Wednesday 17 January 2018

Eugene McGee: Rossies' 2016 rising is forcing big guns into shock surrender

'The arrival of Kevin McStay (p) gave new impetus to the previous progress' Photo: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE
'The arrival of Kevin McStay (p) gave new impetus to the previous progress' Photo: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE
'Yet the only punishment for all but Neil McGee (pictured) and Alan Fitzgerald was the €7,500 fine on the Kerry and Donegal county boards' Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Eugene McGee

Eugene McGee

How have Roscommon come from Division 3 two seasons ago to storm through the ranks of Division 1 to beat Kerry, Cork and Donegal away from home and become serious contenders for National League honours?

Not only did Roscommon win these games but also they have amassed outrageous scoring tallies, which add up to a total of 100 points including seven goals.

So what has happened in such a short space of time?

Well for a start, former manager John Evans, who brought them promotion in two successive years, provided the groundwork for this achievement.

But the basis for all this success is the emergence of a small army of young talent that has brought Roscommon four Connacht U-21 titles in a row and one has only to look at the faces of the lads on duty in Letterkenny yesterday to appreciate their youth.

Then the arrival of Kevin McStay gave new impetus to the previous progress and with a very early start to their training programme Roscommon were one of the fittest teams in the entire league when it started in January - albeit they lost their first league game while playing at home in Kiltoom when Monaghan were cuter and grabbed a couple of late, late scores to snatch a win.

But from there on and starting in Killarney it was all systems go and Roscommon have won four on the trot, all away from home, if we include Longford's Pearse Park last week.

Yesterday it is safe to say that they never looked like losing to Donegal, which is an astonishing statement to make when we consider the physical strength and football quality of Donegal and their vast experience at national level, including the winning of an All-Ireland final.

Generally a young team like Roscommon would be vulnerable to older and more experienced sides but that has not happened in their four recent wins.

Playing Donegal away is regarded as one of the ultimate tests for visiting teams, as the likes of Tyrone and Dublin have found to their cost but yesterday these Roscommon lads sailed through the game without a care in the world.

They did not worry about Donegal's massed defence or the like; instead they played their own fast running game from start to finish and from their own end-line, usually opting to play on the wings rather than head into the midfield jungle that modern day football usually consists of.

Donegal were unable to get to grips with what was confronting them and struggleed with what was for them an alien game. It must also be said that there may have been something of a hangover from Tralee last week because as a team Donegal didn't have the same high level of commitment that they showed last week.

And a confident Roscommon set of players were just the team to cash in on that rather lackadaisical attitude.


Michael Murphy, though, is exempt from any such accusations as he tried valiantly to stem the tide, but the fact that Donegal had to withdraw defenders in the first half told its own story.

The hosts did put on a much better display in the second half and they are still a powerful team but maybe they did not pay enough attention to these young rebels that descended in O'Donnell Park yesterday.

These are exciting times for the Rossies on and off the field but you ain't seen nothing yet! In the next three weeks they will play Mayo and Dublin in Hyde Park - weather permitting one presumes - and what gigantic fixtures these are going to be.

Could they possibly beat these two teams? Well at the moment nothing seems impossible for Roscommon with their young set of football tyros.

And what an advertisement for positive underage coaching over the past ten years this team is. Other counties please follow!

Punish Guilty Players and Managers - Not county boards

The most astonishing thing about last Sunday week’s distasteful league game in Tralee was that only two players got suspended.

Every other player got off scot-free, which is surely a major blot on the GAA’s disciplinary system.

The game was watched on TG4 by thousands and if anybody can say to me that the image of Gaelic football was not damaged by what they saw and others read the next day, then I must be living on a different planet.

The amount of indiscipline in various forms, from head-to-head assaults, pulling and dragging, finger mauling, nasty off-the-ball stuff and several other forms of blackguardism was astonishing.

Yet the only punishment for all but Neil McGee and Alan Fitzgerald was the €7,500 fine on the Kerry and Donegal county boards – unless there is further investigation that we have not been told about.

A glance at the money spent annually on their respective county teams will show that such a petty fine is a only a tiny drop in the ocean in comparison with the annual budget for the two counties’ training costs.

There seems to be a myth in the GAA that financially punishing a county board punishes indiscipline. This is nonsense – the people who should be punished are the players who are involved by imposing suspensions on the culprits. 

In modern times the harsh reality is that county boards have little say in the running of their county teams, which includes ordering them to not engage in mass indiscipline like we saw in Tralee.

Instead it is team mangers and their acolytes who have total control of the county team. It is they who have the power to control their own players, but with the odd exceptions there are few managers who do so.

Maybe if managers were fined instead of county boards things might change – only managers have the power nowadays, not county boards.

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