Before the Roscommon Senior Footballers left for New York this morning Journalist Niamh Towey, a member of the Club Rossie Team, caught up with Kevin McStay as he looks forward to his first championship match as a Manager.
Excitement is building throughout the county as supporters travel to New York to sound the opening whistle of this year’s championship campaign
There are just three days left to go before Roscommon meet New York in the first game of the championship and excitement is building throughout the county. The team and management flew out to New York today, along with a large number of supporters and Dermot Earley Jnr thrown in for good luck too.
Michael Caslin, a Strokestown man who runs a travel agency called 747, told Club Rossie that 250 people availed of their match day package to the States – and they sold out months ago.
That of course is just a fraction of the home support which has travelled across the Atlantic to help sound the opening whistle of this year’s championship campaign.
The supporters aren’t the only ones looking forward to this match day; joint manager Kevin McStay says he could never have imagined his first senior championship game as a manager would be played in New York.
“It’s my very first ever championship match as a manager, so I am really looking for to it. Fergal’s had loads of experience in that regard, as well as Liam and Stephen and David, so I’m the newbie.
“I could never have thought that my first championship game at this level could be in New York but there you go, it’s a funny game.
“I think I’m ready for it and I think our team is ready for it. When you are ready and you’ve the work done its always exciting and you’re looking forward to it.
“We want to come home from this confident, we don’t want any wobbles, we don’t want our performance to raise any more questions. It’s best for everybody if they take this game on its merit and really go for it. We want to respect New York but then really get stuck into them and show why we are a division one team. That’s the challenge.”
McStay is not taking the challenge lightly, and he says there is no fear of the team getting complacent.
“I don’t think Roscommon are at a stage where they could even contemplate getting complacent about any fixture. The past has shown that complacency is a very dangerous thought for Roscommon, that we can walk into a game casually.”
“This is a big day out for New York and they’re going to give it everything they have certainly in the opening 20 minutes. I’ve no doubt that they’ll try to keep it as tight as possible.
“You’d like to think that the extra fitness levels of Roscommon will begin to show up with 20 minutes to go. Our aim would be to keep the game well-structured and pretty tight until we can put our extra fitness and power on show with 15 minutes to go. Then we’d like to see a gap on the scoreboard.”
Roscommon’s performance in the league semi-final against Kerry in Croke Park three weeks ago went “poorly”, says McStay and was “disappointing”.
“To have the match over at half time was really not acceptable. We didn’t handle that match very well, we should have done a lot better. We didn’t look like the team we had been earlier on in the season.
“Our preparation as management was not spot on, we’re responsible for that and we’ve no problem saying that.
“They played a hugely experienced team, some of whom have played over 40 times in Croke Park. For some of our fellas it was their time ever playing there.
“We sat down both as players and as management and had a very frank discussion about why it was so, where we want to go in the season and later on in the next few seasons.
“That’s all part of the process. These are days you have to go through to find out about yourself. I’m happy that we got that lesson in early April. We will take a lot of lessons from that.”
McStay and O’Donnell are looking at these five days in New York as something similar to a training camp – but without the hard training and with a championship game to play at the end of it.
“I won’t call it a training camp because we have a big match at the end of it, but we have a great chance now to do some video work which we didn’t have time to do in the run up to the league because it was literally week on week.
“We’ll get time to sit down and have a coffee as individuals and have a chat about what people want out of the year and what we hope they’ll produce during the year. It’s a chance to get to know people really well in this environment.
“It has a feel of a training camp about it, except we won’t be training savagely, we’ll be preparing for a championship match.”
Competition among the squad for a place on the team is fierce, and it looks as though a few younger players will make their debut in Gaelic Park.
“The competition is outrageous at the moment. We’re not a team of superstars but we have a lot of players of the same ability who are pushing each other very hard and I’ve no doubt the team we will put out against New York will surprise a few people. Certainly lads will make their debut in it.”
“We’re certainly thinking of blooding a few lads in the championship now and seeing where that takes us.”
McStay and O’Donnell are planning on giving a few of the Under 21 lads a run, with McStay mentioning four names which he says are in the mix for selection: Ronan Daly, Diarmuid Murtagh, Cathal Compton and Sean Mullooly.
“It’s time now that the under 21’s started showing us what they have and what their potential is. It’s our intention over the next few weeks now to give them a shot at it and see if they’re up for it”.
In terms of injuries, he says the longer term ones remain ongoing.
“Kevin Higgins is showing that he might get back a little earlier than we expected, so that’s good news. Ciaran Cafferky is tipping away nicely and is still looking at early summer, which isn’t bad.
“Outside of that we have lads who aren’t travelling to New York, like Ian Kilbride and Enda Smith. They have groin issues that they have to get resolved and time is against them a little bit as summer approaches. But they’re rehabilitating very well and they’re two very serious athletes and footballers. I’ve no doubt they’ll be back as soon as they can.”
For the injured men who can’t travel for the game, this is undoubtedly a difficult and disappointing time.
“I’m sorry that there are seven of them who can’t travel to New York after all their hard work. It is disappointing for them and for us.”
Seeing support on the sidelines in a place like New York is “hugely encouraging, it’s brilliant”.
“The reception we’re getting over there, some of the functions that Fergal and I are going to are outstanding.
“Massive effort has gone in by the Roscommon diaspora and it’s hugely appreciated. There are great Roscommon lads over in the States giving us a huge dig out.
“It is a great opportunity to fundraise but more importantly for the team and management to put their best foot forward and show the Roscommon people of New York that we are a serious outfit and we take our responsibilities very seriously when we are wearing the jersey.
“We’ll be demanding that of them and I’ve no doubt that we’ll get a big response off the boys. This is what we’ve been training for for the last six months and it is fantastic now to be within a few days of the championship.
“We are really looking forward to it”.
Club Rossie would like to thank Kevin McStay, Fergal O’Donnell and all of the management and team for their continued support and time. We wish the best of luck to them on Sunday. If you’re on twitter why not follow us for some behind the scenes photos and videos from the Big Apple – we’re @clubrossie