Flashback: 2010 Connacht SFC Final - Roscommon v Sligo
By Cian O’Connell
Relishing the underdogs tag in Connacht finals, Roscommon were most certainly primed for the 2010 provincial showpiece.
Sligo, buoyed up following victories over the aristocrats of the western game, Mayo and Galway, entered MacHale Park armed with confidence and momentum.
Roscommon had been relegated from Division Three of the Allianz Football League following a difficult spring. Despite the setback, hope was still a companion.
There was no disguising the fact that expectation did accompany several of the 2006 All Ireland minor winning crop so Stephen Ormsby felt possibilities existed in Castlebar.
“I think to be fair to Fergal O'Donnell and his management they had us well prepared for that game,” Ormsby says a decade later.
“To be perfectly honest I was very confident going into MacHale Park that day, that we would get the win. As a group we were confident that we would get the win in the game too.
“We knew Sligo were a good side, but we also knew that there would be huge pressure on them. Pressure on them that a county like Sligo wouldn't be used to in terms of being overwhelming favourites in a Connacht final.”
Keen to make an impact at the outset, Roscommon were satisfied with how the match unfolded. “We knew that if we could put the pressure on and we did, we got a good start early on,” Ormsby admits.
“We got a few points of a lead and that really helped us. It helped us settle into the game. From there then Sligo were really under pressure. The start was crucial. Again we got a couple of key match-ups right on the day.
“Seanie Mac did a great job on David Kelly, and Seanie Purcell did a brilliant man marking job on Mark Breheny at the time, two lads who had brilliant games against Galway and Mayo.
“They were really flying it at the time. Michael Finneran and Karol Mannion were brilliant at midfield and of course Donie (Shine) shot the lights out up front. We got a lot right on the day, it all came together nicely for us.”
It was an interesting time for Roscommon. Following the minor triumph four years previously, the county was loaded with optimism that they could be serious competitors in Connacht again. Between 2006 and 2010, though, several harrowing losses were suffered.
“Absolutely, it definitely didn't happen overnight,” Ormsby admits. “That year we actually got relegated from Division Three of the National League, Sligo beat us very well in the last game in Markievicz Park that year. It just hadn't gone well for us.
“We were a young side, a few of us had been involved on the minor team and we were still carrying a bit of belief that we could compete.
“Then we had a group of older guys, the likes of Karol Mannion, very experienced, Michael Finneran at midfield, David Casey, he was a huge boost, he came back to get himself fit for the Championship. He was outstanding in that Connacht final and against Leitrim too.
“Those experienced guys were a huge help in pulling us through. It just all came together around the Championship time, you couldn't explain it. Fergal was a great man, he did the same for us at minor too.
“Somehow he gave us belief that you could do things when there was no logic to why you would believe that you could do it. He just had that ability to instil a belief in you that you could win.”
O’Donnell kept Roscommon’s players believing, and that was critical according to Ormsby. “We probably owe everything to him, a lot of us,” Ormsby states.
“Anything I ever won, that Connacht final in 2010 and the minor in 2006, he was the man at the helm. I would have had no success without him.
“His backroom team were the same all the way through - Stephen Bohan, Deccie Hoare, Mark Dowd, Iain Daly, he had a good few there that were top notch fellas. Without them guys I'd have had no success as a player for Roscommon.”
The primrose and blue flag hadn’t been placed on the summit of Connacht football since 2001, but the development of O’Donnell’s minor team led to glory again in 2010.
Ormsby is also adamant that the 2006 success against Kerry at Cusack Park in Ennis was vital for the generation which followed.
“I think it was,” Ormsby replies when asked about the minors exploits offering a springboard for the future.
“As much as the players we got off that minor team, the biggest thing was that it maybe gave the next generation of young Roscommon players that they could compete and beat Mayo, Galway, Kerry - all of the top teams.
“I think you could see that in the results that followed for Roscommon at minor and Under 21 level, in particular, in the next 10 years after our minor win.
"Look at our senior team now where we are in a good period at the minute for Roscommon. This is success for Roscommon.
“We have been in quarter-finals, the Super 8s for the last two years. We were in a quarter-final against Mayo in 2017. In the last three years we have made the quarter-finals of the All Ireland, previous to that we had only made the quarter-finals three times, 2001, 2003, and 2010.
“So we are living in a golden era for Roscommon at the moment. We are a smaller county, whether you win an All Ireland - that is your aim obviously - but whether that happens and it is getting harder year on year, everyone can see that.
“I think all the success we are getting at senior level at the minute is off the 10 to 15 years of really successful underage work.”
Ormsby was part of that crop when O’Donnell got Roscommon feeling good about themselves again. A solid foundation had been established.