Roscommon must get back Down to earth – Seamus Duke on Sport

In all the years that I have been following Roscommon football I don’t think that I ever saw the senior team score 4-25 in a league game, especially a league division one game. I know that there is a responsibility on everyone ¬– not only the players and management, but on the local media too – not to get carried away, but this was a stunning performance from Roscommon against Cork.

  Some of the scores that we saw last Sunday from the Roscommon players were a joy to watch. The ball was moved quickly from back to front and the huge amount of fitness work which has been done by the players since December is paying off. As Kevin McStay said after the game, they are treating all these Division One games as championship matches – and it shows.

  To think that we have gone to Kerry and Cork and come back with two points from each trip is incredible. I don’t think that even the most fanatical Roscommon fan would have been predicting that when the league fixtures were published.

  Now Roscommon are in a position where, if they beat Down on Sunday next, relegation will probably be avoided and a semi-final place could be a possibility. But there are dangers in the Down game. Firstly the Roscommon players are only human and it would not be natural if they were not basking in the glory of last Sunday’s huge win. The management will have a major job to refocus minds for Sunday’s clash.

  Remember too that Down have lost their opening three games and another loss on Sunday will almost certainly open the relegation trapdoor for them. A win for Roscommon would also take the pressure off going to Donegal on Sunday week so it is a crucial game in many ways.

  But the players have been magnificent so far in this league but there are a number of them who are now beginning to blossom under the new management regime. Davy Murray, Niall McInerney, Fintan Cregg, Conor Devaney and Cian Connolly are all players who are improving with every outing.

  But the most improved player in the team is Ciaran Murtagh who has made the centre-forward position his own and he is scoring heavily as well as playing brilliantly.

  Then add in the more established players like Darren O’Malley and Geoffrey Claffey, Seanie Mac (what a servant he is), Neil Collins, Niall Daly, Ian Kilbride, Enda Smith, Seanie Purcell, Senan Kilbride, Brian Murtagh, Cathal Shine and Cathal Cregg and we have a panel of very good players indeed. Remember too that there are several players out injured like Niall Kilroy, Kevin Higgins, Mark Healy, Donie Smith, Diarmuid Murtagh and Ultan Harney. The panel looks very strong but there is a lot of work to do. Yes, we have won two games in the league but remember that Roscommon are far fitter than most of the teams that they are playing at the moment and when the summer comes around all the top teams will have done a lot more work.

  The management have rightly decided to target staying in Division One as a priority and as we said before here, to achieve that aim would be a huge boost for the year ahead. But we have to guard against getting carried away.

  Every time we win a few matches in Roscommon we lose the run of ourselves and I include myself in that failing over the years. Despite the brilliant performance last Sunday it adds up to two league points and we will all be scratching our heads in disbelief if we lose on Sunday against Down, which could well happen.

  The only thing we can say with certainty is that this Roscommon team are going in the right direction.

  Elsewhere, Mayo were beaten by Donegal but they played very well and they are beginning to show a bit of form. Donegal are very strong at home and Roscommon will be warned about that ahead of their game on Sunday week.

  Monaghan showed just how good a side they are when they were desperately unlucky not to get at least a draw against Dublin on Saturday night. Kerry are back in business and with some of their injured stars back they hammered Down in Newry. 

  This weekend Cork will have to recover quickly because they travel to Croke Park on Saturday night. Kerry versus Donegal looks like the game of the day while Mayo face a tough trip to Clones to play Monaghan. Roscommon could be in a great position after this weekend if they manage to overcome Down.

One for the diary

After a highly successful 2015 Cheltenham preview night, Tierney’s Bar in Ballygar will once again host what promises to be a most enjoyable festival preview when some of Ireland and Britain’s top form experts and jockeys descend on the village tonight (Thursday, 3rd March).

Ireland struggle while Connacht thrive

Ireland put in a great display against England in the Six Nations but we didn’t deserve to win the game. Despite the fact that we have some very good players, the ’Golden Generation’ of O’Connell, O’Gara, O’Driscoll, etc. only come along once in a lifetime and we will have a hard job to replace them. Ireland have two games left, against Italy and Scotland, and hopefully we can win both, although the Scots are improving.

  In Connacht it’s still fair sailing along at the top of the Pro12 league table after a good win against Ospreys. It would be some achievement if they were to actually top the table and qualify for the semi-finals. Pat Lam has done a great job at the Sportsground since he came.

 Hurlers to maintain unbeaten run?

The Roscommon hurlers can also put themselves in a great position in the league if they can beat Fingal in Athleague.

  Justin Campbell’s men have not set the world on fire so far in this league but they are still winning and they should continue their unbeaten run.

Congress changes set to leave their ‘mark’

The GAA Congress has opted to change minor to U-17 and the U-21 championship is now gone to U-20. I gave my views on those here last week but the fact that the changes in the playing calendar were rejected will have more negative implications for club players.

  I am not a follower of the ‘mark’ being introduced in Gaelic Football. It will slow the game down and I agree with the views expressed by Fergal O’Donnell at the weekend that it is not really needed in the game. There should have been a trial period before it was voted on.

 

From the Internet

McStay and McHale – Mayo’s loss?

It could have been all the more emphatic for Roscommon last Sunday against Cork, as they led 4-21 to 2-7 after 55 minutes. Of the 4-25 scored, 4-22 came from play, with Ciaran Murtagh kicking 2-4. While there will be many recriminations in Cork, it is a considerable achievement by Roscommon, who had won their previous league fixture away to Kerry.

  As Roscommon sit third in Division One on four points, McStay is looking downwards towards his native Mayo, who are joint bottom with Down on zero points. McStay and his brother-in-law Liam McHale were overlooked for the Mayo job in 2015, with the job given to Noel Kennelly and Pat Holmes. With both Kennelly and Holmes now out of the job owing to displeasure among the players, Mayo have failed to fire in this year’s league as new manager Stephen Rochford beds into the job while missing his Castlebar Mitchells contingent to the club championship.

   They were edged by two points in a thrilling contest with Donegal on Sunday, evidence that Mayo are slowly coming to grips with Rochford’s new management, but are in serious danger of relegation with a difficult trip to Clones ahead. Rochford said that his side’s performance was encouraging but admitted that Mayo had to “move beyond good games and performances and look to get two points”.

  While Mayo will undoubtedly improve, the amount of upheaval and instability wrought by the dismissal of Pat Holmes and Noel Kennelly and the appointment of Rochford is contributing to a poor league campaign and ahead of a Connacht Championship in which Roscommon must be considered as serious contenders.

  How different would things be if Mayo had appointed McStay last year? The former Sunday Game analyst was overlooked for the Mayo job last year, and ranks it as his greatest regret in football. Writing in “The Scrapbook of Regrets”, a GAA book put together by a national school in Leitrim, McStay admitted that missing out on the Mayo job is his greatest regret in the sport.

  Now, as Mayo face into an uncertain league conclusion and a championship campaign without an ideal preparation given the upheaval, how different would things be if they had appointed McStay last year? Roscommon often flatter to deceive in the league, but all Mayo people must be wondering what McStay and McHale could have done with this crop of Mayo talent. (Courtesy of Balls.ie)