By Ian Cooney
Johnny Keane has a headstart on most new managers coming into an intercounty set-up. Continuity was paramount for Roscommon hurling in the aftermath of Ciarán Comerford’s departure at the end of June, and in recruiting the services of the All-Ireland club winner from Portumna, a balance has been struck between maintaining the strong structures erected by the previous regime and the bounce that usually comes from fresh ideas alongside a relatively new voice in the dressing room.
“I suppose it’s very much a case of pressing the restart button, after finishing up so quickly in March,” Keane told the Herald.
“I like what Roscommon hurling is doing. Some of my best days in the game have been here.
“When we beat Kildare in the Christy Ring Cup in Athleague last year, I would put it up there with any of my career highlights, and that includes the great days I had with Portumna.
“For me, we need more days like that. Hopefully when the big guns come to Athleague or the Hyde under my watch, that we won’t let them walk on top of us,” he explained.
When training resumes next week, Keane will have a good grasp of what players will be available to him. He will also be looking to bring in some exciting, new talent.
“I’ve got used to the squad but there are more guys to come in. It’s an extremely busy time for the players still involved with their clubs, and I respect that.
“You’ll be asking players that have maybe won or lost a county final to come straight back into an intercounty set-up, and that presents its own set of challenges,” he continued.
Players like Daniel Glynn, Jack Lohan and Adam Donnelly will be on Keane’s radar, and he’s hoping that more players will make themselves available in an effort to bring Roscommon to the next level.
“I would say it was the only issue we had when Ciarán (Comeford) was in charge — that we didn’t have some of the best hurlers in the county involved.
“I can’t put my finger on it. I love it here in Roscommon, so it would be great to get the numbers in. I think that anyone involved in the previous set-up would say that they enjoyed it and that they got anything they wanted. So if I was a young or talented hurler, I would want to be involved with this Roscommon panel. There are exciting times ahead,” he enthused.
The addition of Strength and Conditioning Gary Murphy, who was also part of Comerford’s set-up, to the management ticket is another boon.
“Gary is such a big part of what we do. He’s living in Four Roads, so he got to see some of the games before the crowd restrictions kicked in. I’m hoping to finalise another selector and hurling coach in the coming days,” he revealed.
Having won a league title and reached the Christy Ring Cup semi-final in 2019, Keane is adamant that Roscommon can find the necessary improvement to take hurling in the county to the next level.
“We’re obviously hoping that the game against Wicklow (Christy Ring Cup quarter-final) goes ahead but, down the road, I cannot see why Roscommon won’t be in the shake-up for more silverware. We’ve held our own. Now it’s time to bring it to the next level. We’ve beaten teams like Kildare and London, so we know that we can compete with the best of them.
“We know what we have. We have a core group of senior players that reminds us of the younger players coming through, of who is playing well. I’m looking forward to seeing the hurling semi-finals being streamed next weekend. The door will always be open for players because we need the best hurlers we have playing with Roscommon,” he concluded.