When a one team beats the other by 14 scores, the general consensus is that things have been straightforward. But Roscommon senior football captain Conor Devaney was keen to emphasise that his side had been tested by Leitrim at a balmy Páirc Seán on Saturday evening.
“I really wasn’t keeping an eye on the score — I saw it there at the end and we had won by 14 points. It’s hard to believe it because it was a tough battle. Maybe it was the heat or how they were set up defensively, but it certainly didn’t feel like a 14-point win.
“To get 24 scores in a championship game is a big bonus. I thought that we became sloppy towards the end. Messing up simple ten-yard hand passes and then they come up and kick some brilliant scores to be fair to them. But any team will get those scores if you keep handing them the ball,” he said.
Roscommon didn’t create too many clearcut goal chances, but the Kilbride player felt that Leitrim’s defensive alignment made it difficult to raise a green flag.
“It is a small worry but I think that was down to how they were set up. They did everything to stop us creating goal chances and, to be fair to them, they did that really well until it opened up a little bit in the second half.
“It was a totally different type of game and maybe they learned a few lessons from last year. We had built up a big head at half time last year and they couldn’t afford to let that happen again. They changed their system, and rightly so. But we did well in the end to win by as much as we did,” he remarked.
Full-forward Diarmuid Murtagh concurred with his captain, stating that there was no such thing as an easy championship game at this level.
“Any championship game you go out isn’t easy, especially when it’s warm like it was this evening —it can drain you. Overall we’re delighted but I know that Kevin (McStay) will be looking for improvement when he talks to us in the dressing room. That’s a good way to be heading into a Connacht final. We’ll just look forward to focusing on Sligo or Galway next weekend to see who we play in the final.
“It was a tough game. We knew that Leitrim had some momentum behind them from the New York game. They had a pep in their step, and they are improving every year. They had a good system and it was tough to break down,” he admitted.
The only way to beat a blanket defence is to land long-range scores, and Murtagh agreed that Roscommon had forwards who could bisect the posts from outside the 45-metre line.
“We have a lot of good forwards who can kick scores from distance, and we’re happy to do that all day long. It’s something we’ll need as we go on when we come up against stronger defences. We’ll have to adapt even more. But we’re learning all the time, especially about defensive systems and how we can defend stronger ourselves.
“We knew that we couldn’t afford to take the foot off the pedal. If Leitrim came out and got a goal, they would have got momentum from that with the home crowd behind them. So it was important for us to tag on a few early scores in the second half and keep the scoreboard ticking over.
“I think it’s going to be huge for us as the year goes on — the subs bench we have. Cathal Cregg came on and kicked four points. For any team to have that, he’ll be pushing for a start the next day. It’s a great lift for the rest of the players on the field,” he explained.
Defender David Murray was just delighted to be looking forward to another Connacht final — this team’s fourth in three years.
“We’re just happy to get over it. They frustrated us a lot early on. We struggled to break them down and they probably forced us into making a good few mistakes, which was down to a combination of ourselves and the pressure they were putting on us.
“Lads getting championship minutes is always good. And to come out of the game with no injuries is a real positive for us.
“It’s strange when, as a corner-back, you see the man you’re marking going back to his own ’45. It’s kind of frustrating when teams do clog it up, given the way we were playing throughout the league. But we knew they were going to set up like that, and it was a different challenge for us.
“It’s just nice to get to another Connacht final, but we have to win it now — that’s the most important thing,” he concluded.