While it counted for little beyond securing third place in Group Two of the Super 8s, Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham felt that Sunday’s victory away to Cork showed that his team had the stomach for a fight.
Criticism of the side after the loss to Dublin had been unfair, in the manager’s eyes, and he believed that the performance in Páirc Uí Rinn was an answer to the critics.
“Sometimes, guys will ask questions and say, ‘Were they really up for it or not?,” he said.
“You could never say that about this set of players. I just don’t like people who say those sorts of things because players are committed, it is 24/7 for them.
“For us, they really wanted to answer those type of comments with a performance today.” Last year, Roscommon reached the Super 8s but lost all three games and such an outcome might have been feared after Cork raced into a 1-2 to 0-0 lead. Roscommon clawed their way back into the game, though, and Cunningham hopes that the result can be a springboard for 2020.
“This was our first Super 8s win so it is significant in that sense,” he said.
“We are disappointed, obviously, that it wasn’t a match that put us through to an All-Ireland semi-final. We have to take the harsh lessons of the Tyrone defeat. The panels and players will take that on board.
The Kiltoom resident felt that there was also a lot of value to be taken out of finishing the year on a positive note, in order to back up the work that was done earlier in the summer.
“Today was significant because questions were asked in the last few weeks, questions such as, have we moved on. For us, unbeaten in the Connacht championship, a very good performance against Tyrone, albeit a bit unlucky, today we wanted to back those performances up.
“In very tough conditions away from home, to come out of it with a win, we are very happy.
“The players were probably backed into a corner, to a degree, so they really wanted to come out fighting. The last piece of effort, that last 20 minutes, we really wanted it. They responded in spades. I am delighted for the players. They have worked so tirelessly since last November. It is a big, big base to kickstart from for next year.” While Roscommon scored four goals, they conceded three.
“Darren [O’Malley] will probably be disappointed with the first one,” Cunningham said “a couple of them were errors that should never have happened.
“A couple of them were down to good play by Cork. They are a high goal-scoring team, they were tremendous against Kerry, Dublin, and Tyrone in terms of scoring goals at will. For us to respond in the fashion we did, we are delighted.” That they did turn things around was in part down to positive impacts from the substitutes introduced.
“Donie Smith had a big part to play in a goal, Fintan Cregg likewise,” Cunningham said.
“But it is unfortunate on those who didn’t get in. We spoke in the dressing-room about the importance of the panel and the extended panel. Lads will get their chance and they just have to keep working and working.
“Young [Colin] Compton probably did himself an injustice in a couple of matches because he is a fine player. He was dissatisfied with his performance in a couple of matches but today really turned it around.” And the next steps?
“For us, it is important we pick up players and that more players shine in the club championship,” Cunningham said, referring to the domestic action in the county which will get underway in earnest the weekend after next.
“Some players who were unavailable this term will be available next year. That’s good news too.”
The players were probably backed into a corner, to a degree, so they really wanted to come out fighting… I am delighted for the players. They have worked so tirelessly since last November.