Roscommon senior hurler Naos Connaugton has vowed to turn the disappointment from his side’s league campaign into motivation for this year’s Christy Ring Cup campaign.
Ciarán Comerford’s side enter this year’s competition very much under the radar when they travel to St. Conleth’s Park, Newbridge, to meet Kildare on Saturday next (throw-in at 3.30 p.m.). Having failed to deliver their goal in the national hurling league where a final day defeat against Warwickshire ended promotion hopes, Roscommon aren’t exactly being burdened with expectation. However, Connaughton, who was in Croke Park for the launch of the Christy Ring Cup last week, insists that his side can “right the wrongs” over the coming weeks.
“We were disappointed with the way the league turned out but the only way to deal with it is to use it as motivation for the Christy Ring Cup. We know that we underperformed in the league but training has gone really well since. Certain part of our game didn’t just lick earlier in the season but we feel as if we’ve turned the corner,” the St. Dominic’s player told the Herald.
Kildare didn’t exactly set the world alight in Division 2A, losing their five games, albeit they were operating at a much higher level than Roscommon, as were Wicklow and Mayo — the Rossies’ other opponents in the group. But Connaughton feels that his side can be a match for anyone when they play to their potential.
“I have a couple of friends on the Kildare panel. We played them in a challenge match last year and there was very little between us. They would be viewed as one of the stronger teams but I don’t think we have anything to fear from any of the teams in the competition. If we it right on the day, we can beat anyone,” he explained.
There’s a feeling that this particular squad haven’t made the progress that was envisaged some years ago. Connaughton doesn’t hold the same view, however, pointing out that it’s an evolving squad that have suffered some setbacks.
“We’re a young squad. We’ve lost a lot of senior players because of injuries. We’re developing all the time. I think that we’re in a better position than we were this time last year. We didn’t have much luck last season. We had long trips to Down and places like that. A bit more luck and we could have won a few more games.
“This year, our management is second to none. They’ve brought a whole new level of professionalism to the set-up. Gary Murphy is our strength and conditioning coach and, personally speaking, I’m in much better shape.
“I’ve struggled a lot with injuries over the years. But now the responsibility is being put back on the players in terms of what you have to do to compete at this level. We’ve specific gym programmes. You know exactly what you’re doing at training, so if you run hard as part of your own programme a day or two beforehand, you know that you won’t be dogged at training the next night. Overall, I just think that player welfare is far better these days,” he continued.
Roscommon are likely to be without full-back Peter Kellehan who is struggling with a groin injury. Gearoid Keenan is studying in Germany. Despite those absences, Connaughton still expects Roscommon to give a good account of themselves before the games in Athleague against Wicklow (May 19th) and Mayo (June 2nd).
“People see us as the weakest team in the group but we don’t see it that way. The underdogs’ role will suit us and, perhaps, a few teams might take us for granted. I really don’t think we’re that far behind these teams. If the bounce of the ball goes our way, I think we’ll surprise a few people,” he concluded optimistically.