McDermott has feet firmly on the ground as Rossies look to hit heights
IF last year was a good year for Roscommon football, then it was an absolute corker for their corner-back Seanie McDermott.
A barber by trade and still only 27, he could surely reduce any football-loving client to tears if he chose to tell his GAA life story while giving them a short back and sides.
He can still recall far too many haunting details of a minor championship hiding the Rossies received from a stellar young Galway team.
"They'd about 10 of that famous Jarlath's team, including Michael Meehan, that won a Hogan Cup. They beat us by double scores out here, 2-14 to 1-7," he recalls.
The versatile Western Gaels defender went on to captain the county U-21s to a Connacht final in the Hyde, but Mayo beat them by three.
And the day he made his senior championship debut in 2005, Roscommon only escaped from Ruislip with a one-point victory after Scott Doran's last-gasp shot for the Exiles came back off the woodwork.
So last year's Connacht title success was a huge breakthrough, his first medal with Roscommon of any kind, which explains why he is pretty philosophical about how it happened and how they've come back to defend their crown.
"Maybe we were kind of lucky with the draw we got last year," McDermott concedes. "To be fair, I couldn't say to you that we would have done what Sligo did.
"Maybe we wouldn't have gone out and beaten Mayo and then gone out and beaten Galway."
And even after they had won Connacht and bowed out to Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-finals, he got an additional bonus: an invitation to go to Dublin for International Rules trials.
Team-mate Donie Shine was also invited, but it says everything about McDermott's all-action style that it was the pint-sized corner-back who made the cut.
At 5'9" he was dwarfed by all around him, yet he more than held his own and became only the fourth Roscommon man (after Paul Earley, Francie Grehan and Gary Cox) to play for his country.
"It was fantastic," he recalls. "It was an intense nine weeks. We were up and down every weekend to Dublin, but I loved it.
"It was great for Roscommon in general, because it showed all the lads on this panel that the lads here are as good as anyone, if they just believe in themselves."
Self-belief is something, he admits, that he and his peers -- like Michael Finneran and Senan Kilbride -- were badly lacking before Fergal O'Donnell and the successful minors of 2006 arrived.
"The key when Fergal came in was to cut back everything, just get down to hard work," he says. "And everyone pulled together as a unit, one unit. Whether it's defeat or victory, once everyone is pulling in one direction, that's what is key."
They may not have looked like that when they lost this year's Division 4 league final, but McDermott feels Roscommon panicked and abandoned their game-plan that day and that losing to Longford "maybe was the kick in the backside we needed to get focused for New York".
They were still nervy going to Carrick, "but a couple of things went for us that day: Donie stuck the goal early, and Leitrim, whatever decision they made in going against the wind, that really helped us".
But tomorrow's opponents, from Division 1, will demand a new level from them.
"The Mayo-Galway game got criticism, but it was very intense and a different level to our game with Leitrim, especially Mayo's intensity in the second half. That's what we'll have to match."
McDermott (pictured) firmly believes Roscommon are now a better side than last year's heroes.
"What's key for us is the amount of lads pushing for places. There is no one on this team with their feet cemented in a position and that's what has really driven us on.
"We could have gone into a lull after winning the Connacht final last year and be happy with our lot, but there are lads pushing you all the time this year and that's brought us on another bit."