The kind of evening that you never want to end — a Roscommon team lifting national silverware as the summer’s evening shadows fall. A proud Christy McDermott is given the honour to hand Corn Jerome O’Leary to victorious Roscommon captain Adam Donnelly. The happiness, the giddiness, the elation — it tickles everyone decked out in Primrose and Blue.
By Ian Cooney
For Michael Fallon, it’s a combination of all three feelings but, in reality, the overwhelming emotion is one of relief. Like all managers, all he has ever wanted is to see the endeavour of his players being rewarded. Now, after going through the wringer before his side finally delivered, he’s just glad that months of honest graft and toil have been rewarded with a three-point victory.
“The lads have been training since last February. Even today, we had lads flying back from France to come and play with us. But I have to say that the parents are a massive part of this. The dedication of the young lads can only happen with the co-operation of their parents. It’s a nice payback for them as well,” he reflected as the hoopla continued around him.
“I suppose we dug it out from the jaws of defeat. But we knew, with the quality of the players we have, that they’ve been coming up with the goods all year. We’ve been putting in bigger performances in the second half of games. They followed through on that again today,” he continued.
Roscommon weren’t firing on all cylinders at times but Fallon and his management team had learned enough about their players during a tough campaign to trust their instincts when it came to making changes.
“With the format of the competition, you just keep rotating players. So you’ve learned over the seven games to get to the final what works and doesn’t work. We had to do that again today — to get the best mix that works for us.
“The toughest game we had all year was the semi-final against Tyrone. We were ahead but they just kept coming back at us. But we still had the belief and the character to push it out again. Even when they drew level, we were able to go back up the field and get the scores to go ahead. You always have that belief in your players that they’ll finish strongly,” he highlighted.
Another underage title to back up the progress made by the senior team this year, Fallon suggested that some of Roscommon hurling’s best years might be ahead of them.
“This is huge. We won the Division Five competition two years ago. Now we’ve won Division Four against a Limerick team. You look at the club names on the programme and they’re the same clubs you’ll see on the programme for the Munster hurling final. So this is massive for the county and for these players — that we have belief in these players moving forward to U-20 and senior.
“These days are great but you have to build on it. The bigger role, as a manager, is to develop these players, so they can push on to adult level. A day like today is just a bonus.
“The senior team really performed this year. Many people outside of the group wouldn’t have expected it but there was a real inner belief within that squad — that they could achieve what they did this year. So it’s huge for hurling in Roscommon from a very small pool of players,” he concluded.
With that, he was off to collect sliothars and hurls. Even with the sweet smell of victory wafting through the humid Tulllamore air, a manager’s job is never done.