It’s Wednesday morning as I write this and Fergal O’Donnell has just announced that he is stepping down from his role as joint manager of the Roscommon senior football team.
A year that started so full of promise with charity challenge matches last Christmas, ends with no charity shown towards a Roscommon legend. Fergal was understandably angry and slammed the door as he left.
It should have and could have been so different following barnstorming wins against the likes of Kerry and Donegal. But, following two defeats to this year’s All-Ireland finalists the wheels started to buckle. The Connacht Final replay defeat to Galway brought out the snipers and it was to be a hard fall after that.
So what exactly was so disappointing about Roscommon’s year as Division One aristocrats? The team spectacularly avoided relegation and then made the Connacht Final; which isn’t exactly an annual occurrence in these parts.
In my view, the problem wasn’t with the management or running of the team. It was always said that it’s a three-year process. Human nature was the problem.
Success is a wonderful yet dangerous thing. The bandwagon pulled out of the Racecourse Road early in the year and picked up speed and passengers as it drove on towards summer. Some of the passengers weren’t happy with the speed or comfort on board the bandwagon. When it stalled in the Hyde against Mayo, there were murmurs. When it cut out in Salthill against Galway, people got off. Then, when it blew a head gasket in Castlebar and lost three wheels in Salthill, those who were murmuring wanted it scrapped.
The process of turning Division Two footballers into All-Ireland contenders was always going to take time. It certainly wasn’t going to be achieved in one winter. Galway and Clare were fresher in the championship, but they hadn’t played the heavyweights in the cold and rain of winter and spring.
This year was a steep learning curve for the management, but now that Fergal and selectors, David Casey and Stephen Bohan, are gone, those lessons and the revision they required will go with them. Roscommon GAA rolls on, waiting for the next opportunity to take a pot shot at its own foot.