Monday 15 October 2018

'Roscommon's style of play doesn't suit them at the moment' - Dolan

Despite five Roscommon players being in the picture, Galway corner-forward Danny Cummins gets through to rifle home his side’s first goal in the Connacht SFC final replay last Sunday. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Despite five Roscommon players being in the picture, Galway corner-forward Danny Cummins gets through to rifle home his side’s first goal in the Connacht SFC final replay last Sunday. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

To say Roscommon's championship form has been a little "hit and miss" would be a massive understatement.

After taking all before them in the league, beating Kerry, Cork and Donegal on the road, and Down at their temporary home in Pearse Park, their performances have nosedived with former star Frankie Dolan tracing the gradual decay back to late March.

Facing Mayo in a treacherous Hyde Park derby, they were "battered all over the field" with Stephen Rochford's side confirming their superiority, knocking Rossie confidence and sparking a change in fortunes.

A 10-point semi-final beating to Kerry was comforted by Division 1 survival and with three tune-ups before a possible tilt at a Connacht final, they were expected to be in rude health but a form upturn hasn't materialised with Dolan feeling that league exertions have come back to haunt them.

"They were definitely fitter than some of the teams early on in the year and they got a run on them and I think Kevin (McStay) and Fergal (O'Donnell) knew that they had to have to the fitness levels up," he says.

"They needed to get some wins and take the pressure off but they look like they're gone a bit flat and stale, maybe all that training and a hard Division 1, which Roscommon haven't had for a while, has taken its toll.

"That's what it looks like to me. Everyone had them pencilled in to be relegated, they've put a lot into it and look like a side now that needs a little something to spark them back to life."

Having narrowly avoided one of the biggest shocks in GAA history against New York, beating Division 4 opposition in Leitrim and overturning an eight-point deficit against Sligo, they limped to a draw against Galway before succumbing meekly in the replay.

"After 15 minutes the game was practically over," Dolan says of last week's defeat. "Roscommon started off with a sweeper, they went three points down, abandoned the sweeper and all hell broke loose.

"I don't know if Roscommon were very poor or Galway were brilliant but Galway's display was magnificent, the way they were moving the ball at pace, they bullied the full-back line.

"Every time they got a ball they were taking them on and going by them. Gary Sice took on Fintan Cregg and went by him as if he wasn't there and you've got to give credit to Galway, they were awesome."

The current St Brigid's boss describes a "sombre mood" ahead of today's last 12 tie with Clare, a six-day turnaround, and believes a ponderous style, with a big emphasis on defence isn't playing to the strengths of the talent at their disposal.

Changing tactics post-league to minimise the concession of scores takes time and Dolan urges patience with a "promising young side", even if the dying seconds of the drawn game was painful to watch as they held possession.

"All these teams do analysis on games and the big word is turnovers and maybe some of them are afraid to give away a ball with a kick pass, I don't know, but you have to take a chance, you have to buy a ticket to win a raffle," he says.

"Roscommon's style of play probably doesn't suit Roscommon at the moment, they're very slow and lethargic, you've got good forwards inside with Enda Smith, Senan Kilbride and Ciaran Murtagh but the ball isn't going in quick enough to them.

"That's what happened in the two games against Galway, we were very negative, very defensive and I don't think that Roscommon team are comfortable playing a very defensive game.

"You need a certain type of player to play that game, you have to be athletic, strong and you have to be able to run up and down that field all day and in my opinion we don't have that type of player, they're more skilful than athletic.

"People in Roscommon have to realise that it's the first year though, players aren't going to learn it overnight, it's a work in progress. Mickey Harte is only getting things together with Tyrone after three or four years developing a similar plan."

He expects Banner confidence to be sky-high in Pearse Stadium with "nothing to lose" and all the pressure on the Division 1 side. But if they're "mentally right", Roscommon can book their last-eight place.

Irish Independent

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