Magnitude of win not lost on O'Donnell

Roscommon manager Fergal O'Donnell compared yesterday's Connacht SFC final success to an All-Ireland win, when reflecting on what it means for the county's players and supporters.

There were joyous scenes at McHale Park as the Rossies, who were relegated from NFL Division 3 earlier this year, upset the form book and edged out Sligo for a thrilling 0-14 to 0-13 win.

Donie Shine did most of the damage on the scoreboard, hitting 0-10 in all, while Stephen Ormsby, Michael Finneran and Cathal Cregg all starred in key areas of the pitch.

O'Donnell, who captained Roscommon to their last Connacht title in 2001, said: "We were written off. We didn't get a write-up at all.

"This is our All-Ireland. All we wanted was to play at Croke Park in August. So we're in bonus territory now.

"I was lucky enough to win this title myself as a player. But this is better. Because it's been the hardest two years I ever had. The biggest thing that drove us on, really, was last year here in Castlebar."

It is an incredible turnaround in fortunes for O'Donnell's charges who suffered a 20-point hammering by Mayo in Castlebar last year and lost six of their seven league games this term.

Roscommon had three different managers - Michael Ryan, Paul Earley and John Maughan - in the space of a few months in 2008 before former midfielder O'Donnell took over. The players were at a low ebb following a 16-point defeat to Galway in the Connacht Championship and a 3-11 to 1-09 qualifier loss to Donegal.

But Roscommon's young guns, hungry for success after their 2006 All-Ireland minor win, have come of age at senior level this summer, putting together wins against London, Leitrim and Sligo. With the Connacht U-21 title also in the trophy cabinet, they will hope to continue their progress on the national stage.

Praising man-of-the-match Shine and his colleagues for a memorable team display, O'Donnell added: "Some people on the radio this week referred to Donie Shine as Donie Shannon. That's the sort of respect we got.

"And Donie showed then today that he's a top man. All the lads worked so hard, right down to Kevin Higgins' block there at the end. They were tremendous. I'm so proud."

Roscommon will take plenty of momentum into the All-Ireland quarter-finals, while a crestfallen Sligo side have just a few days to regroup before their qualifier clash with Down next weekend.

Having excelled when beating Connacht's 'big two', Mayo and Galway, Sligo stuttered badly on their biggest day since lifting the Nestor Cup in 2007.

Roscommon raised their game to a new height, but Sligo, as their manager Kevin Walsh conceded afterwards, did not do themselves justice.

"We blame ourselves. The first half was just pathetic stuff around the middle area," he said.

"I am not blaming the two lads in the middle, the whole middle eight didn't seem to be as quick on the ball as they have been.

"Having said that we got two quick points before half-time and got into the ball game (at 0-10 to 0-6). Very disappointed after we drew back level and we kind of owned the second half there and so it is very disappointing not to get over the line or at least get another go at it."

Did favouritism perhaps weigh heavily on the Yeats men's shoulders, with this being the first Connacht final without Mayo or Galway since 1947?

Walsh explained: "We have worked very hard on that. A certain amount of that does seep in.

"And we had three big games there and I wonder how much that took out of the lads mentally as well as physically...in fairness, they didn't die out there.

"They kept coming back and back and a few auld frees, as I call them, kept Roscommon plugging ahead.

"It will be tough but playing at Croke Park in a quarter-final is still there for the lads if they want it. The Connacht trophy has gone by the wayside."

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