Every team goes into the championship trying to water down expectations, and Roscommon have successfully turned a fire hose on theirs. The one-point victory over New York earlier this month – accidental or otherwise – certainly dampened any great expectation about their summer, and forward Cathal Cregg doesn't deny it.
“Yes, I’d say it’s well and truly dampened now,” he says. “Obviously, against New York, we didn’t put in the performance we’d hoped. We should have been way up at half-time, could have scored 2-10 or 3-10 in the first-half. The game would have been out of sight at that stage. But we missed a lot of the chances and they very nearly punished us at the finish.
“I suppose there was a lot of doom and gloom after the game, but ultimately we went out to win. It probably wasn’t the way everyone expected us to win it. But we won, and it would have been an awful lot worse if we didn’t.”
So, 11 days out from their Connacht quarter-final against
, Roscommon were back training last night for the first time since that 1-15 to 0-17 win at Gaelic Park on May 1st.
Travelling to Carrick-on-Shannon on Sunday week was never going to be easy, and for Cregg, going into his 11th season with Roscommon, at least now the expectations are realistic.
“Look, Roscommon supporters are great,” says the 29 -year-old. “Even after the game in New York there wouldn’t be a whole pile of negativity around it. We’ve been very fortunate over the last couple of years with the great support we’ve got.
“I’m sure down in Leitrim the support will be great again. But we need to start putting some performances together to give them something to shout about. Because the last couple of games have been disappointing for us.”
So, what exactly happened?
Roscommon were still riding relatively high after their successful run through Division One, despite the lopsided semi-final defeat to Kerry. For Cregg it was his third trip to New York, and it was always going to be a no-win situation. New York have yet to win a match since joining the Connacht championship.
It was a weakened Roscommon team, any player carrying a knock or niggle wrapped up in cotton wool and left at home. Still, Cregg suggests there were in no way complacent.
“To be fair to New York, a lot of people put them down. Go through their team, they’ve an awful lot have played at least minor or under-21, and being on intercounty panels. They’re good quality players, and sometimes people can be a small bit disrespectful to them too. As I said, we missed an awful lot of chances, and you can’t be doing that against players of that level.
"At one point Geoffrey Claffey made a save, which would have drawn the game. One of our defenders was coming out, and there's a very funny drop on the pitch. The ball can actually go dead, or bounce over your head. And the ball bounced five yards over his head, and straight into their corner forward. It was one-on-on, and Claffey pulled off a great save, so that was serious heart-in-the-mouth stuff. If that had gone it we were in serious trouble."
Does he reckon New York will take someone out eventually?
“Yeah, I’ve no doubt they will. Thankfully it wasn’t us.
“It’s only every five years you have to do it, and there is a very big GAA community over there. A lot of people who can’t come home, for different issues. And when you see it, 4-5,000 there, serious atmosphere, and it’s the same every year, when counties go over.
“It’s not ideal for the players going over but for New York and the GAA as a whole it’s huge. . . .”
Cregg says the team didn’t get a complete grilling from managers Kevin McStay and Fergal O’Donnell: “The two of them are vastly experienced, wouldn’t just go tearing strips off you. There’s no point in going in and shouting and roaring at lads. We’ll have a very tough one down in Carrick. A lot of players are out at the minute, players with huge experience.
“And Leitrim have some very good players, Emlyn Mulligan is back, [Sean] McWeeney.... All very good players. So we’re going to have to up our performance big time. And we’ve only 10 days to do it. Look, we’ve had some very good days this year and some bad days this year. So you take the good with the bad, and hopefully there will be a few more good ones.”