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New Year, New Era!

  • Written by Seamus Duke
  • Published in Sport
Featured New Roscommon manager, Anthony Cunningham. New Roscommon manager, Anthony Cunningham.




Cautious Cunningham takes the reins



This Sunday Roscommon footballers begin a new era when they play their first competitive game under new manager Anthony Cunningham. The Rossies face Sligo at Dr. Hyde Park in the FBD League. Last Sunday the new team boss sat down with the local media and discussed a number of issues which included what players are available to the panel, their preparations for the new season, ambitions for Division One of the National League and general expectations for the years ahead.


On pre-season preparations…

I don’t want to get into individual names of lads that are in or out but we have a league training panel. We have worked really hard since we started training and we would be very happy with the attitude and application of the players.

  Overall, it’s development work that we are involved with and Roscommon supporters will hopefully understand that. That type of work can take a long time but we are very happy with where we are. We have talked a lot about where we are going, we have done trials, we have got guys training and finalised a panel.

  I am very happy with the way the players have reacted and I am happy with my management team. I have two excellent coaches in Iain Daly and Mark Dowd who are excellent people but it’s the same for every other county and the standard is very high as we know. We are keeping our heads down and working hard at the moment.


Ins and outs…

In terms of players coming in, we have Sean Mullooly back and there are also a number of young development players who have come onto the panel and will train with us. Darren O’Malley is back in contention for a goalie’s position as is John Brian Carthy (RTE’s Brian Carthy’s son). We also have Conor Cox who has come from Kerry and will be plying his trade with Roscommon now. 

  With regard to the players who have left the panel, the perogative for any lad who wants to play football for his club or county lies with that individual. People sometimes get carried away with this aspect of Gaelic football but this is down to the individual themselves. If someone opts out and makes a career choice and cannot commit to the seven days a week that is now required if you are a county player then that’s their decision. The door is always open for them to return at any stage in the future.

  We have some lads who opted out because they are travelling, others because of exams or work commitments, we have some injuries too. Niall McInerney is doing his finals and cannot commit, Ciaráin Murtagh is going travelling, John McManus is developing his career and couldn’t commit while Cathal Compton is also travelling.


Shaping the team…

That’s something that we are always working on but I have to acknowledge that there has been tremendous work going on over the past few years in that regard. To get the defensive set-up right has to be the backbone of any team regardless of where you are playing. It’s a work in progress and that’s what the pre-season tournaments are for and we will be trying out as many combinations as we can but there is always trial and error involved.


First game in charge…

The likes of the FBD League and National League are used by most teams as a bedding-in ground for the year ahead but there is tough competition all along the way.

  Sligo are under a new manager and they will be gunning for Roscommon on Sunday but it will be a learning experience for us and that is the big aspect of it.

  The big focus for this panel is development. We will give players exposure and hopefully they will come through the tests ahead and the hope is that they will develop as serious inter-county footballers in time.


Style of play…

Over the past few years Roscommon were a very entertaining team to watch but they may not have been as defensive as they should have been when it came to the big day. Strength and conditioning is a big part of that equation and there are still a lot of young players on the Roscommon panel and it takes time…but we will be focussing on that and we will continue to focus on that. You have to do that (strength and conditioning work) to be able to compete physically.


The proposed new rules…

We have been practising the new rules at training and although there is a doubt about them (coming in) for the league they will probably stick with them.

  The three hand pass rule has limitations. It stops the flow of the game in terms of attacking and it takes a bit of getting used to. However, the mark is something that people might like in time. The black card rule (10 minutes in the sin bin) is good. It’s unfair to see a player off the pitch for a whole game for a clumsy tackle. There are benefits but I don’t think the three hand pass rule will stand the test of time.


Life in Division One…

We have the desire, ambition and drive to do well in Division One. There is no point in being involved as a player, selector or manager if you don’t want to play at the very top level. There will be difficult days and we realise that. The competition is really high but we are really looking forward to the campaign. We have to take it one game at a time and we will be trying to win our next game and that’s the way it has to be.

  We are not looking any further than Sunday’s game against Sligo and the league opener against Mayo. We want to compete at the highest level so we want to stay in the division.


Managing expectations…

Expectations are only a problem if you let them affect you. Part of the training of a team means that you have to blank out totally what’s said externally. I would hope that Roscommon people would realise that this is still a young team and it will take time to adjust to Division One football. We would be hoping that playing in that division will help them in the championship. Developing players is not an exact science; it may happen quickly or it may take time but supporters will simply have to have patience.


So far, so good…

I am very happy with the work we have done since we started training in early December. It’s all systems go for the season but we are in a development mode and we have to be patient and realistic.


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