Thursday 17 October 2019

Rossies resolve to banish memories of dispiriting 'Super 8s' campaign

O'Rourke: "I think at this stage, we have shown we are able to compete with the top teams. It is just consistency that we are striving to get." Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Roscommon will approach the 'Super 8s' in four weeks' time with renewed vigour and will have learned from the experiences of last year, midfielder Tadhg O'Rourke has predicted.

After the euphoria of a second Connacht title in three years in Pearse Stadium on Sunday, the new champions will refocus their attention later this week to the last-eight competition that they will enter directly this time and enjoy a home fixture first time out, courtesy of the tweaks made since 2018.

O'Rourke says they will go in with a point to prove. "I think at this stage, we have shown we are able to compete with the top teams. It is just consistency that we are striving to get. That is exactly what we will get now in the Super 8s - three massive games where we can just try and consistently compete. That's what we are looking forward to."

Beating both traditional powers in Connacht on their own home patch adds to the achievement, especially with the status both Mayo and Galway currently enjoy.

"We are not going to the Super 8s to play three games of high competitiveness and then walk away. We are going to the next round. Last year is going to stand to us, we had some big experiences last year."

Roscommon lost their three All-Ireland quarter-final games to Tyrone, Donegal and Dublin by an average of 13 points, twice shipping 4-24 in their two Croke Park games.

It was a very difficult experience that left them openly questioning their style of play and how they needed to address that in the future.

O'Rourke feels "heart" was the catalyst for their improvement after the break on Sunday that took them from five points down to eventual four-point winners.

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"You can do as many tactics and set-plays as you want, but a bit of heart came up trumps there. Balls were breaking and they broke in our favour. When you have the boys inside that we do, all they need is a sniff. When they got it, they didn't delay."

Meanwhile, goalscorer Diarmuid Murtagh has admitted that their 2017 win being viewed in isolation as a one-off has been a motivating factor.

"After winning Connacht in 2017, the consensus view was that we'd win it every six or seven years. We wanted to right that wrong, to get a bit of consistency into our performances," he said.

"It looked like we weren't going to do that in the first half but we went in and said we didn't want another sad story or another moral victory."

Murtagh admitted feeling "emotion" at the final whistle given his own situation after he sustained a detached retina during last year's Super 8s competition.

Murtagh sustained the serious injury in the week leading up to their final game against Dublin in the series and subsequently underwent surgery.

"Just when the final whistle went, it was very emotional for me," he acknowledged. "When I was sitting in the hospital bed after eye surgery I didn't think I'd ever get back playing. It means a lot to me.

Patient "I'm delighted that the manager (Anthony Cunningham) had a lot of trust in me as well. Management has been very patient with me, letting me come back when I felt comfortable so it's emotional now, days like Sunday are why I worked to come back."

It was Roscommon's first time since 2001 to beat Mayo and Galway in the same championship season, and the first time since 1972 since they beat them both away to win a Connacht title.

And they had to do it without Ciarán Murtagh, John McManus and Niall McInerney who all pulled away from the squad after last year to pursue other interests.

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