Monday 18 December 2017

Moran wary of 'going in cold' against Rossies

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

WHAT is the value of a victory over GAA minnows London?

If you're Roscommon manager Fergal O'Donnell, you breathe a sigh of relief at avoiding a championship banana skin and then let the players know they have to step up their performance next time out.

If you're Leitrim boss Mickey Moran, you feel a pang of envy that your opponents have the experience of a competitive outing behind them before they face you in the Connacht semi-final.

And if you're a player on either side, you know that the stakes are huge in tomorrow's big game at Dr Hyde Park, Roscommon.

Meanwhile, the lessons of London are not lost on the respective managers.

This is how O'Donnell described his feelings, post-Ruislip, after the Rossies had chalked up a win by eight points -- 0-14 to 0-6: "If we play like we did in the second half, we will be blown out of the water."

Derry native Moran, who is co-manager of Leitrim with John Morrison, took a more detached view in his assessment of the Roscommon v London game.

"I watched Roscommon against London and they did a very professional job against a fancied London team," said Moran.

"Roscommon went out to do a job and won it comfortably. That's the only thing that worries me. We can train with intensity but without a Championship match we're going in cold on Sunday.

"Once you get that Championship match behind you, everything steps up a notch."

Roscommon's right half-forward Karol Mannion can agree that much with Moran, and he and his team-mates are prepared for a battle royale at Hyde Park.

"The Leitrim game will be huge. Leitrim will be hugely motivated after the very sad death of Philly McGuinness and they will come to Hyde Park with all guns blazing, but we will be ready," he said.

McGuinness, who died after a tragic accident in a football match in April, is a sad loss to Leitrim football and there's no question that his passing is part of the theme of this match. His No 10 shirt has been retired for the year at least, and the crowd at Hyde Park will remember a wholehearted and talented player.

For all that, once the ball is thrown in, it's game on with a spot in the Connacht final against either Sligo or Galway at stake.

Home advantage, a relatively settled team with only one change -- David Casey for knee-injury victim Mark O'Carroll -- and that London victory under their belt should give Roscommon an advantage.

Leitrim are short 10 players between injuries, emigration and opt-outs due to players being unable to give football their full commitment.

On the surface, the odds favour Roscommon. However home supporters will keep their fingers crossed that the 2010 side doesn't suffer the fate of their counterparts of 2000.

Back then, the Rossies had gone to Carrick-on-Shannon in 1999, just as O'Donnell's team did in 2009, and won. They then lost to Leitrim the next year at Hyde Park.

O'Donnell is determined his side won't be caught out the same way 10 years later. His team, just like Leitrim's, had a poor league, with both counties to play in Division 4 next year.

Redemption can start now, and the Roscommon manager looks to this game to ignite their season.

O'Donnell is in his second season in charge of Roscommon, and in year one, he very quickly endured the highs and lows of championship intensity.

First, his side carved out a quality victory over Leitrim and then O'Donnell saw his players sink to the depths of a hammering by Mayo in Castlebar.

Whatever about the rivalry on Sunday, Moran empathised with O'Donnell that day in Mayo.

"Matches like that can define you or destroy you. Roscommon are strong-minded and no doubt they have learned from that," reflected Moran. "I've been in that position myself plenty of times.

"Roscommon had an awful day against Mayo but I wouldn't like to read too much into that.They're a proud county with a great tradition."

Irish Independent

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