Cox a big fan of advanced mark rule
By John Harrington
Roscommon sharp-shooter, Conor Cox, believes the new advanced mark rule will make Gaelic Football a better spectacle for supporters.
Cox, who scored 29 points for Roscommon in last year’s Championship, also reckons it will force players to improve their mastery of two of the core skills of Gaelic Football - kicking and catching.
“I personally think it's a good thing,” says Cox. “I think it will encourage the kick pass, which is good, not just for players but spectators too.
“Teams that like to kick the ball and move the ball quick, it's a better spectacle for people watching it.
“I think it will lead to more entertaining games and more scores. I'd be a big advocate of the kick pass and the mark.”
Cox is a native of Listowel and played seven times for the Kerry senior footballers before deciding to switch his allegiance to Roscommon last year.
His father Martin hails from the Éire Og club in Roscommon, and would have always encouraged his son to declare for the Connacht side.
After a very productive year in the primrose and blue, it’s fair to say that Cox has more than justified his decision to make the switch.
“Yeah, it's mad to think it's a year already,” he said. “In that year I suppose I made some great memories and some great friends too up in Roscommon.
“It's been very enjoyable and I'm looking forward to this year now and a few more years to come hopefully.
“Since I was a minor, maybe 17 or 18, with Kerry, Dad was always in my ear that, 'Oh you know now you can come up to Roscommon', so it's always been there in fairness.
“I just enjoy playing competitive football and when the call came from Anthony (Cunningham) I wanted to grab it with both hands to be honest. I just enjoy playing football and when you're given the opportunity to play inter-county football it just makes it all the more enjoyable.
“But I'm just delighted last year to have actually taken the steps to make it real and I'm really looking forward to it this year and the next few years too hopefully.”
When a former Kerry county footballer declares for Roscommon, he’s always going to arrive in the county with a degree of expectation on his shoulders.
Cox was no different, but no-one was putting him under more pressure than he was himself.
“I suppose at the start of the year everything happened so fast that fitness-wise I probably wasn't where I needed to be,” Cox admits.
“I put a bit of pressure on myself alright to get fit over the course of the few weeks before February before the League kicked off.
“Other than that, we have targets and goals within the group, but, personally, I just enjoy playing football so I loved every match, to be honest.
“In fairness to the lads up there, the players, the management, and the county board themselves, they made it fairly seamless for me.
“They're very friendly and they were very helpful to me with regard to everything so it was fairly seamless.”
Cox was a key figure for Roscommon as they won the Connacht Championship and reached the All-Ireland Quarter-Final series.
Their 18-point defeat to Dublin in Phase 2 of the Quarter-Final was a sobering reminder that they still have a way to go to challenge for an All-Ireland title, but Cox believes the overall experience of playing at that stage of the Championship will stand to them going forward.
“Yeah, we do think he experience of playing those big games will help us,” he said.
“We played Tyrone in the first game of the Super 8s. It was a tight game but experience really showed to Tyrone on the day.
“They've gotten to All-Ireland finals and semi-finals. To improve, you need to be playing in those big games. Definitely, the Super 8s is a good stepping stone to gather that experience.”
Roscommon finished their Championship campaign on a high by defeating Cork down in Pairc Ui Rinn in Phase Three of the quarter-finals, a result that Cox believes he and his team-mates have taken a lot of encouragement from.
“We would have put huge emphasis on that game after the Dublin game," he said.
“In the dressing room after, we parked the result and said that it was really important to get a result against Cork.
“On the day, it was a very tight game but we were lucky enough to get over the line. So, we'll take belief in that this year.
Roscommon begin their 2020 Allianz Football League Division 2 campaign with a match at home to Laois on Sunday.
Under the new two tier championship structure, the teams relegated from Division 2 this year won’t be able to play in the All-Ireland series unless they reach their provincial final.
Roscommon will be most people’s favourites to win promotion from Division Two, but with the stakes as high as they are, Cox admits they can’t afford to take anything for granted.
“It’s a good point,” he said. “Even in Division 2 over the last few years, there could be the kick of a ball between a team getting relegated and a team getting promoted.
“We’re under no illusion the graft that we must put in over the next few weeks to get a few wins on the board.
“Like every other team in the country, we're working hard and trying to improve with every training session and every game we play. That will be no different when we go into Division 2.
“We're under no illusion that all games will be competitive this year. We're playing Laois in the first round and we'll try to get a good performance there, maybe a victory.
“We're under no illusion about how difficult it will be to get points on the board in Division 2.”