Rossies can prosper in top tier, insists Collins
Over the course of an undulating Division 2 season, an unusual question arose. Would any of the sides be better served by remaining in the second tier rather than face a very difficult spring in the top flight in 2015?
The experience of Kildare and Westmeath this term showed that relegation can start a slide that is hard to stop - those two have now suffered two successive demotions.
For the most part, the teams in Division 2 this term were well matched, with none of the relegation or promotion places decided going into the final round.
In the end, Down and Roscommon secured the top two spots and contest Sunday's decider in Croke Park.
For Roscommon it has been a particularly rapid ascent. Twelve months ago they captured the county's first league title since 1979 when they took the Division 3 crown.
Defender Neil Collins insists promotion to the top flight is nothing to be feared.
"Every team wants to progress and get to a higher standard so it was our ambition to get promoted to Division 1," he said.
"We can compete at that level, but that's if we put in a lot of work between now and then, and that's if we go there with real belief.
"We obviously understand that it's a higher level and the teams there have been consistently there so we have a lot of work to do to compete. But definitely it's something that we wanted to do.
"As you go through the League you're not thinking, 'We really want to get promoted', you're looking at each game and saying, 'We need to perform in each game'.
"Then it comes to a stage towards the end of the League, if you have performed in those games then you're you say, 'We're in a position to get promoted'."
With their progressive underage system, Roscommon have been seen as a coming team for a few years now. But for Collins, the introduction of John Evans has been key.
The Kerry man helped Tipperary to back-to-back promotions and has repeated the dose out west as the Rossies look to establish themselves as a consistently competitive force in championship football again.
"We haven't competed consistently over the last 10 years, we haven't been playing at a high level. So we need to instil a core belief in ourselves, and John has definitely helped us do that," said Collins
"He's an enthusiastic man and he has strong personality. I think that's important in a successful relationship between players and management. So it definitely has helped."
Collins has established himself as a teak-tough defender but off the field, his time is consumed by his other passion. The Castlerea man is hoping to get his fashion label off the ground. Cryptic Clique is a work in progress and means he's largely based in Dublin.
"I've always been interested in music and style. They've always been something I've been interested in outside of sport. The two of them are quite closely connected," he said.
"I thought it was a hobby but it's something now I want to pursue as a career."
That will be parked until Sunday evening at least. Down stand in their way and winning silverware in Croke Park against a team of their quality would be another small step forward.
"Down have been a good footballing county for a long time, quite consistently. They've got a lot of nice footballers, good footballers who are very comfortable on the ball and they're definitely on the rise," said Collins.
"They were the strongest team in Division 2. It'll be two teams who are trying to make a breakthrough, and Sunday would be a good way to keep it going."
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