In his third year in charge, Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham has been around long enough to know that the pressure is really on now. Roscommon’s league performances have veered from reasonable against Dublin and Kerry, to poor against Galway and Armagh, and he knows that a knockout game against Galway in the championship can make or break the season for his charges.
A win against his native county on Sunday will make up for a lot of the disappointment after relegation to Division Two was confirmed following that nine-point beating by Armagh. A loss would mean it will be February 2022 before the team takes to the field again.
Cunningham told People Sport that the mood in the camp is upbeat despite the poor league campaign.
“We were all disappointed after the Armagh game, and the players knew that they didn’t play well enough after a good start. They are determined to get it right on Sunday. They are very motivated to do well and to put that performance behind them. The time for licking our wounds and preparing for this big championship game has been very short but there is a good buzz in the squad and the lads have been training hard,” he said.
Anthony says that Roscommon’s tendency this year to play well only in patches in big games is something they will have to eradicate: “We will have to concentrate for the whole 75 or 80 minutes on Sunday. We were excellent in the first quarter against Armagh, but faded after that, and we have to ensure that doesn’t happen again. That certainly won’t be good enough on Sunday”.
The Roscommon manager says that the team’s poor display against Mayo in last year’s championship is something that they are especially determined to put right on Sunday.
“In the championship, every ball is treated like the last ball in the game. Playing in spurts will not be good enough on Sunday. We were very disappointed that we didn’t perform in the championship last year against Mayo and we want to right that wrong,” he said.
Anthony knows what to expect from Galway on Sunday because Galway themselves will be under pressure to perform.
“This will be a very intense match. We will be concentrating on our own game, and Galway can look after their own camp, but we expect a fierce battle. There is never much between the two teams, and that will be the case on Sunday as well. Galway are a good side. They lost to Monaghan in the league relegation play-off there recently, but that’s a game they should have won. They have plenty of very good players and we are well aware of that,” he added.
In terms of injuries, Roscommon have a fairly clean bill of health.
“Ronan Daly is recovering from his injury and we hope he can play some part. Ultan Harney is back and playing well and that’s a bonus too so we are not too bad in terms of injuries. We won’t be picking our starting fifteen until the end of the week,” Cunningham said.
Playing at Dr. Hyde Park is an advantage says Anthony, despite the fact that there will be a very small crowd there (1,050): “We are glad to have the game at home. I always said that we want to use Dr. Hyde Park as a fortress and do not want to lose matches there, and this is a game we want to win at all costs. The early start doesn’t make any difference at all. It just pushes our match day preparations forward a few hours.
“There has never been much between these two teams. Galway will be coming here to win and we will have to match their intensity and play flat out for the whole game. Starting well and fading out after that will simply not be good enough and we know we will have give it everything for the entire game if we want to win it. We are certainly good enough to win it”, he concluded.