Devaney demands Roscommon improvement
By John Harrington
Promotion straight back to Division 1 of the Allianz Football League has been secured, but Roscommon captain Conor Devaney is adamant the reigning Connacht champions still have plenty of room for improvement.
He’s hugely frustrated by the inconsistency of their performances so far this year and not just from match to match, but within games themselves.
He doesn’t think they’ve produced anything like a complete performance yet in a match, and instead only played well in fits and starts.
“If you look at our League campaign this year, although we got promoted, we started off very badly against Meath and Down,” Devaney told GAA.ie.
“And even the games that we won, say, for example, the game against Tipperary, we played poorly for 55 minutes of that game and only played well for 15.
“Luckily that was enough on the day, but it wouldn't be on most days. Looking to the summer we need to be far more consistent from nought to 70 minutes. That's something we need to strive towards.
“We've only clicked for 10 or 15 minute spells in any game. Even last Sunday against Cork it was the same.
“It was the first 10 minutes this time which was slightly different to other games, but it was still only 10 or 15 minutes.
“It's hard to know what that is. Obviously it's happening in each game so it's something we haven't resolved quite yet. But it is something we'll try to work towards during the summer.”
Devaney knows his frustrations are shared by his team-mates.
They’re a maturing group of players who are keen to build on last year’s Connacht Championship rather than bask in its reflected glow.
“I think the team and the panel now, there are a lot of players on it who really demand more of each other, and that's during the game itself,” said Devaney.
“They'd be expecting players to do that and they'll tell them on the pitch. I think that's something that needs to be done and needs to improve if we're to move to the next level.
"We can't always be relying on decisions to made on the sideline to change players up. We have to make decisions ourselves.
“I think that's something we have to develop. We're not there yet.
“We have to try to bridge the gap between ourselves and Mayo, there is a huge gap, obviously looking at last August when we played them, that's something we need to improve on.
“I think everyone can develop that aspect of their game.”
Devaney believes the return to the panel of prodigal sons like Cathal Cregg and Niall, Ronan, and Conor Daly and the coming of age of players like Diarmuid Murtagh, Donie Smith, Enda Smith, Cathal Compton and Ultan Harney has accelerated that development.
Such is the competition in the panel now that players know if they drop their standards at all then they’ll quickly lose their jersey to someone else.
“You need to try to have a bench and a panel that's equally as good as the team and I think that's what we're trying to achieve,” said Devaney.
“Throughout the League I don't think there was any team or panel named that was the same as the previous week.
“So I think that's the idea and that's the way we're trying to improve. I think that will help us, definitely, because that leads to more competition.
“No-one on the team can be sure of where they stand on the panel or even on the team because there's players when we play a 15 on 15 game during the week who are performing well and they tend to get playing at the weekend, and deservedly so.
“Players who came back this year after being out for a couple of years, the panel has definitely got stronger and you can see that in the training.”
The hope would be that this greater strength in depth will prove to be an especially useful asset if Roscommon make the All-Ireland Quarter-Final Round Robin series and matches start coming thick and fast.
“Absolutely,” said Devaney. “There would be three games in a row if we were to get to that and that's where the panel would stand to us.
“That's an aim for us, we want to get to that stage one way or another. And we would like to get to that stage more consistently over the next couple of years.
“I think that's where Roscommon should be aiming towards, getting to the quarter-finals consistently.”
Before the championship really comes into focus there’s the not insignificant matter of an Allianz League Division 2 Final against Cavan to be played this Sunday.
Roscommon have held a real Indian sign over the Breffni County in recent years, but Devaney believes that will count for little.
“I heard a statistic that we've beaten them on eight occasions out of the last nine we've played them,” he said. “It's amazing that's the case because the two teams are similarly matched and it's always a very competitive game.
“Even the League game this year and our final League game last year which was the only game we won in the League, they were both very competitive right until the last couple of minutes.
"It will be the exact same on Sunday, so it could go either way. Both teams are very happy to be promoted and get straight back up to Division 1.
“But the competitive side in us will ensure it'll be a very tight game and we'll both definitely want to win.”