McHale hoping Rossies find 'progress through the struggle'
Roscommon selector Liam McHale is hoping a kinder 2017 schedule will help his side this summer as they look to get back on track following a difficult last 12 months.
The Rossies started last season brightly, taking some notable scalps early in the league. But their form dipped sharply as the summer came into view, losing heavily to Kerry in a league semi-final before almost going down to New York in their championship opener just a fortnight later.
And McHale believes that quick turnaround didn't help his side.
"The New York thing hurt us last year," he reflected. "The medical team doctor Martin Daly would have said that. That we had only two weeks, or a week and a half. We went out on the Thursday, had a tough game there, the pitch was wet there, the 3G was a mess.
"And our fitness and athleticism was nullified by the conditions and by the state of the pitch. We could have easily been beaten that day. The Kerry defeat by ten points? We would have probably been better off if we didn't get into the league semi-finals, the hammering we took against Kerry in Croke Park, and the poor performance against New York, rattled our confidence a little bit.
"It was a bit of struggle. We were eight points down against Sligo at half-time in the Connacht semi-final and it was very much up and down after that. The Galway defeat in the replayed game, and the Clare defeat were way off the mark."
And while it was a forgettable summer, the winter wasn't kind to Roscommon either. The Fergal O'Donnell-Kevin McStay management team ended in a messy break-up and some of the county's best players opted out. That was followed by a spring that ended in relegation from the top flight.
However, McHale was happy that they left Division 1 on a high note. They finished the league with a win over Cavan and with the likes of Diarmuid Murtagh, Cathal Compton, Ultan Harney and others edging back to full fitness ahead of their championship opener against either Leitrim or London on June 18 in Dr Hyde Park, he's hoping they have turned a corner.
"We had a very young team in the league, and we are fairly (confident) that the league campaign, tough and all as it was, will have brought them on an awful lot. It was a big learning curve.
"There was a basketball player that I played with years ago from Arizona State, a fella called Joe McLean and he said that only through struggle is there progress. So I tell you we struggled a lot this winter so I hope there will be progress at the end of it all."