Croke Park experience ‘money in the bank’ for young Roscommon
Fatigue not a factor for Mayo, says Stephen Rochford, giving credit to the opposition
Roscommon’s Sean McDermott and Jason Doherty of Mayo. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Kevin McStay has a broadcaster’s feel for this stuff. For the drama of it all and the damn little harm there is in giving expression to that. In an RTÉ studio, he might have picked this game apart with a gimlet eye and held its myriad flaws against it. Here and now with his Roscommon T-shirt on, the details are understandably a bit sketchier.
“I can hardly replay the last few minutes, it got so frantic. I’ve a recall of us attacking from the half-back line and having it turned over. Wouldn’t get 20m into the Mayo half and we’d have it turned over again and give it back to them. I think it’s probably a fair result overall. I think we deserve it. We showed a lot of bottle for a young team.
“Ye all know we’ve never played here before. Bar Sean McDermott, it’s a first championship. He’s played one; the rest have never played championship here, at this level. That was great. That’s money in the bank as we’d see it for the replay, and not only for the replay, but for next year and beyond for our development. That was good, but we just made so many errors throughout the game. Just hard to get momentum when we kept turning the ball over. But we never said die and kept at it.
“They now know they can play here. It was a bit like Armagh last night. They had a lot of rookies coming in as well. It’s a fabulous stadium they are all reared – particularly down the country – on playing here. It’s a big deal for them. They have it in their deposit account now. There are a lot of things we have to talk about: the pressure of Croke Park, the faster pitch, the noise. They should be well adapted to it.
“Mayo have had four games and two sets of extra-time coming into this game, and now this is going to be five games and two sets of extra-time in six weeks. It will be our fourth game, and we definitely have youth on our side. Our age profile is a lot lower than Mayo’s, which is lovely, but then you have Mayo’s experience on the other side.”
Of all the ifs and buts in the game, Roscommon went back down the road knowing that the goal Lee Keegan scored in response to Ciarán Murtagh’s in the first half was crucial.
“I’d just screamed at Liam [McHale] to run down and tighten everything. He hadn’t left the official’s area when it was in the back of the net. As you know, that’s when you’re vulnerable. Maybe our lads got a bit lamped after it and just didn’t pick up on the kick-out. The ball went down the field and Lee Keegan got in and did what Lee Keegan does.
“That knocked us back hard. It’s a young team so these kind of shockwaves take a while to work your way through, but at half time we felt quite deflated. We only played for 10 or 12 minutes. I don’t know how long it took us to get the 2-2 up – not too long, I would have thought. There was 25 or 30 minutes of that first half. Just not good enough at this level.”
For Mayo, this was another dip into the well, with at least another one to come. We don’t know when they’re going to hit the floor, but it would be no surprise if it was some time soon. Stephen Rochford wasn’t having that as an excuse, though.
“We had three shots to win that game,” he said. “So I don’t think fatigue had anything to do with it. I think Stephen Coen was harshly done. He says he didn’t pick the ball clean off the ground; Donal Vaughan stood on a water bottle as he went to pull the trigger. Cillian O’Connor got a clean hit in the middle of the field. They kicked the equaliser off the foul that was called on Stephen Coen.
“It’s an easy answer to say it’s fatigue. We were still driving on in to that six minutes of injury time, so guys are in good condition and they’ll be in good condition next week. The reality is that you’re coming up against a good team as well. There’s no poor teams in the Championship at the end of July and August. After we conceded the 2-2, we looked really solid defensively and we just didn’t click in the manner we opened up with. And that’s a credit to Roscommon.”