Donie Shine cut a dejected figure as he was hauled off in the latter stages of the Division 4 league final with Longford. The 22-year-old 6'5" full-forward has had good days with Roscommon, but this wasn't one of them. Bossed by Longford full-back Barry Gilleran, he failed to score and was one of five players taken off by manager Fergie O'Donnell.
With today's championship opener against New York looming, they fielded a young, strong side boosted by five of the successful 2006 All-Ireland minors. But Roscommon, well beaten on the day, looked a shadow of the side that landed last year's Connacht championship. A hamstring injury to the influential Senan Kilbride only exacerbated their woes.
That defeat set alarm bells ringing for this evening's trip to Gaelic Park. New York haven't won a game since entering the championship in 2001 but came mighty close against Leitrim in 2005 and pushed Galway last May. They have quality players like Rory Stafford (Wexford), Dan Doona (Kerry) and former Armagh underage stars Robbie Tasker and Stephen Harold. There will be a few nervous moments in the North Bronx this evening.
"A trimming in Croker wasn't the preparation that we were hoping for," says O'Donnell. "It's always worrying when you lose but the biggest thing is how fellas respond and we've been in this position before."
Roscommon, without injury victims David Casey, Cathal Shine, Fintan Cregg and David O'Gara, had won seven games on the bounce and Donie Shine knows there can be no repeat of that awful display.
"We're well aware that New York put it up to Galway last year and they also pushed Leitrim recently. New players have gone out there as well so it's going to be a tough game on an Astroturf pitch," he said.
"You don't know what the heat is going to be like either and we haven't played a whole pile on Astroturf pitches. There are a few around Dublin . . . but back in Roscommon we haven't trained on too many so it gives them an advantage.
"The League final was about winning, keeping the lads injury-free and using it as a building block for New York -- we know the amount of good players that they have out there and we wanted to win silverware ahead of the game. It was a tough balance but those are the type of problems Roscommon want."
Last weekend's slide, however, does little to refute the suggestion that last year's unexpected provincial win was a lucky dip.
"A lot of people see last year as a bit of a fluke and reckon our Connacht championship win was a one-off -- the same people will be talking about Galway, Mayo and Sligo as favourites and we won't even come into the reckoning. But that's fine -- I'll snap the hand off you every day you make me an underdog -- it suits us to come in under the radar again.
"We want to change people's view of us but we know we have to put in another consistent year to do that. The aim is to retain the provincial championship and do ourselves justice if we get to Croke Park again.
"I wouldn't say it's annoying that people constantly dismiss our chances -- I can't change the fact that people don't rate us highly -- the bottom line is that we've performed well in the past and from minor to senior we've won a lot of silverware so that speaks for itself.
"The main aim was to get promoted and we've done that. St Brigid's did so well this year and we have good underage teams too, so the future is bright."
Sunday Indo Sport