Fortunate Roscommon breathe a sigh of relief in New York

Fergal O’Donnell and Kevin McStay shocked by inept display against valiant New York

As far as off-Broadway experiments go, this had come much too close to disaster. It would have been easy for Roscommon to look for mitigating factors on Sunday night in the Bronx as they got their heads around a one-point victory that felt every inch a defeat.

They had kicked off the 2016 All-Ireland football championship by almost becoming the victims of one of the biggest shocks in a lifetime. Fergal O’Donnell and Kevin McStay’s men had been favoured by as much as 22 points with some bookmakers against the ex-pat outfit that many believe have no place in the competition at all.

New York proved the folly of all such opinions with a startling, stirring display against a team who had beaten Kerry and Cork on the road already this year. For Roscommon’s managers, there was relief, regret and a healthy dash of rage from a 1-15 to 0-17 scoreline.

“It’s just not good enough. The Roscommon jersey, people have been talking this week about being proud to wear the Roscommon jersey, we didn’t wear it with pride today and that’s very disappointing,” said O’Donnell, unhappy with the team’s social diary in the city and how his players reacted to the noise.


“I suppose in 2011 we were criticised that we didn’t attend a lot of functions and do’s and whatever. There’s been a lot of distractions [this year]. I’m not blaming anyone, they’re fundraisers and what have you. But I think we’ve all seen ourselves that you can get caught up in the hype. We were very lucky to get off that pitch. It’s a very disappointing performance and disappointing for our supporters who came out. The reality is that, three week’s time, against Leitrim, that ain’t going to be good enough.

“Maybe that strength isn’t there like we think. There can be a tendency in Roscommon, I’ve always said, that players are maybe overrated. But look, fresh after the game, it’s very disappointing, we have to go back and look at it all.”

They had opted to mix youth and experience in New York handing out five Championship debuts. But as New York staged a spirited second-half fightback, heads were lost at Gaelic Park.

“The turnovers went through the roof. And we never got a grip of the game in midfield which is a recurring theme for us,” added McStay.

“We tried to replace it with a lot of energy in there today and it didn’t work either. So there’s so much to look at and not a lot of time to get it all right. My hope is that we can turn this around but there’s a hell of a lot of work to do.”

There was regret too for the hosts.

“I think if we had another minute or two we would have won it,” said manager Justin O’Halloran.

“I couldn’t be more proud of that team. I said it last week and probably a few people laughed at me but I knew what we had here. We have a group of bloody good footballers, they can play the system that we asked them to play. We ended up kicking more scores than Roscommon today – they had 16, we had 17. We just didn’t get the onion bag.”

Man of the match Vinny Cadden, a giant in goal, insisted that while a historic win may have slipped by, this was the ultimate validation of New York's place in the Championship.

“There’s a lot of giving out about this game. How big a joke it is and all that. But you need to come here and see [it] ,” said the Sligoman.

“I’ve been involved in so many games through the years and I’ve never found myself so excited on a pitch. The passion that was shown between Roscommon and ourselves. It was sensational. Anyone who looks back at this game will see why the [New York] game should keep going ahead annually.”