McDermott enjoyed interesting Roscommon journey
By Cian O'Connell
As another inter-county campaign commences Roscommon must start to plan without the totemic figure of Seanie McDermott, who announced his retirement on Sunday.
McDermott walked away from primrose and blue duty with the minimum of fuss and fanfare, but the Western Gaels clubman will always be fondly remembered for his attitude and application.
Now further time and attention can be centred on his burgeoning barbershop ‘Seanie Macs’ in Ballaghdereen. “There is no doubt about it that it was a tough decision,” McDermott, who made his Roscommon debut in 2005, admits.
“It is like everything, life moves on, you come to a stage in your life and it was just the right time for me to call it a day. A new management team is going in with Anthony (Cunningham), Iain Daly, and Mark Dowd. They are looking to the future now too, it was the right thing to do, to let them move on, to try to build a really strong team with Roscommon which I know they will do.
“For me personally it was just the right time, it will be tough because it has been my life. There is still any amount of football with my club Western Gaels and I have other things on the horizon. It was just the right time.”
New Roscommon manager Cunningham had been in contact, but McDermott resisted the temptation to play for one more year at the highest level.
“At the end of the day I'm 34, I will be 35 in April, I know the body is good and all of that,” McDermott states. “The other side of it is that Anthony did ring me a few times to see if I would go back in with Roscommon, but he is going to be there for three years, he needs to move on.
“Realistically I told Anthony I'm not going to be around in three years time, it was just the right thing and the right time to do it.”
During his 14 years of service with Roscommon McDermott experienced the full gamut of emotions, playing in all four Allianz Football League Divisions. Highs and lows were encountered, but there was a sense of satisfaction to be representing the county. It mattered deeply to McDermott.
“That is true, when I started playing with Roscommon, when I got my debut in 2005 I didn't really know any different,” McDermott recalls. “I was coming into the Roscommon team when I was just delighted to be making my debut at the time. I didn't really realise the difference in standard or anything like that at the time. It progressed from there, ‘05, ‘06, ‘07 they were tough years. No more than now there was a big turnover of player in Roscommon at that time.
“I came on to the scene playing with Francie Grehan, Frankie Dolan, Shane Curran, players like that were at the pinnacle of their careers, Nigel Dineen, lads like that. They moved on then very, very quickly. John Maughan came in and it was a very, very young team and we suffered because of that for a few years.
“We had a lot of players gone that maybe should have still been playing. That is just the way it was, we had a very young team in Roscommon for a few years. We were battling, getting a lot of harsh beatings, but we were still holding our own in Division Three.”
The Connacht title gleaned in 2010 when Roscommon defeated a fancied Sligo outfit at Elverys MacHale Park in Castlebar was a pivotal moment according to McDermott.
“As the years went on after seeing a lot of different managers Fergal O'Donnell came in ‘09 and rescued Roscommon football in my eyes. He really brought us back to where Roscommon felt they could be competitive. John Evans came in then and brought it on further. John's work was instrumental for Roscommon football.
“There is no doubt about it, in my opinion very seldom do you see a team winning a provincial title playing in Division Three. We were lucky, the year we won the Connacht title in 2010 we actually got relegated to Division Four that year which was nearly unheard of.”
Roscommon were primed for that encounter against Sligo, who had already beaten Mayo and Galway en route to the provincial showpiece.
“That was exactly it, Sligo nearly had all of the hard work done really,” McDermott remarks. “I wouldn't say they took us for granted, but they probably didn't expect us to be as good as we were. We knew that year deep down that we had an awful lot of good players. Donie Shine was on fire that year, Cathal Cregg, Peter Domican, we had players going so well, Geoffrey Claffey was in goals.
“It just happened to be that we produced a great game that day. It was funny enough we got beaten in the quarter-final by the All Ireland winners Cork. We actually took the lead with 15 minutes to go, Michael Finneran kicked a score.
“I'll never forget Cork unleashed the bench, they brought in Nicholas Murphy, (Paudie) Kissane, (John) Miskella, a few players like that and we probably didn't have the depth at that time. That is when it really started for Roscommon I felt.”
At underage level Roscommon were highly competitive, particularly at underage level, and McDermott believed that something was stirring once more.
“You notice it, I always felt there was an awful lot of talent in Roscommon,” McDermott comments. “Even if you go through the club scene in Roscommon and the calibre of footballers here. There is quality, it was just to get it right, and to keep lads injury free and get them to commit at the one time.
“You need an awful lot of ingredients going for you for everything to come right. We did very well with John in the League, we didn't do that well in the Championship, we were maybe unlucky in ‘14.
“We had Mayo by the pin of the collar in Hyde Park, Ciaran Cafferkey got a goal that day, Andy Moran came on to get a point or two to get Mayo over the line. Only for that we could have won a Connacht title that year.
“In ‘16 after getting promotion when Fergal and Kevin (McStay) took over I felt that was our time. I thought in ‘16 we had a terrific panel, that it was really coming together. We won the Connacht title in ‘17 when nobody expected us to win it so football is funny.
McDermott, though, had learned that was simply the way it went so enjoying the journey was the main aspect since emerging with IT Sligo in the Sigerson Cup.
“Absolutely, no doubt about it, I enjoyed it and I still love it. I suppose it is like anything, lads playing inter-county all have a competitive edge, when you have a competitive edge you just want to play sport. I really, really enjoyed it, playing football for Roscommon.
“I met some great lads along the way, made some great friendships, even the time in IT Sligo where it really kicked off. I played county minor, but it was really there where it showed me the level you had to get to. We had some great teams and we had great success.”
Two Sigerson Cup medals were earned alongside some marquee Gaelic Football names. “It was a funny one in 2004 it was nearly a different team to 2005,” McDermott remembers. In ‘04 we had Kevin Cassidy, Pat Harte, Brian Maloney, Michael Moyles, Pat Kelly, Paul Durcan, the two McGees, Nicky Joyce, Paul Finlay.
“The following year a lot of them lads were away, they had finished in college so you had the likes of Karl Lacey, Andy Moran, Alan Costello, Michael Doherty, Keith Higgins. It was great at the time.”
McDermott showed that he was ready, willing, and able to deliver in high stakes battles and that is what he wants to do for Western Gaels in the coming years.
“The goal now is to get back to the club, in Western Gaels we are really pushing to win a senior title,” McDermott says.
“We have never done it in the history of the club. That is the goal now for me, to knuckle down and we might be able to get across the line to win the Fahey Cup with Western Gaels. If I did that I would be very happy with the end of my career, no doubt.”
The desire to earn medals continues, but McDermott leaves the Roscommon stage with a vivid collection of memories.