Tuesday 23 January 2018

Rising side reach new level

Roscommon's Peter Domican is captain of a side that knows its own limitations, writes Marie Crowe

ALL the talk in the build-up to last month's Connacht final centred on Sligo's heroics in overcoming Mayo and Galway. It presumed that this had earned them the right to be named champions-elect.

The problem was that nobody figured on Roscommon -- nobody, that is, except themselves. Practically ignored in the build-up, that suited them just fine and after a grinding afternoon in McHale Park, they had defied the odds to overcome the hot favourites and win the Nestor Cup.

The team was led by young captain, Peter Domican. In his short career the 22-year-old has known more good days than many a Roscommon footballer. It started for him in 2006 when his minor team shocked the country by beating Kerry in the All-Ireland final after a replay. The victory, seen by many as a miracle, was in fact the result of hard work and more hard work.

"When we started training for the minor championship, we trained for six months before we even had a game," says Domican. "Nobody missed a session; we used to see each other three or four times a week. We had to become friends or we wouldn't be able to stand each other and that's paying dividends now."

Under manager Fergal O'Donnell, the team was nurtured and developed. And as he moved up through the ranks of management to the senior set-up, so did ten of his minor panel. These lads now make up a large portion of the new breed of Roscommon players who are driving football in a new direction in the county.

"It helps having the same manager as when we won the minor and also that he is from our own county as well. A lot of the lads would have looked up to him, we respect him and he is an easy man to get along with. He made it easier for us to come from minor up to senior. Fergal really knows the panel and the players and knows how to talk to us and get the best out of us. He has done it before with us in minor so we believe in him and we want to win for him."

Winning an All-Ireland minor title four years ago wasn't a bad start to Domican's career. However, it was the first time in 59 years that Roscommon had won an All-Ireland title so with that success came pressure.

"A lot of people expected the minors to come through and win stuff straight away. But we know it's not that easy, it's going to take a lot more than just that one team coming through for Roscommon to win All-Ireland senior titles. We are building a panel with a winning mentality because we won the 21s and the minors and a provincial title in the last few years, but success won't come overnight. It should be a very competitive Connacht championship for the next while."

Domican is one of the youngest senior captains in the country. Just over a year ago, he played a massive part in securing an under 21 championship for his club St Brigid's. Not long after, Fergal O'Donnell selected him to lead the county for this season. It's only been a few months since he stepped into the role but he has flourished and for someone so young he is mindful of the responsibility that comes with it.

"He put me captain at the start of the league and I just responded to the challenge. I tried to get the best out of the players around me and I carried on from the league into the championship. A lot of the players are younger than me. I get on with them and they get on with me so it makes it easier.

"Age doesn't seem to be a factor in our squad, everyone keeps going on about it but we all gelled so it doesn't make a difference. There are no big egos in the dressing room but there are lots of strong characters. We have a lot of leaders on the team -- Karol Mannion, Seanie McDermott and David Casey would all help me out if I was stuck. It's easy to be a captain when you have support." But Domican has still only played one full season of championship football and has a lot to learn.

Having been successful with the minors and his club, the full-back takes it in his stride. He knows what he wants to get out of the lads and how to go about getting it. Leading both on and off the field has never been a struggle for him; the hard work put in in 2006 set the precedent and made him aware early on in life what it takes to win.

"Whether I was captain or not, I'd want to play well and lead by example and to do that you have to be dedicated and train hard. I've learned to work hard and make sure there are no individuals on the team. We are all in it together.

"We need everyone to be training hard and everyone to be on the same wavelength and have no fear of the opposition. Roscommon teams down through the years have feared the likes of Galway or Mayo, but I don't think there is any need to fear them anymore because we have proven that we can compete at the highest level."

Beating Sligo in the Connacht final is another feather in his cap. Nobody expected them to pull it off but Roscommon had prepared to perfection, there was never any doubt in their minds.

"Sligo were the form team after beating Galway and Mayo, we knew their forwards were going to be dangerous and they were playing well at midfield. We knew we had to bring the midfield back and make sure we were tight on the forwards. We did that for the first half and we built up the lead and carried on in the second half. Even though Sligo got back into the game, we just kept plugging away and came out on the right side of it."

After winning Connacht, Roscommon didn't waste much time on celebrations, resuming training the day after claiming the title. Being drawn against Cork -- last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists -- for today's quarter-final didn't provoke much of a reaction within the camp.

"We knew we were going to get a good team anyway; all the teams in the quarter-finals are there because they have earned their place. Whatever team we go up against we're going to be underdogs. But we're used to that. Even though we're a side who have beaten teams that Roscommon teams may not have beaten in the past, we're not completely fearless, we're as nervous as everyone else. We're just a group of players going out to try and do a job."

Playing Cork today is another step up for the rising team. They go into the game with everything to gain and nothing to lose. That's a nice position to be in.

Sunday Independent

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