Friday 23 March 2018

Rossies keen to make Mayo 'statement' - Harney

Rising star Roscommon star Ultan Harney. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Rising star Roscommon star Ultan Harney. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Roscommon have blazed a trail in 2016 with a string of giant-killing wins, but no slaying comes bigger than Sunday's battle with Connacht rivals Mayo and rising star Ultan Harney feels a win would make a real "statement".

Injury has scuppered Harney's participation under new bosses Kevin McStay and Fergal O'Donnell but having recently rejoined the set-up, he has seen at first hand the change in mentality underpinning their remarkable climb to the top.

Their start to Division 1 life has shocked many and despite coming through successful minor and U-21 sides, the powerful midfielder admits it has even amazed him.

"When I came back from the hamstring injury I was just with the U-21s so I was away from the seniors for three or four weeks. Coming back in, it's a wake-up call again," Harney said at a function in Dublin to promote the EirGrid GAA U-21 Connacht final. "It's dog eat dog in training. Playing training matches is harder than any other match right now, it's a different level. If you miss a session you're down the pecking order.

"I've always felt from playing with and against lads at minor the last couple of years I couldn't see how other teams could be so much better than us and we just had to get it together. But I am surprised.

"I suppose we were hoping just to stay up and fight, we didn't see it panning out the way we are now, sitting second in the table. But then again I'm not surprised in a way, I know what we're capable of."

The Clann na nGael ace believes there has been a conscious effort to turn up the heat physically to reach the intensity levels of of Dublin and Kerry, while still retaining creative freedom and a licence to play.

The Rossies are buzzing ahead of their "biggest league game yet", a duel with Mayo at Dr Hyde Park. Both sides will wrestle for Connacht glory later this year and it offers a chance to lay down a marker.

"The last two times we played them we beat them in the FBD League but that doesn't really matter. We beat them in the FBD last year and we were gone by July while they could have won the All-Ireland," he said.

"But this game would make a bit of statement, I think. The fact that Mayo are fighting for survival means they will come with everything and it will be a big test. Plus, it's Mayo/Roscommon."

No phoney wars out west.

Irish Independent

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