Tuesday, June 25, 2019




As Roscommon continue to bask in the glory of being Connacht champions, Roscommon Herald Sports Editor IAN COONEY explores why the county’s shares on the GAA’s stock market continue to rise…

We are Ros’.

The feisty underdog.

Living in the shadow of Mayo and Galway but we don’t subscribe to our perceived status. We’re refusing to accept that the “big two” in Connacht are better than us. Finally, we have the evidence.

We’re never in the conversation when it comes to All-Ireland contenders but it doesn’t bother us. Even now, after beating the “big two”, the narrative is: “ah sure, aren’t they great, but they’re not the team to stop Dublin winning five-in-a-row.”

For example, Ewan McKenna — a highly respected journalist constantly highlighting Dublin’s advantage over the rest of the GAA world — couldn’t leave us alone to enjoy our moment in the sun.

The Nestor Cup had hardly touched down in the county when he tweeted: “Heads up @roscommonGAA supporters. Mighty result yesterday and wonderful scenes. Your reward is now to play Dublin in the Super 8s. And of course being the neutral ground, it’s off to Croke Park to be humiliated before another away game in round three”.

Would McKenna use the word “humiliated” if Galway and Mayo were going to Croke Park as provincial champions?

Over the years, there have been plenty of journalists who couldn’t wait to stick the knife into us when we were known for pool parties, financial mismanagement and managerial upheavals. Come on Ewan, don’t be such a spoilsport — let us lap up our stint in the limelight.

It hasn’t stopped there. “How could Galway have collapsed the way they did in the second half?” the national media have wondered, a few weeks after forensically dissecting poor Mayo’s meltdown in front of the posts in Castlebar.

Notice the patronising trend here? We’re provincial champions for the second time in three years. We’ve been in the last five Connacht finals in succession (yes, I’m including the replay in 2016), but they still don’t believe in us.

We are Ros’.

The team that defies the odds.

Only David Murray started the previous year’s Connacht final in defence against Galway in the Hyde? Jaysus, come to think of it, we’d have some team if we could keep everyone for any length of time at all.

Hey Neil Collins! Any chance you’d ditch that mad-cap fashion lark in New York to return and play with us, and while you’re at it bring Cathal Compton and Chris O’Dowd home with you?

Player turnover is an issue but it doesn’t cripple us. We just get on with it. We have good players that aren’t bothered about absent friends from the dressing room. Ironically, the end result is more strength-in-depth.

What about if Ciaráin Murtagh and Niall McInerney return next year? Better stop now, wouldn’t want to be accused of building up expectations!

We are Ros’.

A place that has rediscovered our tradition.

They say that the only thing people in Arigna and Shannonbridge have in common, apart from the beautiful landscape and lakes on their doorstep, is our football team. Sure you’d be on the outskirts of the M50 quicker than making the trek from North Roscommon to Pairc an Phiarsaigh — home of Padraig Pearses GAA Club.

Which brings us nicely to the Daly brothers — Niall, Conor and Ronan. Those “hardy bucks” who might cause a row in the middle of Mass if you looked at them the wrong way.

But they’re now the pin-up boys for the once stereotypical view of Roscommon players. Tough as nails, refusing to take a backward step — the sort of traits you’d have associated with Harry Keegan, Pat Lindsay or Pat Doory back in the day. You’d have to go around those boys, if you were good enough, because you never went through them

Maybe we’ve lost a little bit of that over the years. We were seen as a soft touch. We had some “lovely” footballers but the art of tough, disciplined tackling was beyond us.

It’s something that Anthony Cunningham has tapped into. He has discovered what makes us tick. When you are the underdog, as we invariably are against Mayo and Galway, you have to be rugged, robust and don the county jersey without fear. In other words, hit everything that moves.

But Cunningham has found a formula to marry the two — tough cookies who are damn good footballers as well.

We are Ros’.

The record-breakers.

A Connacht championship in the bag, beating both Mayo and Galway away for the first time since 1972 — the year Richard Nixon was US President and Billie Jean King was Wimbledon champion. A lot of water, and deflation, has passed under the bridge since.

Maybe that’s why this Connacht championship triumph is that bit extra special, why Rossies all over the world have been sticking their chests out these past ten days, albeit we’ve won the Nestor Cup for the first time in…23 months. Hardly what you’d call a famine?

Since 2001, there were many times when we wondered if we’d ever get the better Galway or Mayo again. But four Connacht U-21 titles and two minor crowns in the earlier part of the decade suggested that it was coming. We’ve always turned water into wine on the back of underage success here in Roscommon.

Galway finally fell on our sword in 2017, and Mayo bit the dust a little over five weeks ago. From a famine to a feast, long may the records continue to tumble.

“We’ve conquered all of Connacht (except Sligo), we’re never going to stop. We’re the mighty Rossies and we’re gonna win the bloody lot…Allez Allez Allez…”

We are Ros’.

The county that punches above its weight.

We went off and raised €1.4 million on a house draw. We’ve around €250,000 waiting to be spent on the Dermot Earley Centre of Excellence from a bit of fundraising we did in New York back in 2015. Dr. Hyde Park is scheduled to be upgraded to enable Roscommon host Connacht finals from 2020 onwards.

The only missing piece of the jigsaw is winning the Nestor Cup on our home patch. Potentially having Galway and Mayo in the Hyde next season whets the appetite. Now that the environment, on and off the field, appears to be settled, the sound of machinery around Roscommon town needs to be audible soon.

To Club Rossie’s credit, it has a template for success that other counties aspire to. It expects to raise, at least, over €200,000 from its upcoming draw. Striking when the iron is hot you might say, but the Club Rossie brand, spearheaded by intelligent, hard-working people, is doing exactly what it set out to do — put Roscommon GAA on a firm financial footing.

All this against the backdrop of a county that houses a population of 64,500 and receives a coaching and games development budget of only €90,000. Mayo and Galway receive over twice that amount. Dublin get their hands on approximately €1.6 million per annum.

Strip away the layers and this “Roscommon Rising” should have been extinguished some time ago.

But we are Ros’ and we’ll be around for a while yet.

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