Diarmuid Murtagh: 'There is certainly a lot to build on'
By Cian O’Connell
For much of the past decade Roscommon have traded on promise, but the time to deliver is arriving.
With capable and talented footballers manufactured through sheer hard graft, the classy Diarmuid Murtagh is the perfect illustration of what can be achieved.
Injuries disrupted the early part of Murtagh’s senior career, but the St Faithleach’s clubman is delighted to embrace responsibility for Roscommon.
Since 2007, Roscommon have contested nine Connacht Under 21 Finals winning four, but valuable lessons were learned last year at the highest level.
Roscommon returned to the western summit subsequently losing an All Ireland SFC Quarter-Final against Mayo.
Murtagh remains adamant that there is further scope for improvement. “Exactly, I know the second day went very wrong, but I suppose it was an eye opener for us,” Murtagh admits.
“We realise how much of an effort we have to put in to get that level where the Mayos, Kerrys, Dublins, and Tyrones are at. It was a kick in the backside in a sense for us coming into this year.
“If we lost to Mayo by a point the first day it might have been a false sense of hope to where we are actually at. So you can learn a lot from that.
“Obviously we have a lot of lads back in the panel; they are driving it on. There is certainly a lot to build on, but you never really know where you are until you play these competitive League games and Championship games.”
While there is a fairly youthful cut to the Roscommon panel, Murtagh acknowledges that significant experience has been acquired.
“I suppose for a young team consistency can always be the problem,” Murtagh adds. “As you said we are actually an experienced young team because a lot of us have been playing for the last three or four years.
“A lot of us are probably sick of hearing that we are only a young team. You can only be young for so long, you can't be young every year you are playing. It is time we did put a bit of consistency into our performances.
“Without consistency you aren't going to build the way you want to. That is certainly important for us going forward in the season coming.”
Roscommon’s mission under Kevin McStay is to be competitive against the most formidable outfits in the country such as Mayo and Dublin.
That is Roscommon’s intended destination, to be a seriously respected force. “I suppose the teams you named, probably one of the key factors why we aren't there is the inconsistency,” Murtagh accepts.
“If you look at Galway after beating Mayo the last two years in a row, they would have really wanted to have push on after that. Then you'd have the likes of Meath, who are trying to close the gap on Dublin.
“Of course you play football to try to be the best, you are always striving to try to get better each day. You are always trying to get to where the best teams are at. Obviously the likes of Mayo have been in a lot of All Ireland Semi-Finals and Finals ahead of us and Galway.
“The same with Dublin with Meath. It is all about Championship and we are really trying to get to the latter end of the Championship. That is when you really learn where you are at.”
So 2018 brings intrigue with the new summer format and Murtagh agrees that reaching the last eight carries extra weight.
“You hit the nail on the head,” Murtagh replies. “We look at getting into the Super 8s as being as competitive in a provincial final because if you are getting three games you are basically playing three All Ireland Quarter-Finals.
“I know how important the two All Ireland Quarter-Finals were to us last year, but if you are playing in Croke Park against one of the top teams, then playing away against a top team and then playing at home against a top team.
“That can only benefit you and if results go your way you can get into a semi-final which would be massive, massive for a team trying to make breakthrough.”
Before then Murtagh will be busy with the Allianz Football League, while also completing his Primary Teaching degree in St Patrick’s, Drumcondra.
One more Teaching Practice will be completed soon. “I'm on placement this semester coming in three or four weeks,” Murtagh states.
“I'm looking forward to it. You learn a lot on your Teaching Practice, you know what you are getting yourself into for the future. I'm enjoying it now, I like the course.
“It can be tough, there is a lot of paperwork that goes with the practice. It can be stressful enough in the evenings, but as a footballer you learn to be organised and to have your priorities straight.
"I don't think there will be a problem and the management are very understanding so I don't think it will be an issue.”
Sunday’s Division Two opener against Meath promises to be a revealing contest according to Murtagh. “Meath have been in Division Two for a few years and they are a team under Andy McEntee that will want to get promoted this year,” Murtagh says.
“They have been very close for the past few years. When we played them a couple of years ago to get into Division One they probably should have beaten us.
“We know what we are up against. Obviously everyone is going to target the first League game or two. A lot of the teams look at the first two games as a block together and they are very important going forward.”
Murtagh and Roscommon are ready for road again.