Kevin McStay: “There is a real opportunity here now and wouldn’t you be daft not to go for it?”

Roscommon’s Joint-Manager says Connacht Final against Galway is a “completely 50/50 game”

Club Rossie Reporter Niamh Towey caught up with the Roscommon Senior Football Team Joint-Manager at the recent Connacht Final Media night.

This weekend, Roscommon will play against Galway in their first Connacht final since 2011 – and joint manager Kevin McStay is hopeful of our chances.
“I see this game as completely 50/50. I know Galway are favourites, but I wouldn’t give that too much thought. If we had this game at home we might be seen as the team to beat. As it happens Galway gets the home luck this year.”
Speaking to Club Rossie at the recent Connacht Final press night, McStay identified three key issues which his team will have to overcome: playing away from home, a strong midfield opposition and a top-class full forward in Damien Comer.
“What we do know from their form is that they have an outstanding midfield partnership, an outstanding young full forward in Damien Comer, and they are playing at home. Their tradition in playing at home is that they win.

“Those are the obstacles we need to get over: They’re at home, their confidence is up because they’ve taken out the finest champions Connacht has had in a long time in Mayo and they have this very settled, very big athletic midfield that on top of that are really very good footballers. That really is going to be an issue for us because our midfield has been a problem area for us all season. We will have to work very hard on that midfield and keep a special eye on Comer.”

Looking back at the last Championship outing against Sligo, in which the Roscommon team started out badly but turned things around spectacularly in the second half, McStay says he needs to see the team being more consistent at this next match.

“The underlying problem in that match is not taking big opportunities for scores when they come. If you take those chances when they come the dynamic of the game changes completely.
“In fairness at half time we tidied that up significantly and we really did then start taking a lot of our opportunities – although we still left a fair few behind us. They remained calm and upped their work rate and got a lot more concentrated with their opportunities in a fairly quick space of time.
“Once we got level there was only going to be one conclusion because there was so much belief and confidence – that was really nice to see but we thought, why can’t we do this for longer periods? We saw that in the league as well we would have been very hot for periods of time and quite streaky and scored well while we were in that grove, but really we need to try and get the consistency.
“That has been an issue for us, we just haven’t got that championship consistency yet. Obviously that’s what we’re hoping to come together in the final.”

Speaking about the recent news of Neil Collins’ hamstring injury, McStay said it has been a big blow to both the team and to Collins himself.

“I have a lot of empathy for Neil to pick up such an injury at this time. I never realised this was his first Connacht final so on a personal basis that’s really hard luck on him, and it’s a dirty injury as well. I don’t think we are going to see him now for the rest of the season, which I had initially hoped we would. He is a big loss, he’s a terrific footballer and he means an awful lot to this group.
“He’s a specialist player – either corner back or full back they are very specialist positions. It’s going to take a lot of thought by management to resolve that. It is unsettling and challenging for all of us, and for Neil personally it is disappointing. But we’ve had time to tidy things up and look at our options”.

McStay is confident the team which himself and joint manager Fergal O’Donnell will put forward will be well deserving of the opportunity.

“Anybody who is playing for Roscommon, especially in this Connacht final, will have really earned their jerseys. We’re delighted to be able to say that because they have put a monstrous amount of work into it.”
Reflecting on the fruits of this team’s season so far, you get the sense that McStay is very happy with how this management venture is progressing – and hopeful for the future of the team too.
“The night we beat Sligo, myself and Fergal were having a cup of tea after the team dinner and we said we’re actually now for probably the only time in the next three or four years – or however long this group stays together – we are probably exactly where we wanted to be.
“Right now it has gone exactly according to plan: Division one status secured, in the Connacht final going the route we did. We certainly got a lot of frights along that trip, more than we might have wanted, but maybe now in hindsight it was the best thing that ever happened to us.
“I think it is fair to say that over our first 8 or 9 months together both as player and managers we are getting on really well. We are working extremely hard with a view to this being a long-term project.
“Fergal and myself are more than happy with the way things have been going and we are very proud of this bunch.”
But the icing on the cake?
“The crowning glory would be if we could bring the Cup home. That would be magnificent.”
“We would love to go to Croke Park as Connacht Champions; that would be fantastic for this group, it would really accelerate their development I’m sure of that. But if it’s not to be, it’s important that we get back up on the horse and play really well in the round four match and get into Croke Park.
“We’ve done everything now that we wanted to do as a group, and there’s an opportunity here now that perhaps we hadn’t considered previously. There is a target here and a real opportunity and wouldn’t you be daft not to go for it?”
“We want to be crowned champions and go to Croke Park as champions.”