Cregg eager to avenge Mayo 'humiliation'
MAYO beware. Roscommon are out to silence the naysayers in Sunday's Connacht football final.
"You'd still hear a lot of people saying that we got the easy route to the final last year and that Sligo took their eye off the ball," says half-forward Cathal Cregg.
The Rossies certainly came through the easier side of the 2010 draw to meet opponents who, having dispensed with Mayo and Galway, were red-hot favourites, but Cregg says his side got nothing easy on the day.
"Sligo brought us back to level, we went ahead and they brought us level again and we still kicked on and won that game," he says.
And silencing the doubters is not the only motivation his side have for wanting to beat Mayo in front of an expected sell-out home crowd at Dr Hyde Park.
Cregg missed most of 2009 with a knee injury but still hasn't forgotten the 3-18 to 0-7 trimming that Mayo gave them that summer.
"I was just a sub that day but it was pretty humiliating and it'd be great to put that right this weekend," he says.
"To beat one of the 'Big Two' in this Connacht final would definitely be massive, and especially to retain back-to-back titles," he added about something that only Galway (2002-03) have achieved in the last 13 years.
But Cregg admits that this year's final is a trickier assignment because Roscommon are not coming in under the radar.
They racked up big scores (3-21 and 2-12) against New York and Leitrim and are now freighted with the expectations of defending champions.
"We try not to get bogged down in that," he says, pointing out that they played in Division 4 this year while Mayo are now Connacht's only Division 1 side.
"They're consistently in Division 1 over the last couple of years so we know we're up against a pretty stiff test. You couldn't read a lot into their performance against London but I was very impressed with their second-half performance against Galway," he says.
"It was 1-8 to 0-1 in the second half, against a Galway team! That hasn't been done for quite a while and they're only going to improve coming into this."
Cregg is a skilful all-action forward who earned an All Star nomination last year and his playing style reflects his background.
The Western Gaels player was a talented underage soccer player who played U-16 with Longford Town.
Having done a degree in sports science in DCU he is currently half-way through a masters in exercise physiology, looking at the success of comparative training methods in Gaelic games.
And he is already providing strength and conditioning advice to Roscommon's development panels.
Sunday's squad includes several of his DCU team-mates -- Donie Shine, David O'Gara (currently injured), Niall Carty, David Keenan and Stephen Ormbsy -- and Mayo's goalkeeper Robert Hennelly is a college team-mate.
And Cregg says five years of playing Sigerson Cup with DCU -- he won a medal in 2010 -- has been a huge benefit.
"Most of the Sigerson teams now are made up of all county players and playing against those players from loads of different counties," he says.
"And you find out in the end that you're on the same level as all of them, even though the Corks and Kerrys have been winning All-Irelands.
"We're at the level of a Connacht final now and personally you'd find there wouldn't be as massive a gap as people think.
"When you're coming from a weaker county the perception is that the players wouldn't be as good there, but it definitely helps when you're playing with other county players in college and then end up playing against them in the summer."