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The Roscommon footballers are chasing a football league semi-final place.
The Roscommon footballers are chasing a football league semi-final place.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Roscommon's stunning rise, McStay creating a buzz and Mayo's relegation fears

There’s two big Roscommon-Mayo games coming down the tracks.
Mar 25th 2016, 6:15 AM 7,122 10

SUNDAY’S CLASH OF Roscommon and Mayo holds huge significance.

It may be a league game but it’s a huge battle between a Connacht team on the rise (Roscommon) against the established force in the province (Mayo).

Roscommon are within touching distance of a semi-final place after a campaign where they began with the humble ambition of retaining their Division 1 status.

Mayo, under new management, have endured a tough spring and the fear of relegation is closing.

The counties also clash in the upcoming EirGrid Connacht U21 final on 2 April and their football collisions should ensure a cracking atmosphere in Dr Hyde Park on Sunday.

Ultan Harney, a senior and U21 player with Roscommon, assesses the current state of the county’s football teams:

1. Competition in the Roscommon squad…

“The way Roscommon are at the moment, we’re going well and you didn’t want to miss a session with the seniors.

“It’s dog eat dog in training, playing training matches is harder than any other match.

“It’s a different level at the moment and if you miss a session you’re back in the pecking order.”

2. Step up since 2015…

“In fairness to John Evans last year you couldn’t fault training but this year we are doing a lot more physical work.

“You see the Dublin’s, Kerry’s, Mayo’s, Donegal’s, their intensity levels are up at a higher level.

“We knew going into the year that the level we’ve been at the last 10-15 years wasn’t enough to be competing.

“We decided we needed to get an advantage somewhere so we decided it was physically wise, fitness, strength, pushing ourselves to the best we can be.

“Try to get our experience and try get ourselves standing on our own two feet.”

EirGrid GAA U21 Provincial Finals Media Event Roscommon's Ultan Harney (left) with Mayo's Brian Reape at yesterday's EirGrid U21 football media event Source: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

3. This year’s league progress…

“I always felt for the last year or two, and last year when I was involved, we have the players.

“From playing and against lads at minor the last couple of years I couldn’t see how other teams could be so much better than us.

“I was thinking that we just need to get it together. I suppose we were hoping just to stay up and fight but we didn’t see it panning out the way we are now, sitting second in the table.

“Then again I’m not surprised in a way, I know we’re capable of being where we are.”

4. Kevin McStay’s Mayo links…

“The Roscommon people and those in media are bringing that up but he hasn’t mentioned it at all. He’s created a great buzz.

“The support at all the games – Kerry and Cork – Ros’ supporters outnumbered the home supporters which was great to see.”

Fergal O'Donnell and Kevin McStay Roscommon management duo Fergal O'Donnell and Kevin McStay Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

5. The Mayo-Roscommon football relationship…

“The last two times we played them we beat them in the FBD league but that doesn’t really matter. We beat them in the FBD last year and we were gone by July while they could have won the All-Ireland.

“But this game would make a bit of statement, I think. If both teams were safe it might have no significance but the fact that Mayo are fighting for survival means they will come with everything and it will be a big test.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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