Roscommon can defy underdog tag -- McManus
PROOF of just how heavily Roscommon have been written off in today's clash with Tyrone can be seen in every bookies' window this morning.
There is rarely any value in straight match betting in Gaelic games.
Yet the Rossies' qualifier battle with the long-time Ulster giants for the remaining football quarter-final spot is viewed as such a foregone conclusion that they're being quoted at 5/1.
You can actually get odds of 7/1 on the Rossies winning by a one- to three-point margin -- again remarkably generous odds in a two-horse race that demonstrates just how heavily they are being dismissed before the ball is thrown in.
Yet such underdog status may prove a trump card for Fergal O'Donnell's men.
"They certainly seem to have been completely written off by everybody outside of our own county," said Roscommon legend Tony McManus, still regarded as one of the county's finest who was exceptionally unlucky not to win an All-Ireland senior medal, especially at club level.
"But hopefully being dismissed like that will work in our favour," he said.
"Certainly you get the feeling from the players themselves that they'll produce a fair bit of fighting spirit and are really very determined to put the disappointment of the Connacht final behind them.
"I genuinely don't think you could judge any team on the Connacht final, the weather just made a complete lottery of that game," McManus said.
"Of course there was huge disappointment here because we could have won it, we had so much possession (62pc in the first half and 53pc overall) and most of the lads, apart from our backs, would feel they didn't play particularly well. But the conditions were ridiculous, it was as bad as the worst wintry day you would get in the league."
As defending champions in front of their home crowd, there were huge expectations of Roscommon last day out and they could benefit from being completely relieved of that now.
"We are coming into this with a lot lower profile and hopefully that will help," McManus said.
"Obviously we didn't get enough ball into our forwards at all the last day, especially to Donie Shine and Senan Kilbride, they were starved of any decent ball and I'm sure that has been addressed."
And he pointed to another area that could prove vital.
"Apart from everything else, Tyrone's huge strength is their panel, they have so many great players to come off the bench so we'll really need our whole panel to produce their best," he said. "Whoever comes off the bench is also going to have to do a big job."
There is talk that David O'Gara is now fit enough to play some part and Roscommon could certainly do with him, as their bench failed to make any impact compared to Mayo's.
Roscommon were in a similar position this time last year when they won a shock Connacht title and came to Croke Park to face Cork in an All-Ireland quarter-final.
That was likened to scaling the Alps only to find Mount Everest on the far side, and they lost 0-10 to 1-16 to the eventual champions.
Having found significant momentum through the qualifiers, Tyrone now look much closer to the form that brought them three All-Irelands in six years and will offer a stern test.
Yet, with the huge carrot of an All-Ireland quarter-final against Dublin, Roscommon will throw caution to the wind. The fact that the county minors are also playing Armagh today (2.0), bidding to match their All-Ireland underage heroics of 2006, means they should have massive support.
And the McManus family will be doubly on edge for the curtain-raiser as son John is the minor captain.
"Fortunately, he plays at centre-back, which means he doesn't get compared to the aul' fella!" McManus Snr quipped. He couldn't have a better role model.
McManus is also back involved at the heart of football in the county as one of the volunteers who help to coach Roscommon's U-14 development squads.
"It is really enjoyable," he said. "It's just great to see young lads who really want to work at it and make it, and then to see others who might shy away from it but discover that they are good enough, and to watch them all making progress."