By Declan Rooney
Roscommon’s Conor Devaney thinks his side have no hope of claiming a second Connacht title in three years if they deliver a repeat of the performance they produced against Mayo, in Galway on Sunday.
Galway and Roscommon have competed in the last three Connacht finals, with Kevin Walsh’s side winning twice – once after a replay in 2016 – while Roscommon won out in 2017 at Pearse Stadium.
A first win against Mayo at MacHale Park in 33 years ensured another Connacht final appearance for Roscommon, but despite a one-point win over Mayo, Devaney (31) knows that shoddy performance won’t deliver the win against Galway.
As Mayo accumulated 15 wides, goals from Cathal Cregg and Fintan Cregg saw Roscommon claim an unlikely victory, but according to Devaney having plenty of improvements to make has focused the minds in the last fortnight.
“I don't know if the cat is out of the bag because we didn't play very well against Mayo,” said Devaney.
“It was pointed out to us, not alone with our own analysis, but on TV and elsewhere in the media that Mayo dominated the game in terms of every statistic possible really – bar the scoreboard. It was a lucky break in the end that we won.
“Kevin McLoughlin would normally score those; I've never seen him miss a free from there. You can only say that was luck. Yes there was lots of hard work on our behalf, but when it came to winning the game at the very end (we were lucky).
“We can't do things like we did the last day in the Connacht final. Kick-outs were poor, our shooting was poor at times, breaking ball was poor. There were a lot of things where Mayo were just far better than us. We were lucky enough to win on the day, but it won't be enough for back to back, to win two big games in a row, certainly not.”
The Kilbride man was part of the 2017 side that ended the season as provincial champions and after missing out on the county’s previous win in 2010 due to a spell in America, victory was made all the sweeter for last year’s captain.
Twelve months ago it seemed as if Devaney would get the chance to lift the Nestor Cup himself after his penalty in the final helped Roscommon into the lead with time running out, but Galway kicked on to finish with a flourish.
“I think we were in control of the game for large parts, especially the first-half. If we had taken some chances at the beginning of the second-half...I know I kicked a wide, Fintan kicked a wide, a few other players, we had four or five wides in a row.
“Really that was the losing of the game, we can't afford to do that again. I don't see us being in control of the game for as long a period because Galway have improved as well. It is going to be difficult, but it was disappointing last year because you are thinking half-way through the game that it was possible to win the game then coming out losing the game.
“Even with five or six minutes to go after the penalty we might have been level or a point up it was disappointing, but when we look back at the game it was a deserved win for Galway because we weren't as good as Galway overall.”
Even since that game there has been huge change and upheaval in Roscommon football. Despite getting to the inaugural Super 8s, their season was totally deflated by three heavy defeats at that stage.
Manager Kevin McStay stepped down and was replaced by former Galway hurling boss, Anthony Cunningham. Only three of last year’s Connacht final team started against Mayo on 25 May this year, but under Cunningham there is a steeliness to Roscommon. In the third meeting of the teams this year, Devaney expects sparks to fly.
“Any time we play them in the Connacht League it is the same. Both teams want to win that game, whether it is the Connacht league, national league or championship.
“I suppose the more you get to know each other – using your word there – it can get spiky. That is the way championship is always going to be. It was like that against Mayo the last day as well. It is going to be like that against Galway.
“I do think there is more in us. Every year there seems to be a stronger panel of players. The talk at the beginning of this year is that we were going to be weaker but it seems we have strengthened as the year has gone on.
“With players coming back, and players coming back from injury it has strengthened. I think there is room for improvement and I think we should continue to improve over the next couple of years, definitely.”Tweet