Tommy Carr: Roscommon will relish stern Kerry test

But ex-Roscommon manager thinks proven Kingdom will have the edge this time around

Missed opportunities cost Roscommon the last time they played Kerry at Croke Park but if Tommy Carr, the Roscommon manager at the time, is entirely honest, a lack of belief was their ultimate undoing.

The counties meet at GAA headquarters on Sunday for the first time since the 2003 All-Ireland quarter-finals when a summer of fun finally ended for the Rossies.

On the face of things, a five-point defeat for the Connacht outfit that August afternoon was predictable though Carr, the former Dublin player and manager, believes that if the belief was there they could have pulled off a famous victory.

Carr, at least, is confident the present Roscommon team, riding high under the joint management of Kevin McStay and Fergal O’Donnell, aren’t burdened by any such self-doubt having already beaten Kerry once this year in the Allianz league.


Great summer

“We had a great summer in 2003, we beat Cork in the first round of the qualifiers, beat Offaly and Kildare after extra-time and went all the way through to play Kerry at Croke Park,” said Carr.

“The problem is that when you get to a certain stage and you haven’t been there before, you get dizzy with it. We had quite a few goal chances but we didn’t get that early goal and I think the fellas’ belief just dipped a bit.

“I would have felt myself beforehand that if these boys really go at it and believe they can do it, they might go very, very close. But I’m not sure if Roscommon really believed they could win.

“That’s a regret that would be there, yeah, I would have to admit that. We could have won that game because we could have caught Kerry cold. I’m not saying we were the better team but it was an opportunity.”

Kerry lost their next game in that 2003 Championship, to Tyrone, but reinvented themselves the following year under Jack O’Connor and claimed four more All-Irelands before the century was out.

As for Roscommon, Connacht champions just two years earlier, they pushed Dublin close in the qualifiers of 2004 before settling into a dispiriting pattern of early round qualifier defeats in the coming years.

“I don’t feel it was the personality of the team to see 2003 or 2004 as the start, as the beginning of something, the way the current team are probably thinking,” continued Carr.

“It was a bit like Westmeath last year thinking that getting to the Leinster final was the end goal, mission accomplished, when they should have been thinking it was the start of something.

"I think in fairness to that Roscommon team, they were probably coming to the end for a few of them too, the likes of Frankie Dolan and Francie Grehan. "

Carr said he has seen enough from Roscommon so far in this year’s Division One campaign to believe that they won’t carry any inferiority complex into the latest Croke Park meeting with Kerry.

“No, I genuinely don’t feel that barrier will be there because that’s not the personality of this team, there’s a level of belief coming from the management and you can see it in the players too,” he said.

Top teams

“They have already played the top teams and haven’t looked inadequate at all. They look a clever team that is willing and able to learn and they’ll actually learn most from this weekend because it’ll be much newer to them than Kerry or Dublin or Donegal.

“But the specific issue of belief, I don’t see that as a problem. I actually see this Roscommon team competing strongly for the rest of the year.

“People go back to the Mayo loss a couple of weeks ago and were maybe viewing it as a sign that they weren’t up to that level. But I’d put 10 or 20 per cent of that performance down to the pitch, the conditions were atrocious.”

Pushed for a prediction, Carr reckons an in-form Kerry side, managed by Eamonn Fitzmaurice who played against Roscommon in the 2003 encounter, will have just enough to get by again.

“I think Roscommon will just be caught a little short,” said Carr.

“The really important thing, whatever the result, is that they take the learning from it and I think they’re a smart enough bunch to do that and move on into the Championship,” he concluded.