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Mayo mauled by rejuvenated Roscommon

 

 

 

 

Connacht Minor Football Championship (Round 2)

Roscommon 4-12

Mayo 0-11

Having been beaten by a whopping 22 points by Galway just a week previously, Roscommon minors put their Connacht championship campaign firmly back on track when they swatted away the challenge of Mayo with ease at Kiltoom last Friday night.

  It was hard to believe that this was the same team that went down so badly against the Tribesmen. This time around Paul Staunton’s men were on top in every position on the field, they tackled hard, were first to every ball and they took some super scores. Enda Crawley and Shane Cunnane totally dominated  at midfield and up front Roscommon cut loose, with Adam McDermott leading the way with a haul of three goals and two points.

  Indeed if it was not for the heroics of Mayo goalkeeper Ronan Connolly, who made four point-blank saves, Roscommon could have added handsomely to their 13 point win such was their dominance. Now they are back in the hunt for a place in the Connacht final with games to come against Leitrim (away) and Sligo (at home).

  On a beautiful evening, the sides shared four points in the opening six minutes. But even at that stage Roscommon looked a different prospect as Cunnane and Crawley were bossing the central area and the Roscommon scores began to flow. Points from Adam McDermott 2 (one free), Shane Cunnane (2 frees) and Enda Crawley without reply, saw the home side open up a five point gap by the 16th minute. Mayo did reply with three points with their captain Enda Hession converting two frees and by half-time Roscommon led by 0-9 to 0-5.

  The gap should have been far more though, as on two occasions lively Roscommon wing-back Robbie Dolan was clean through, and later centre half-forward Liam Ormsby was also in on goal only for Ronan Connolly to effect marvellous saves to keep his side in the game,

  But Roscommon were far more clinical in the second half. With just a minute played, Cunnane’s laser-like pass was finished to the net expertly by James Fitzpatrick. Six minutes later Robbie Dolan was in on goal again, and although Connolly saved once again, Adam McDermott fisted the rebound to the net.

  Roscommon were rampant now and when McDermott ran through to score Roscommon’s third goal in the 47th minute it was a matter of how much Roscommon would win by. With three minutes to go McDermott completed his hat-trick in tremendous style and memories of that heavy defeat by Galway were well and truly banished.

  Cunanne stroked a couple of long-range frees over the bar with ease as Roscommon strolled to the easiest of victories. The next round of games will not take place until the 23rd of June but Paul Staunton, Stephen Lohan, Michael Gallagher and the Roscommon players have to be congratulated for turning the ship around in just a week. The changes they made to the team were a contributory factor but it was the change in attitude that made such a big difference on the night.

Roscommon: Daniel Connolly; Cathal Brogan, Darragh Murray, Kealan Gunning; Robbie Dolan, Ruaidhri Fallon, Jack Lohan; Enda Crawley (0-1), Shane Cunnane (0-7, 4 frees, 1 ’45); Aaron McDermott (0-1), Liam Ormsby (0-1), Richard Walsh; Fearghus Lennon, Adam McDermott (3-2,1 free), James Fitzpatrick (1-0). Subs: Eoghan Derwin for Lennon (55), Charlie Carthy for Walsh (56), Niall Moran for Crawley (60), Jason Doory for Adam McDermott (60), David Wynne for Ormsby (62), Daniel Farrell for Cunnane (62).

Mayo: Ronan Connolly: Sean Holmes, Eoghan McHale, Aidan Cosgrove; Ruairi Keane, Liam Óg Horkan, Conor Dunleavy (0-1); Jack Carney, Harry Burke; Frank Irwin (0-1), Ultan O’Reilly, Lee Traynor (0-1); Martin Ball (0-2), Fionn Ryan, Enda Hession (0-6, 5 frees). Subs: Evan Ivers for Traynor (14), Ethan Henry for O’Reilly (27), Luke Dawson for Holmes (h/t), Liam O’Donoghue for McHale (39), Ciaran Mylett for Burke (44), Peter Timlin for Ivers (56).

Referee: James Molloy (Galway)

Wides: Roscommon 5 Mayo 11

Man of the Match: Enda Crawley (Roscommon)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hurlers hammered by Lilywhites in opener

 

 

Christy Ring Cup Round 1

Kildare 4-26

Roscommon 1-10

 

The slump in Roscommon’s hurling fortunes at senior level continued at sunny Newbridge last Saturday when Kildare inflicted a 25-point defeat on the visitors in what was an embarrassingly one-sided romp from the first whistle.

  Kildare were five points up within 6 minutes, 12 points up at half-time and they pulled further and further away as the match went on. Naos Connaughton and Jason Kilkenny offered some resistance from a Roscommon point of view but it made for painful viewing for visiting supporters as the margin grew wider and wider.

  The story of the game is easily told. In the 6th minute impressive Kildare full-forward Martin Fitzgerald showed the Roscommon defence a clear pair of heels to bat home his side’s opening goal. By the 17th minute it was 1-7 to 0-2. Roscommon had points from Naos Connaughton, Daniel Glynn (free), Jason Kilkenny and Joe Keane (free) that kept the scoreboard ticking over from their point of view. But Fitzgerald blasted home a second Kildare goal in the 29th minute and by half-time it was 2-12 to 0-6.

  Roscommon were doing their best but they were chasing shadows, and within nine minutes of the re-start Kildare had another two goals on the board from Fitzgerald and Shane Ryan. From then on it was a question of how many the home side would win by.

  In fairness to Roscommon they kept trying, but the gap was getting wider and wider as points flew over from all angles. Naos Connaughton got through for a goal in the 55th minute for the Rossies, but with Barry Cormack putting on a free-taking exhibition for the home side, the final whistle came as a relief to the visiting team and management. 

  With Wicklow the visitors this coming weekend, it is hard to see how Roscommon can recover from a heavy defeat like this and survival in the Christy Ring Cup must now be the priority for Ciaran Comerford’s team. There was a time when Roscommon would be well able to compete with (and beat) the likes of Kildare but unfortunately those days are gone.

Kildare: Paddy McKenna; Cian Forde, John Doran, Paul Sullivan; Eanna O’Neill (0-1), Mark Maloney, Mark Grace (0-1); Niall O Muineachain (0-1), Barry Cormack (0-15, 11 frees, 1 ’65); Michael Purcell (0-1), Paul Divilly (0-3, 1 free), Kevin Whelan (0-1); Brian Byrne, Martin Fitzpatrick (3-3), Shane Ryan (1-0). Subs: Dylan Brereton for Maloney (blood 23), Chris Bonus for Byrne (47), Bernard Deay for Fitzgerald and Mark Delaney for Whelan (62), Diarmuid Cahill for Purcell (65), Simon Lacey for Forde (67), Sean Gainey for Divilly (70).

Roscommon: Joe Keane (0-1, free); Pat Nolan, Michael Beirne, Alan Moore (0-1); Kerrill Hardiman, Jason Kilkenny (0-1), Eamon Flanagan; Darragh Heavey, Shane Curley; Daniel Glynn (0-3, 2 frees), Cillian Egan, Naos Connaughton (1-2); Cathal Kenny, Robbie Fallon (0-1), Cormac Kelly. Subs: Warren Boyle for Heavey (40) Hugh Rooney for Beirne (h/t), John Murray for Glynn (48), Joe Brennan for Nolan (57), Ronan Kilcline for Curley (62).

Referee: Shane Hynes (Galway)

Wides: Kildare 10 Roscommon 7

Man of the Match: Martin Fitzgerald (Kildare)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roscommon LGFA and the spirit of ‘78

 

 

 

The last week in June, mark it in your diaries. Almost forty years on from Roscommon Ladies’ legendary All-Ireland win against Tipperary, Roscommon’s ladies footballers will be involved in two huge games in the space of a week.

  On Sunday, June 24th Michael Finneran’s Intermediate team will contest the Connacht final while the Minors will face Armagh in the All-Ireland Minor B semi-final the following Saturday (30th).

  Roscommon LGFA PRO Sinéad Osgood says these are exciting times.

  “It’s really exciting. Last year we started with the development squads and they attended a national blitz in Abbotstown. It’s all about getting them ready for the commitment levels required but in a fun and enjoyable way.

  “We now also have a permanent part-time development officer in Shane Curran. He made his name with men’s football but he has been involved with the LGFA for quite a few years. His work involves working with schools and clubs in the county,” she said.

  Sinéad is only too aware of the difficulty in keeping girls involved in the sport. A partnership with Pieta House and promotion of healthy eating and meal preparation as well as regular talks with experts is part of the approach Roscommon LGFA is taking when it comes to keeping young footballers engaged. It also helps that a number of role models have emerged from within the county.

  “Michael Finneran is the manager of the Intermediate team and he has Shane Monaghan, Marie Kelly and Darren Owens assisting him.

  “The Minors are managed by Ollie Colgan and he’s assisted by Brendan Cregg, Jenny Higgins, Shane Curran, Fiona McVeigh and David O’Connor,” Sinead said, before highlighting the hard work carried out behind the scenes.

 She told me that Michael and members of his Intermediate team are quick to help out with younger players and the promotion of the LGFA within the county. This is vital in order to inspire future generations of ladies footballers.

  It’s clear that ladies football in Roscommon is in a good place almost forty years on from that famous victory over Tipperary and there was even further encouragement this week with the news that Rebecca Finan will be named on the Lidl Ladies Division 3 Team of the Year.

  With the hard work set to resume this summer ahead of two big showdowns in June, Roscommon LGFA is determined to mark the 40th anniversary of Roscommon’s All-Ireland triumph with continued progression both on and off the pitch.

Seamus Duke on sport - May 18th

 

 

 

Impressive minors turn it around!

The Roscommon minor (U-17) footballers deserve every credit for managing to turn things around in the space of just a week. Coming home from Tuam a week previously I was completely puzzled that this team could play so very poorly but some very astute changes by Paul Staunton and his selectors added to a superb change in attitude, saw the young Rossies blitz Mayo and some of the Roscommon play on the night in Kiltoom was very impressive indeed.

  There is now a six week break before the next two rounds and it looks that there will be a battle to see who will play Galway in the Connacht final. The way Roscommon played last week I would not mind seeing them have another crack at the young Tribesmen. Of course they will have to beat Sligo and Leitrim to get there but on the evidence of last Friday night they are well capable of doing that. Well done to all concerned.

Galway send Mayo through the back door

Given how much was at stake, I was not expecting a classic game of championship football between Mayo and Galway last Sunday but having said that, I never thought it would be as bad as it was.

  Mayo have thrown away another big championship game after this latest clash. They had loads of the ball but they kicked some terrible wides and took some very stupid options up front throughout the game.

  In addition, what was Diarmuid O’Connor thinking about, hitting Paul Conroy with a forearm smash right in front of the referee? It was lunacy and a definite straight red card.

  Will Mayo be back? It depends on the draw they get in the qualifiers. Pundits like myself have written them off far too soon in recent years, but I have to say I will be amazed if they show up in the All-Ireland semi-finals again this year. There is only so much their experienced players can take. It is also a factor that they have no new talent coming along.

  I was underwhelmed by Galway’s performance. On Sunday’s display Roscommon would go into a possible Connacht final against them with every chance. However, there is a lot of football still be played and Leitrim and Sligo will have something to say about that. If it is Galway and Roscommon in the Connacht final hopefully it can be held at Dr Hyde Park. More about that soon.

Boredom of the Cup this Saturday?

There was a time when I would never miss the FA Cup final. In fact, it was one of the sporting highlights of the year. The coverage on the BBC used to start at 9 o’clock in the morning and there was massive hype about it. It is still a big game but it’s importance has dwindled over the years.

  This Saturday, Manchester United and Chelsea can end the season with a trophy if they can win it. It would be great to predict an open attacking game of end to end football, but with Jose Mourinho in charge of Manchester United that won’t happen. The fare will be conservative and boring and a toss-up between the two. It’s a pity but that’s the reality.

Test match cricket comes to Ireland

Cricket is one sport that is never featured in this column because I simply do not understand all the rules and terminology, but in fairness to Ireland, their stock at international level is rising and there was great excitement when they played their first ever test match at the weekend. Needless to say the first day’s play was called off because of the rain! The weather will always be a problem in this country but if this means that young people will go out and give it a go then I’m all for it.

Underage mentors go ‘stat’ crazy

As someone who has followed and reported on Gaelic football for 30 years I fully realise that the game changes and evolves all the time but what I saw in Kiltoom on Friday night during Roscommon’s win over Mayo at U-17 level beggared belief.

  There were six people in the press box to do ‘the stats’ for Mayo. One guy was in charge. He was wired up to the team manager down on the sideline. He told his people they were to review the stats every five minutes as the game went on. From the time the ball was thrown in the head guy was barking instructions non-stop into the ear of the team manager.

  “Number 12 is not following his man, number 8 needs to up the intensity, number 3 is out of position”. It was constant. He suggested changes and substitutions. It would be impossible for anyone to watch a game with that going in in your ear, never mind manage a team and make coherent decisions.

  At one stage the guy on the sideline was not answering back and our man in the press box sent one of his people down to see if his radio was working. I’d say the man on the sideline was driven demented with the constant barking into his ear and had pulled it out. It was about as over the top as I have ever seen. Paralysis by analysis.

  I am all for advances in our game and see the need for stats to be kept and to be able to review them at half-time and after the game, but to have six people for an U-17 game makes no sense at all.

  Needless to say the stats activity petered out as Roscommon pulled further and further away in the second half. Us mere mortals, who were there to see it were gobsmacked with the ridiculous nature of it all.

Championship Watch

Munster SFC Quarter-Finals on Saturday

Limerick v Clare in Limerick at 7 pm

Clare should be the favourites here after a league campaign that saw them perform solidly in Division 2. Limerick are always a tough proposition in the championship at home but Colm Collins’ side should have too much.

Prediction: Clare

Tipperary v Waterford in Thurles at 7 pm

Tipperary are the choice of many no not only to reach the Munster final, but to get to the Super 8s as well. They should be far too strong for the Decies on Saturday.

Prediction: Tipperary

Ulster SFC Quarter-Finals

Fermanagh v Armagh on Saturday in Enniskillen at 7 pm

With Rory Gallagher in charge, Fermanagh will be formidable at home but Kieran McGeeney is making progress with Armagh and they should advance after a battle.

Prediction: Armagh

Tyrone v Monaghan on Sunday in Omagh at 4 pm

This is one of the heavyweight clashes that the fans have been looking forward to for months. One of these top 8 teams will be out of the Ulster championships on Sunday evening. I am very tempted to plump for Monaghan as they are well capable of winning this but I will give a hestitant vote to Tyrone to grind out a narrow win.

Prediction: Tyrone

 

Leinster Senior Hurling Championship Round Robin on Sunday

Wexford v Dublin at Innovate Wexford Park at 3 pm

Dublin were very unlucky against Kilkenny last Sunday but it doesn’t get easier for Pat Gilroy’s charges as Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford will come out all guns blazing and will have a huge crowd behind them too. They should win easily enough.

Prediction: Wexford

 

Kilkenny v Offaly at Nowlan Park at 3 pm

Kilkenny pulled a win from the jaws of defeat last Sunday in Parnell Park and they should be well able to cope with an improving Offaly who will give it everything but are probably out of their depth.

Prediction: Kilkenny

 

Munster Senior Hurling Championship Round- Robin on Sunday

Limerick v Tipperary at The Gaelic Grounds at 2 pm

This promises to be a cracking opening to the new-format Munster championship. Limerick are a real live contender for provincial and All-Ireland honours but Tipperary might have the slight edge. There won’t be much in it.

Prediction: Tipperary

 

Cork v Clare at Pairc Ui Caoimh at 4 pm

Another mouth-watering prospect in store here. Neither side will want to lose their opening game. I have a feeling that Clare might be a dark horse this year and I’m giving them the nod to win at the home of the Rebels.

Prediction: Clare

 

Breaking Ball - May 18th

 

 

Roscommon injury list grows!

Roscommon manager Kevin McStay is facing an injury crisis ahead of the Connacht Football Semi-Final against Leitrim on Saturday, May 26th.

  According to the latest reports from Roscommon GAA, Ultan Harney (hamstring) is definitely out while Cathal Compton (ankle ligaments), Niall Daly (foot) and Cathal Cregg (hamstring) are almost certainly out. Fergal Lennon (back), Niall McInerney (hamstring) and John McManus (hamstring) are currently rated as highly doubtful.

  Ciaran Lennon, who was set to miss out due to his selection for the U-20s has also been ruled out for up to two months due to a broken thumb sustained in training last week.

Tribesmen power to victory

Galway Tribesmen ran out easy 0-17 to 0-10 winners over Roscommmon in round two of the U-17 Hurling Celtic Challenge Cup in Ballinasloe recently.

  The Rossies had started well with the aid of the wind and deservedly led by 0-5 to 0-4 at half-time thanks to points from Aodha Hession (2), Dean Conlon and Luke Corbett (0-2, 2 frees).

  However, Galway upped the tempo in the second half and, despite late Roscommon points from Oran McGeeney and Kyle Kelly, ran out comfortable winners.

Four Roads crush Gaels

Four Roads were the convincing winners of the Roscommon U-17 hurling championship recently when they beat Roscommon Gaels on a scoreline of 4-22 to 0-7.

  Adam Donnelly scored two goals in an otherwise even first half to give Four Roads a 2-7 to 0-7 lead at the interval. That was as good as it was going to get for the Gaels however, as second half goals from Trevor Fallon, who finished with 1-8, and Adam Donnelly, who finished with 3-4, put the town team to the sword.

  Fittingly, it was Four Roads who were presented with the Brian Donnelly Memorial Cup in the inaugural U-17 Hurling Championship.

 

The Sporting Brief - May 18th

 

 

Handball

Onewall Championships

Kilglass GAA hosted the Onewall County Championships last Saturday with six matches played in total.

  ‘Match of the Day’ was the Men’s ‘C’ final between Mount Talbot’s Diarmuid Treacy and John Coggeran of Kilglass. In a match that could have gone either way, Treacy prevailed 15-14, 15-10.

  Diarmuid’s twin sisters, Siobhan and Aisling, went head to head in the Girls’ U-15 final. Despite a valiant effort from Aisling, Siobhan triumphed 15-12, 15-8.

  St. Coman’s’ Liam Egan won the Boys U-17 final following a hard-fought encounter with Thomas Mahady of Kilglass. Liam was victorious on a scoreline of 15-12, 15-9.

  The other Roscommon representatives for the Connacht championships are as follows – U-13: Rory Carthy (St. Coman’s); U-15: Philip Halliday (St. Coman’s); Men’s ‘B’: Liam O’Ceallaigh (Mount Talbot); Masters: Dermot Washington (Kilglass); Ladies ‘C’: Natasha Mahady (Kilglass).

Golf

Victory over Loughrea

We tee-off in Athlone with news of the men’s recent victory over Loughrea in the first round of the All-Ireland 4 Ball Competition. They take on Tuam in the next round this Saturday.

  Meanwhile, Finbarr Jordan won the May Bank Holiday Open with 42 points and the ladies’ competition was won by Mountbellew’s Laura Burke with 40.

  The ladies’ Junior Cup team recently beat Strandhill while the Challenge Cup team were defeated by Carrick-on-Shannon. The Intermediates face Tuam this Sunday.

  Recent winners in Athlone: Denis O’Donoghue (PGA Tankard); J Kinahan (AWGS); Eoin McGrath (Wednesday Open); Noirin O’Rourke (18-hole); Siobhan McGrath (Club 9-hole) and Brid Kenny (18-hole).

  In Boyle, the Committee Cup was won by Terry Canning recently with a great score of 98.5 nett. Sean Heslin took second place for the men and Tish Perry took second for the ladies. The gross prizes went to Lorcan Egan for the men and Mary O’Hara for the ladies.

  The team of Brendan Gaffney, Conor Hamill and Seamus Gallagher won the Committee Cup scramble last Friday.

  The men’s mid-week 12-hole stableford was a keenly contested affair with first, second and third finishing on 26 points. Ross Andrew was the winner on count-back, followed by Lorcan Egan and Michael Gilmartin.

  To Castlerea next, where the ladies’ Hession Cup was won by Mary Kenny with 64 nett while Áine Mhic Suibhne finished second (71) and Valerie Callaghan was third (72).

  The men’s club competition was won by Kieran Rosney with 40 points with Micheal Doyle second (37) and John Caulfield third (36).

  Finally to Roscommon, where J Moran won the recent senior ladies’ competition and Jackie McCormack took the 18-hole stableford with 38 points, finishing just ahead of Marie McManus (37) and Sinead Benedetti (35). The ladies’ minor team won their second round match against Carrick-on-Shannon.

Dooner’s weekend predictions - May 18th

 

We’re down to the final day in both the Premier Division and Division Two this weekend. St. Peter’s need a draw in Caslerea on Saturday night to take the title in their maiden season in Roscommon while it’s a straight shoot-out between Rahara Rovers and Moylough ’79 on Sunday for the Division Two title.

  Elsewhere, Hodson Bay Athletic will be hoping to prevent Division One champions Kilkerrin United from completing a treble in the Division One Cup final.

Saturday, May 19th

Herald Premier Division (7.45 pm)

Ballinasloe Town v Shiven Rovers

The Town must win and hope Castlerea help them out.

Prediction: Ballinasloe Town           

Castlerea Celtic v St. Peter’s FC

It’s hard to see the Athlone side letting the league title slip now.

Prediction: St. Peter’s FC

Killeen Sports Grounds Division Two

Rahara Rovers v Moylough ’79. 6.30 pm

This has the potential to be game of the weekend. Moylough can do just enough to take the title.

Prediction: Draw            

RDFL First Division Cup Final                                                   

At Lecarrow: Hodson Bay Athletic v Kilkerrin United. 7 pm           

United to clinch an impressive treble.

Prediction: Kilkerrin United

Sunday, May 20th

Herald Premier Division (12 pm)

Ballaghaderreen FC v Ballymoe FC           

The visitors will be hoping to bounce back from their Challenge Cup shock.

Prediction: Ballymoe FC           

Cloonfad United v Skyvalley Rovers

The hosts will want to forget last weekend’s 11-0 drubbing at the hands of St. Peter’s.

Prediction: Cloonfad United           

Dysart FC v Moore United           

I fancy the visitors here.

Prediction: Moore United

St. John’s Athletic v Boyle Celtic

The Lecarrow side shocked Castlerea last time out and can get a result here.

Prediction: Draw

Lennon unavailable for Leitrim

 

 

Full-forward to line-out for U-20s

Speaking to People Sport this week, Roscommon manager Kevin McStay confirmed the absence of Clann na nGael’s Ciaran Lennon from the Connacht Championship semi-final clash with Leitrim in Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday, May 26th.

  “We had four players last (Friday) night (junior game) from the U-20s: James Fetherstone, Ciaran Lennon, Aidan Dowd and Liam Cregg. They are all training with the U-2’s since the league ended. The plan is that they stay with the U-20s and we think that is the right thing to do,” McStay said before confirming Ciaran Lennon’s absence for the upcoming senior championship game.

  “Almost certainly he will not be playing. Ciaran’s form has complicated matters to be honest. He played eight national league games and played well in them all. Even when he came on in the junior game he made a big difference.

  “In fairness to Shane (Curran), if we take three of four of their best players and play them in the Leitrim match how would he feel?

  “The U-20s’ Connacht final is the curtain-raiser to the Connacht senior final so Roscommon could be in that game. If Roscommon are not in that game then the situation is resolved. Look, we will monitor the situation as it evolves. My sense and Shane’s sense is that he should play with the U-20s.

  “But we have a lot of players on the senior panel who should be putting their hand up for that position now. Lads like Enda Smith and Shane Killoran for example and there are two or three more that we could play there as well.

  “We have a few challenge games coming up so we will see who steps up now. Other lads like Cathal Cregg and Conor Daly are also there so we have plenty of options,” he said.

'Two wins and it all opens for us!'

 

 

 

 

With the sun making an all too rare appearance in the skies over Ireland and grass beginning to grow again after a long winter, this year’s Connacht Championship is apon us.

  At the start of the year Roscommon manager Kevin McStay set two goals for the team. One was to be competitive in Division 2 of the league and the other was to get to the new ‘Super 8’ series.

Aim number one was delivered in fine style and now Division 1 beckons in the spring of 2019. Aim number two will get underway on Saturday, May 26th with a Connacht semi-final showdown against Leitrim. So how are preparations going and where are Roscommon two weeks out from their championship debut?

  Kevin sat down with Seamus Duke last Thursday evening to provide an update on preparations ahead of Roscommon’s Connacht title defence…

 

You were very disappointed with the outcome of the junior match against Mayo?

Oh I was disappointed. It didn’t work out the way we had hoped at all. It’s a setback if you want it to be that but the reality is that too many of the lads did not perform on the night and my sense is that we have left a provincial title behind us where a lot of young players would have been involved, wearing the Roscommon jersey. We also had a few guys coming back from injury as well who needed game time.

  You have to take your hat off to Mayo: they kept at it and never gave up and they had a bit of luck at the end so I have to admit that we were disappointed because we put a bit into it. Our lads have been together for the last three months or so and there was a lot of experience there but the damning stat is that we had 11 goal chances and we got one. If you miss that many goal chances you will not win. But it is what it is, and we have to move on.

  But the worst thing out of it is that Ultan Harney is out now for a number of weeks and that’s a terrible pity because he was just right after a long injury.

So are you happy with the Roscommon panel a couple of weeks out from the semi-final?

The whole idea about the panel for the championship this year was to get a look at the juniors in a number of games but that’s not an option now. We have to be realistic about it and some lads did not perform against Mayo and there are a number who will have to go back to their clubs now and wait for another year to see if they can come again. I will be sitting down with the selectors over the next couple of days and we will be reducing the panel to 30.

What’s the situation with the U-20s in the senior panel?

We had four players (for the junior game) from the U-20s: James Fetherstone, Ciaran Lennon, Aidan Dowd and Liam Cregg. They are all training with the U-20s since the league ended. The plan is that they stay with the U-20s and we think that is the right thing to do.

Does that mean that Ciaran Lennon will not be playing in the Connacht semi-final?

Yes. Almost certainly he will not be playing. Ciaran’s form has complicated matters to be honest. He played  eight national league games and played well in them all. Even when he came on in the junior game he made a big difference.

So why not pick him for the Connacht semi-final? Surely we have to put out our best team in the senior championship, and he is one of our best senior players?

In fairness to Shane (Curran), if we take three of four of their best players and play them in the Leitrim match how would he feel? The U-20s’ Connacht final is the curtain-raiser to the Connacht senior final and Roscommon could be in that game. If Roscommon are not in that game then the situation is resolved. Look, we will monitor the situation as it evolves. My sense and Shane’s sense is that he should play with the U-20s.

So does Ciaran’s absence mean you are going to have to find a full-forward?

Yes we are but we have a lot of players on the senior panel who should be putting their hand up for that position now. Lads like Enda Smith and Shane Killoran for example and there are two or three more that we could play there as well.

  I have to say that training is going superbly well. The lads couldn’t be doing any more to be honest. We have a few challenge games coming up so we will see who steps up now. Other lads like Cathal Cregg and Conor Daly are also there so we have plenty of options. Niall Daly is out for the Leitrim game and you can’t get too hung up about injuries. It’s part of the job. I am happy that we have about 24 players of an even enough standard at the moment.

Galway and Mayo will play in one of the biggest games in Connacht for many years on Sunday - what’s your view?

It’s a massive game. Galway are the form team but Mayo are an incredible team. This Mayo team are the best team never to win an All-Ireland, that’s for sure. Indeed that story may not be over yet. Every year we think they are gone they come roaring back.

  My sense is that any team who lose their two best players are bound to struggle. Lee Keegan is out and Cillian O’Connor is very doubtful. It is hard to see where they can win it from but this Mayo team have proved that they are so resilient. I must say I can’t wait to go and see it.

  But the great thing about this match is that it is a throwback to the past with a full house of 30,000 at a provincial venue. There is something magical about that. That might happen a bit more this year with the advent of the Super 8 and that’s what I am looking forward to. Those days in MacHale Park and Hyde Park years ago when the place was jammed were very special and I think we might be going back to that which is great.

So you are happy with the way preparations are going - taking into account that poor result for the junior team?

Yeah and we have to gear our training now for the Connacht semi-final and then be spot on for the Connacht final. It’s very simple. We have to win two championship games and then the whole season opens up for us after that. If we can do that and get into the Super 8 then we have had a great season.

You had some interesting things to say about  the problems with finances and running a county team at the top level earlier this year. Has there been any progress on that issue?

The facts are that this county is a monstrous challenge. It’s down to simple mathematics. The amount of money that’s coming in is not enough to cover what’s going out to pay for the game at all levels. I would say Roscommon has the smallest budget of any county in the top two divisions but that’s where we’re at and we have to accept it. We are going into Division 1 next year and hopefully we will have a good summer this year but we simply cannot compete in terms if funding. 

  The whole financial model of the GAA will have to change. Croke Park are committing to change it, but that will be a slow burner and could take ten years. My view would be that if Croke Park want counties to be operating on a level playing field they could, for instance, pay the mileage and catering costs of every county in the country. That would give us the space here in Roscommon to operate without our hands tied behind our back. It would cost the GAA 8 to 10 million euros for the whole country. It would  take people out of the hardship of trying to operate year in year out.

  To be honest I don’t know how they operate in Roscommon. It’s a credit to them. We have a couple of great sponsors but it is very tough. We have 26 players in Dublin. Every time we bring them down the country for a training session it costs €1,000 for taxis alone. Just think about that. Club Rossie are doing a great job but the income is not there and that’s the reality.

Finally, you have said you have a feeling that this will be a huge year for the GAA. What do you make of the changes to competitions?

I do. There is massive change all coming together.  We have the new club calendar which is very controversial as we have seen. We have the new grades at U-17 and U-20. The Super 8 and the round robin hurling are on the way too. We have seen the tight schedule for the league and how it was affected by the weather. This will be a year of firsts in the GAA and they are all coming together like a big wave. I think it could be incredibly exciting.

  In our own game, if the Super 8 falls right in terms of results you could have situation where Roscommon are at home to Mayo or Dublin or Tyrone and that would be incredible. If a team won in Croke Park on match day one and were at home in match day two you could be looking at an All-Ireland semi-final. It’s very exciting. It would be massive if we were involved and that’s the aim. All the changes look very positive but of course it could go the other way too but we have to see how it goes to be honest.

GAA can’t ignore amalgamation nation

 

There was further evidence of the difficulties facing the GAA at all levels this week. Kevin McStay called for the association to provide financial support for transport and catering for all counties at senior level in his interview with Seamus Duke. Meanwhile, Glenamaddy, Williamstown and Glinsk GAA Clubs have been forced to amalgamate at underage level due to a lack of young players in all three areas. Two issues borne of the same fundamental problem: an imbalance when it comes to the funding and development of the GAA (and everything else) in rural Ireland.

  According to McStay, Roscommon has no fewer than 26 players based in Dublin with taxi costs running into the tens of thousands each year. The Primrose and Blue are not alone when it comes to this mass exodus of players to the ‘big smoke’, Stephen Rochford spoke recently about the Mayo contingent who regularly return to Dublin after midnight following midweek training sessions.

  Back to Glenamaddy Community Centre last Monday and new Northern Gaels Secretary, Gabriel Travers, said that the amalgamation of the three local clubs was unavoidable in order to continue to provide competitive football for local players at underage level. There are similar arrangements in both north and south Roscommon where juvenile numbers are decreasing.

  Both of these issues will become more prominent as people from this region are forced to migrate east in search of work while rural clubs and the so-called smaller counties continue to struggle.

  Looking ahead to the inter-county action this summer, the Super 8s is an exciting concept that will hopefully avoid the damp squib the championship has served up in recent years, certainly in terms of a televised spectacle. 

  On the other hand, it could be a death knell for counties that can’t afford to compete with the Dublins, Kerrys and Tyrones of this world. Most pundits can already pick six of the eight counties for this new format. How long before a regular ‘Super 8’ emerges and breaks further away from the rest? And how long before the amalgamation we see at underage level in rural Ireland becomes the norm among the senior ranks?

 

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