Roscommon confidently marching on
By Cian O'Connell
"It doesn’t get any better," Enda Smith finds the words to illustrate what it means for Roscommon to defeat Mayo and Galway in the Connacht Championship.
"That doesn’t happen to Roscommon players or fans too often - both away from home as well." Unsurprisingly Roscommon celebrated furiously, but they had ample reason to be satisfied.
Trailing by five points at the break Roscommon were resilient and resourceful after the restart. Anthony Cunningham's outfit stayed the distance with Smith acknowledging the importance of remaining focused following a good Galway burst.
"In the history of Connacht finals, we’re normally the ones coming out of the box quick, we set the tone, but we were really flat until half- time," Smith reflected.
"We went back to basics, we weren’t roaring and shouting at half time. Anthony (Cunningham) was very calm, a few lads said a few words, and that was what spurred us on. We knew we had a game plan, but we were forcing the kickpass in that first half and it was bouncing away from us because of the conditions.
"We went back to a running game, more of a patient running game, rather than trying to force it and it paid off."
Suddenly Roscommon are beginning to believe again with Smith adamant that Cunningham has brought a steely resolve. "We said it a few weeks ago, even after the League, that if we were going to the Super 8’s I’d feel a lot more confident than last year," Smith states.
"I just think there’s a different edge about us. We were five points down there against Galway and we came back, in previous years that wouldn’t happen. "I really think there’s confidence in the lads, belief in our training, and the system that we’re trying to implement."
Goalscorer Diarmuid Murtagh shared similar sentiments. The gifted St Faithleach's clubman supplied the match turning major, but Cunningham's approach was the chief topic of conversation. "Anthony’s a class act, whether it’s hurling or football, you know what he brings to the table," Murtagh admits.
"All of his teams are going to go out and work hard and stick to a game plan. He gives players the momentum to go out to express yourself which is huge, he instils a lot of confidence in you as a player.
"When you go onto a pitch as a player knowing that the manager has confidence in you, that’s a huge boost."
Midfielder Tadhg O'Rourke occupied a central role in the success, but he was keen to stress the value of courage and commitment. "You can do as many tactics and set-plays as you want, but a bit of heart came up trumps there," O'Rourke remarked.
"Balls were breaking and they broke in our favour. When you have the boys inside that we do, all they need is a sniff. When they got it, they didn't delay so they didn't."
Next on the agenda for Roscommon is to make an impact in the All Ireland Quarter-Final group phase according to O'Rourke. "Yes, we are not going to the Super 8s to play three games of high competitiveness and then walk away," O'Rourke responds.
"We are going to the Super 8s to get to the next round. Last year is going to stand to us, some big experiences last year, we'll enjoy a bit of downtime in the next day or two, and then we'll concentrate on Super 8s.
"I think at this stage, we have shown we are able to compete with the top teams. It is just consistency that we are striving to get. That is exactly what we will get now in the Super 8s, three massive games, where we can just try to consistently compete."