Roscommon’s roller-coaster relationship with the league has seen them oscillate between the top two divisions for six consecutive seasons, bouncing immediately up or down every year since 2017.
But according to Roscommon selector Peter Tormey, a return to familiar Division 2 haunts may have contributed to their impressive renaissance so far this year.
That resurgence of form after a deflating 2021 has so far yielded instant promotion back to the top-flight (at Derry’s expense), a Division 2 title (at Galway’s expense) and now serene qualification for this Sunday’s Connacht SFC decider against Galway in Pearse Stadium.
Tormey already knew Anthony Cunningham through a previous coaching link-up with Moate Community School, and he didn’t have to think twice about joining his all-new management team this season because he knew the talent was there.
“Roscommon have always had good underage teams. Last year’s U-20s got to the All-Ireland final,” the Westmeath man pointed out.
“Having played in Division 1 last year, when you lose a few games it’s that bit harder going into championship. There was no ‘back door’ for the last two years. It was very unforgiving.
“In Division 2, you can gain that bit of momentum. You can blood a couple of new players. Lads bought into the way we were playing.
“There are loads of good footballers here. They’ve played in Division 1 on a number of occasions and won Connacht titles. I knew the talent was there, so it was an easy enough decision to make to get involved.”
Even though the Rossies have already scalped Galway twice in this year’s league, Tormey is loath to read too much into that.
“Since 2015, it’s 10-8 to Galway. The two teams know each other inside out. It’s our fourth time to play them this year. There has been a kick of the ball in the majority of the games, so you’d expect another close encounter,” he surmised.
“Obviously, they have some marquee players that are exceptional. If they take flight, they are going to be very hard to stop. But we’d like to think that if some of our really good players take flight, we have six forwards that can score. Not many teams in the country have that.”
Tormey identified Roscommon’s stalemate with a then high-flying Derry, back in mid-March, as an important stepping-stone in the team’s evolution. Having surrendered a six-point lead when facing a strong second-half wind, the Rossies then fell behind only to recover and force an injury-time draw.
A week later Derry were routed by Galway, effectively derailing their promotion quest and allowing Roscommon to come with a late burst.
“We were under pressure [against Derry] but in fairness to Keith Doyle, another one of the new guys who has come in, he got a huge point near the end. It was a big point for us,” Tormey recalled.
“We were disappointed with the way we played. We weren’t coming in afterwards saying that we got a draw with Derry … we weren’t giving ourselves high-fives. It was a point we lost rather than one we gained.
“We then went to Offaly, a game that everyone was saying could have been a potential banana skin. We targeted a good start, and we kicked on.”
All the way to a Connacht final.