By Ian Cooney
In modern day social media parlance, Kevin McStay was “trending” following an incident before half time when he made his feelings explicitly known to linesman Niall Cullen after Diarmuid Murtagh was denied a foul he was entitled to during Roscommon’s 0-20 to 0-13 defeat against Donegal on Saturday evening last.
He was standing up for the underdog, but, deep down, he probably knows that his actions could have been carried out in a more diplomatic manner. Confusion was rampant afterwards as to whether McStay had actually being sent off, something the Roscommon manager sought to clarify when he spoke to the local media.
“We would have been hugely disappointed with the last two calls of the first half. Michael Murphy comes clean through, pushes one of our fellas clean out of the way and kicks it over the bar. It’s an obvious barge and he (the referee) doesn’t call it.
“I can understand that, you can miss those but the one before half time with Diarmuid, and he gets a fair bit of afters then. The referee misses it. He’s on the wrong side, and I can accept that too. But the linesman, Niall Cullen, spotted it completely. I went over to make my point. He refused to inform the referee, and said I was quite aggressive towards him. So I ended up sitting out the second half.
“I wasn’t sent off. I was told to sit down for the second half. I don’t know what that means. I’ll take my punishment. I had to sit out the second half but the officiating wasn’t good enough — for a team like us that needed everything to be spot on. So instead of being three down, we’re five down at half time and the game has lost a bit of momentum from our perspective,” he explained.
Overall, McStay felt that Donegal were worthy victors. All-Ireland champions Dublin are next on the horizon on Sunday week, a challenge he vowed Roscommon wouldn’t shy away from.
“It was a big effort against a very decent Donegal team. I can’t fault the boys for the effort they put into it. But we were struggling to stay them and it was a difficult game for us to remain in contention.
“I thought we were getting there coming up to half time. But the nature of our team at the moment is that we have to take every chance to stay in the battle. Diarmuid had an early chance. If that goes in the net, there’s a different bounce around the place. But Donegal were definitely the better team. We have no problem with that. They had bigger, stronger men and they got through us that bit easier.
“We wanted to get into the Super 8s. That’s what we set out to do. Nobody said it was going to be easy. We absolutely have to honour the Dublin fixture properly, and we will. We’ll train as normal for the next fortnight, and we’ll be ready.
“There’s no pressure on us. We’re playing the top team in the country, maybe the top team of all time. They’re pretty good, so we’ll be up against is. But we’ll learn and know the standard for next February,” he vowed.
Asked about the more defensive approach to the early stages of Saturday evening’s encounter, McStay felt that he had little choice, given the way the Tyrone match had panned out seven days earlier.
“It’s not our natural game but we had to take out some insurance policy. We couldn’t afford to have another turkey shoot. I had a sense that the players were getting demoralised from conceding a big score. We totally agreed on this, we only had a couple of sessions at it and it was never going to be easy.
“In fairness, they did their best. We were difficult enough to break down for 20 or 25 minutes. If we got those scores to keep it humming, everyone’s energy levels would have been sustained. But we couldn’t make the transition from the defence into the attack, so all our attacks were sporadic at best.
“I introduced the topic last week, and we’ll have to deal with it over the next few weeks. It has to be put on the table. Fans love when you’re winning but if you lose after a horrendously defensive game, that’s when it really gets crispy. So we have to find out what’s the balance for us. I know that our natural balance is that we’re definitely better attacking than we are defending. But we certainly have to look at it,” he concluded.