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Roscommon rally troops after New York scare

A team fancied by so many to go all the way in the Connacht Championship were nearly grounded from the get-go in the Bronx.

Roscommon won by just a point in the Bronx.
Roscommon won by just a point in the Bronx.
Image: Ed Mulholland

Updated at 1.08

Joe Callaghan reports from New York City

ROSCOMMON LEFT NEW York stunned and sore on Monday afternoon. They were still standing, but barely so after a one-point victory over a valiant New York side at Gaelic Park in the opener of this year’s All-Ireland football championship on Sunday.

A team fancied by so many to go all the way in the Connacht Championship were nearly grounded from the get-go in the Bronx and joint managers Fergal O’Donnell and Kevin McStay cut very frustrated figures afterwards.

With a relatively short turnaround before they’re back in action against Leitrim in a provincial quarter-final, the Roscommon brains trust admitted there is a lot of quick fixes to be found after a 1-15 to 0-17 victory that felt particularly hollow.

“This day three weeks we’re down in Carrick on Shannon. If we play like that, then we’re out of the Championship, there’s no question about that,” said McStay afterwards. “Leitrim will put up a bigger show and beat us. My hope is that we can turn this around but there’s a hell of a lot of work to do.”

On the back of a really impressive National League Division One campaign highlighted by road victories in Cork and Kerry, Roscommon fans had travelled to New York in huge numbers, well over 1500 making the pilgrimage to Gaelic Park.

McStay felt the added expectations may have weighed heavy on his side, which featured five Championship new boys, all recent graduates from the county’s U21 team. The after-effects of the comprehensive defeat to Kerry in the league semi-final could be lingering too.

“We wanted to perform out here and we didn’t. We had a huge crowd out here with us, we had built up to it well after the league [campaign],” he said. “Maybe the defeat to Kerry has stayed in our bones here. We got rattled a bit and we haven’t been able to get out of it. There’s just so many questions.”

McStay was speaking having just exited the home team dressing-room at Gaelic Park, where the defeated side were left to battle mixed emotions having come so close to history only to be left feeling so far removed from the summer action again. However the opposition manager insisted they should feel nothing but pride in defeat.

“They know that they really did give a massive performance,” said McStay. “The trick now for them would be of course to build on it, because this has happened before, where they nearly beat Galway and the next year turned around and got beaten by 24 points.

“I know there’s a big turnover but there’s a lot of names and faces that we recognised having scouted them from last year. So [to retain those players] is the challenge for them but with respect we can only be thinking about ourselves this evening.

“We’re just so thankful to be getting out of this ground with a win and still be in the Championship. If there is one small positive today it’s that we simply have to focus all over again. It’s a massive wake-up call.”

For their part, the ex-pats were confident that this will not be another false Bronx dawn. With Leitrim slated to come calling next year, the target of a first-ever Championship win is firmly set for manager Justin O’Halloran.

“These guys are all going to be around here for another two or three years,” he said of a side led gallantly on Sunday by the likes of Brian Connor and goalkeeper Vinny Cadden, former inter country players with Offaly and Sligo respectively.

“We’ll even get more help, more players will want to come on board after a result like that. It’s a tough pill to swallow that we have nothing to build on right away. When you develop that bond with a team and that bond is tight with all the boys, then they pull away for six or eight months. It’s tough.”

O’Halloran pointed to his side’s relentless energy as being so key in the near miss. While so often New York teams have faded when the going got tough, this time they stood strong.

“I’ll be honest, I think we didn’t let them play like they wanted to play,” he added. “They probably weren’t as used to being in a situation like that, maybe took us for granted a little bit. But look, they’re a Division One team. They have that quality. I have no doubt they can pick it back up and be in and around that Connacht final.”

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Joe Callaghan

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