Anthony Cunningham has vowed to use the FBD League and upcoming Division One League campaigns to develop his players to compete at the highest level.
Sligo are the visitors to Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday next (throw-in at 1.30 p.m.) for the FBD League semi-final, with the winners playing Galway or Mayo in the final the following week. Roscommon open their Division One League campaign against Mayo at Elverys MacHale Park on Saturday, January 26th, and Cunningham is happy that a lot of hard work has been done on the training ground in preparation for the upcoming busy schedule.
“We’ve worked extremely hard since November, and we’d be very happy with the attitude and the application of the players. It’s development work really, a whole lot of development work that Roscommon supporters will have to face. That can take an infinite amount of time. But, overall, we’d be very happy where we’re at.
Roscommon will welcome back Seán Mullooly into defence, while Darren O’Malley and John Brian Carthy, son of Strokestown native and RTE Gaelic Games correspondent Brian Carthy, will be vying for the goalkeeping position. Conor Cox, who recently transferred to Éire Óg from Listowel Emmetts, will be hoping to hit the ground running in the Roscommon attack.
“The league and pre-season competitions are used by most counties now as a grooming ground, a bedding ground. Sligo are under a new manager, and they’ll be gunning for Roscommon next Sunday, and so will Mayo two weeks after that and Monaghan a week later.
“So there will be a lot of learning days, and that’s the focus for this panel. There will be a lot of development. We’ll be giving guys exposure, and hopefully they’ll come through the test and, in time, develop as serious intercounty footballers,” he continued.
Cunningham has confirmed that defender Niall McInerney won’t be available for the foreseeable future as a result of medical exams. Ciaráin Murtagh, John McManus and Cathal Compton have opted out of the panel this season, while Diarmuid Murtagh will probably miss most of the league as a result of the detached retina he suffered in late July.
“The prerogative of anybody to play football for either their club or their county is always with that individual. Sometimes, supporters, management, county boards and media get carried away wondering why certain players aren’t playing. So you have to respect that the prerogative is with the player himself.
“So if someone takes a career choice, and cannot commit for the seven days a week that’s needed to be an intercounty player nowadays, we fully respect that. If they cannot commit or want to take a year out from a lifestyle point of view, or if it’s too difficult at a certain stage of their lives when they’re starting a family or a new job, that’s their prerogative and nobody else’s. But the door is always open for players to join this year, next year or the year after,” explained Cunningham.
Roscommon supporters will witness the Gaelic football’s new rules for the first time on Sunday. On home turf, the Roscommon players will be keen to impress their new manager who feels that three hand passes has “limitations”.
Hopefully the restrictions won’t prevent Roscommon from delivering a morale-boosting victory.
HERALD VERDICT: Roscommon