for one last photograph, the banter continued. The formalities ended. Then we sat back and caught our breath.
Then, we talked football, football, football.
Interviews: Seamus Duke
“The team are well managed and well prepared and playing well so I couldn’t care less who they play – well, except for Tyrone – and we can’t meet them until the final. I think we will probably end up playing Mayo and if that’s the case we should have absolutely no fear of them if we play the way we did against Galway.”
“After the last day I don’t think we will have fear of any team but I would prefer to see them playing Mayo. Roscommon would not be afraid of Mayo this time around.”
“I’d like to see Roscommon play Cork to be honest and I think they (Cork) have a big chance of beating Mayo this weekend. There is a big game in Cork and we would have absolutely no fear of Cork after what we did to them last year in Pairc Uí Rinn in the league. If we play Mayo the pressure would be on to beat them.”
“I’d like to see Roscommon play Mayo in the quarter-final because I am a traditionalist and I feel that when you get to a semi-final you should have everyone in the West beaten. That’s the way it was when I was playing. I think we are capable of beating Mayo if we play with the same intensity as we did in the Connacht final.”
“We are in bonus territory and we will have no fear of any of the three teams we could meet in the quarter-final, if we play up to the standard we saw in the Connacht final. If I had a slight preference I would say Donegal. But we have nothing to lose. I am not ruling out Cork against Mayo either.”
“I think Mayo will beat Cork. If Roscommon play Mayo our defence will give them plenty to think about. I said before the Connacht final that if we got 60% possession in the middle of the field we would win it and we did that. Against Mayo we have got to get a lot of possession if we play them.”
“Football is far more open this year than the last few years. Look at Kildare last Sunday. They scored 1-17 and were still beaten. You have to be able to score or you will not be at the races.”
“One thing that is so important in football now are the kick outs. In the Connacht final we got it right and Galway slipped up in that regard. That made a huge difference in the finish.”
“We have leaders on the field that we didn’t have for a few years. There are leaders in almost every line.”
“Roscommon are a hungry team this year. Last year we were a tired team after putting such an effort into the league. This year they were a fresh team going into the championship and it showed in the Connacht final.”
“It was great to see the euphoria around the county for the few days after we won that Connacht final. It’s as good as a small factory to the county I always say.”
“If Roscommon don’t win it then I hope Dublin do because they play football the way it should be played.”
“If Roscommon don’t win it then I think it might be Kerry’s year.”
“I am finding it hard to rule out Tyrone and the way they are playing this year. They are so had to beat.”
“I think Kerry will win it this year.”