The afterglow from Roscommon’s first Connacht senior title in seven years will burn brightly through the darkest recesses of the winter to come but Ciarán Murtagh is adamant that they are far from done with their summer’s work.
It didn’t go according to plan the last time the Rossies pitched up in Croke Park for an All-Ireland quarter-final, Cork evicting a side that had also just claimed a provincial title before going on to lift the Sam Maguire.
Whatever happens from here on in, 2017 has already been a success given the odds and expectations on Galway to retain their Connacht crown at Pearse Stadium two days ago but Murtagh has hinted that the Nestor Cup was never the limit of their ambitions.
“When you are the underdog it is always nice to win,” said the St Faithleach’s forward. “We wanted to be in an All-Ireland quarter-final and that is where we are.
“We will enjoy this but we will definitely have to refocus in the next couple of weeks. We have a three-week turnaround now and we will have to see who we get.”
Improvements will certainly be required, regardless of the opposition.
Murtagh admitted nerves began to fray as early as the second quarter when they followed up Cian Connolly’s superb goal with six consecutive wides but there was a general acceptance inside the dressing-room that the planets had aligned for them.
Kevin McStay suggested there was an element of catching Galway on the hop and Murtagh spoke about the suspicion that a fast start for a Roscommon side thought to be struggling in choppy waters would sow seeds of doubt in the Tribesmen’s minds.
Getting to play the first period with the aid of a strong wind was exactly what they needed.
The first five minutes were ample evidence of the fact that whispers of internal discord this year were groundless. “We would not have been playing like that if the management team was not behind us and we were behind the management team,” said Murtagh.
It’s hard to argue with that. “We don’t listen to that sort of stuff. You block all that out. Everyone can throw around rumours but no-one knows about what actually is going on inside the camp. I don’t think you win finals if the lads are not happy, if the management are not doing the right things.”
In retrospect, little things added up to a lot.
The defeat of Cavan in the last round of the league was dismissed as a trifle after six straight defeats and relegation had been confirmed but it acted as a buoy to confidence levels that could have been drowned by negative waves.
And, unlike last year when they had to squeeze a game in New York in between league and championship, they had the space to work on their games ahead of a semi-final against Leitrim that was always going to be a mere dry run for the bigger business to follow.
Sunday’s victory is an astonishing affirmation of what can be achieved in the face of perceived adversity, all the more so given the roll call of absent names this year, one that includes Senan Kilbride, Cathal Cregg, Geoffrey Claffey and more besides.
Yet, the expectation that Roscommon would suffer against Galway, particularly later on when a bench light on years and experience would be needed, was confounded by the input of players such as Donal Smith and Shane Killoran who contributed three points between them.
“Everyone who has been on the panel worked hard and have been fighting for places,” said Murtagh.
“That makes us better players and that is why lads came in and finished it off. They were battling with us all along for starting places and they came on and finished out the game.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved