Roscommon manager Kevin McStay James Crombie/INPHO

Army cadet McStay found out he was starting a Connacht final from the barber cutting his hair

Roscommon boss Kevin McStay recalls the 1983 Connacht decider with Mayo.

KEVIN MCSTAY IS no stranger to Connacht senior football finals against Galway.

But when the Roscommon boss found out that he was going to first sample a western decider during his playing days with Mayo back in 1983, the circumstances were strikingly novel.

“That is a very interesting Connacht Final for me,” recalls McStay.

“I had never trained with Mayo, I’d never played with Mayo. I knew nobody in Mayo football. The first senior game I played for Mayo was a Connacht Final.

“I had never met them, I was a cadet in the army. I was getting my haircut one night and the barber said ‘one of your fellas is playing for Mayo, it is on the back of the Evening Press’.

“It was me, it was a huge surprise to me. Maybe on the Friday night somebody rang to see if I could get released for the Final.

“I had never met them, imagine that happening now?”

McStay had forged a reputation that year on the Mayo team that won the All-Ireland U21 football title. He suffered defeat against Galway in that maiden Connacht senior final and would learn plenty about suffering senior heartbreak at the hands of Galway.

“Then I came out in ’84, lost to Galway. In ’87 I lost to Galway. These are all finals. Then in 1990 my last game ever I lost to Galway in that too.

“I won two Connacht medals, ’85 and ’89. I would have won a lot more if Galway had fecked off.

“In 1989 after a draw, we had them bet above in Tuam, but they got a goal in the last second. We won the replay.”

“I broke a leg in ’88 and in ’90 so that was it.”

Kevin McStay 1989 Kevin McStay in action for Mayo in 1989 James Meehan / INPHO James Meehan / INPHO / INPHO

The recollection of those games is the proof that for McStay, Galway’s win in Castlebar last month was not a seismic shock. Tradition count in his eyes and Galway are a Connacht powerhouse.

The upshot of their success is that McStay does not have to face his native county. He made no secret of declaring his desire to land the Mayo job at the end of 2013 but he’s stored away any pain at being overlooked for that role.

“We’d moved on from that a long time. What happened, happened. If we were going to be playing Mayo, Liam (McHale) and I wouldn’t be out front.

“We planned it that way. There was no way I was going to let it turn into a circus about Liam and myself. I can assure you of that. It’s not about that. It’s about a big prize for Roscommon.

Kevin McStay Kevin McStay (left) with Roscommon coach Liam McHale James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“My business is winning a Connacht championship with a county that I’ve been very privileged to manage. They gave me a chance when I thought I wouldn’t manage at this level. I’m really happy where I am.

“Fergal (O’Donnell) is a sound fella, he knows his stuff, he’s in it for the right reasons. I’m very happy to work with him. We’ve a really good backroom setup, we’re really comfortable with each other.

“(We’ve) a big group of players, very comfortable with the group we have. (We’re) definitely we’re moving in the right direction. (A) Connacht final accelerates all this for us now.”

Standing on the sideline for a Connacht final is a vastly different experience for McStay from sitting in the pundit chair on The Sunday Game in recent seasons.

“At the end of it, I’d enough of it. I just find the whole analysts talking about what the analysts said on Sunday, the whole social media side of it, you say the wrong stat or get the wrong name of somebody, it’s an issue.

“I don’t miss it personally. I just find it was getting harder and harder, players don’t want any criticism, managers don’t want any criticism.”

Tomas O’Se, Kevin McStay, RTE’s Marty Morrissey and Padraic Joyce with Sam Maguire Kevin McStay (second left) at the 2015 RTÉ Sunday Game launch James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Contesting a provincial final brings its own pressures.

“Expectation is what happens when you are a Division 1 team,” reasons McStay.

“You guys are probably the kings of it. You draw straight lines – not all of you – but supporters and maybe the players to a certain degree.

” ‘We’re Division 1 and they’re Division 3 and that’s that result sorted’. ‘We’re Division 1 and they’re Division 2, ah well that’s that done and that’s nice’. ‘And sure New York are useless and that’s grand, and sure now into the Connacht final’.

“Next thing Sligo popped up and they gave us a good game. It’s hard to know exactly where we are. I think we’re not bad, I think we’re in a reasonable position to take on Galway.

“I really do, but we need to get 70 minutes. We are just so patchy at the minute. Certainly it would push on this Roscommon team 12 months, if we go to Croke Park as Connacht champions.

“That would be fantastic for this group.”

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