Thirteen years is a long time for a big club like Roscommon Gaels to be out of the limelight. During that period, they had been tipped to return to the summit of Roscommon football on numerous occasions. It never quite happened for them, but last weekend they took a major step in the right direction by finally getting back to a senior final.
“We’re delighted,” Gaels manager Liam McNeill told the Roscommon Herald shortly after the final whistle. “County semi-finals are about winning. Some of the stuff probably wasn’t at the standard that supporters expected, but we went in at half time level, which was great for us.
“Boyle picked up one or two injuries that probably caught up with them as the second half wore on. We got the few breaks on the day and it’s great to be back in a final,” he said.
Gaels had to play into a stiff breeze in the opening half and it was imperative that they didn’t allow Boyle to build up a big lead. They successfully managed to do that, and McNeill felt that a couple of points in first-half stoppage time provided them with a solid platform to push for victory after the break.
“Some of the lads showed great composure in the first half. We got two points just before half time after Boyle had gone 0-7 to 0-5 up. We went in at half time with our heads up, and maybe Boyle’s heads were down a little bit after conceding those two late points,” he reflected.
It enabled experienced players like David O’Gara and John McManus to come to the fore in the second period, and McNeill was keen to highlight their contribution.
“These guys are top players and have played at the highest level in the country. In the second half, when the game was in the melting pot, they stood up and did what good players do and what I expect of them,” the manager lauded.
Another player who did what was expected of him was James McDermott, and the veteran Gaels midfielder said he was “really pleased” to finally make it to a senior final.
“It has been 13 years so we’ve been trying for quite a while now. I was playing junior football in 2004 and only started to play senior the following year. A lot of lads have been there or thereabouts for that length of time — David O’Gara, Paul Gleeson, Kevin Kilcline, John Nolan.
“So it’s great to finally get there and we have to try and prepare for it now. That’s what we have been looking towards so we’re really pleased,” he smiled.
McDermott went on praise the work ethic of his fellow players, and he also highlighted the astute work of the management team: “They got the match-ups right and it worked out really well. James O’Gara did a serious job on Enda Smith.
“I think, in the first half, we laid down a marker. The boys drove forward really well. I think that laid the groundwork and then Kieran Kilcline got that score just after half time. That was huge for us.
“We also got two scores just before half time that were vital. If Boyle went in with a lead, we would have been under pressure in the second half. They have good players who are good on the ball.
“But we have worked hard this year. The management have put a lot of work in and it’s their third year with us. We got some lads back that we were missing last year so it made a massive difference to us. We’ve three weeks now to get ready for the final,” McDermott concluded.