This was as straightforward as a win gets as Roscommon bossed Leitrim from start to finish and ended up with a record scoreline in the championship against their neighbours.
Two goals in the first half from Conor Devaney quenched any dim Leitrim hopes of building on Darragh Rooney’s early goal, but in the end Roscommon came with a strong second half to pull clear and secure an impressive win.
But coming off the field McStay knew this victory will have done little for his side, other than boosting their confidence. In the Connacht final they will face a physically superior Galway side, who will be keen to win a second provincial title in a row.
“We needed to get the ticket to get to the final. Unfortunately, it bears no resemblance to what we’re going to face (there),” said McStay.
“For all intents and purposes the Connacht final in many eyes was last week. I totally understand that. We have no right to even be considered. I’m not happy about that but I have to accept it, that’s just the way it is.
“We haven’t done anything to break into that bubble. But that’s not to say that we wouldn’t do something to break into the bubble in the next few weeks. We’re going to go to Galway to make amends for some of the stuff that we did previously up there which wasn’t acceptable.”
The hints of this landslide win were there to be seen in the opening minutes as the Roscommon inside forwards feasted on the quality ball delivered into them from the likes of Enda Smith and Niall Kilroy. Four points arrived inside the first five minutes from Ciaran and Diarmuid Murtagh, and Enda and Donie Smith, but after eight minutes Leitrim looked to have lifted their hopes when Conor Gaffney sent Darragh Rooney in for a brilliant goal.
But the few points they needed to add to it never came, and instead Fintan Cregg and Kilroy clipped over Roscommon scores at the opposite end.
Devaney’s first goal came quick on the heels of those two points and he was sharp to tidy up the scraps after Enda Smith’s shot was brilliantly saved by Brendan Flynn, but when he finished his second in the 33rd minute after a sweet exchange of passes with Diarmuid Murtagh the win was all but guaranteed.
“Yeah, very disappointed. What we were looking for today was a performance, and we didn’t get that. Especially not in the first-half,” said Leitrim manager Benny Guckian.
“I spoke before about Division 1 playing Division 4, and that was the difference. Roscommon brought a lot more intensity to the game, and I’m just disappointed for our lads, who put in a huge amount of work, and didn’t justify that today.
“There were times we just weren’t able to compete when Roscommon went at us. Physically, they look in great shape, and the goals definitely killed us in the first half. It’s very hard to bounce back after a start like that.
“These lads work as hard as anyone else, but just didn’t show that today. There’s no doubt the make the same sacrifices, same effort, so hopefully they can pick themselves up for the next day.”
With McStay and Liam McHale roaring on their side on the sidelines, there was no room for a let up in effort from Roscommon and they came with a powerful 15 minutes after the break that saw them pull 16 points clear.
It could have been a heftier gap had Ciaran Murtagh not skied his 44th-minute penalty over the bar, but the challenge at that stage was emerging unscathed from the game while starting their preparation for the Connacht final.
Leitrim did muster a retort of sorts with seven points in the last 20 minutes – substitute Ronan Kennedy was central to that – but at their ease Roscommon won by 17 points.
Last year’s 11-point loss to Galway in the Connacht final replay is a wound that hasn’t fully healed and McStay is hopeful that his side can give a decent account of themselves this time.
“It’s one of the big targets that the team set ourselves to see if we can improve on last year’s performance which wasn’t really good enough in the end.
“It’s a long long time since Roscommon have taken out one of those two big teams, Mayo or Galway. We have a good chance, we have a young team and they are going to be learning all the time. We want to be super super competitive in that final.”
D Murtagh (0-7, 1 free); C Devaney (2-1); C Murtagh (0-4, 0-3 free, 0-1 pen); E Smith (0-3); B Stack, F Cregg (0-2 each); N Kilroy, D Smith, S Killoran, C Connolly (0-1 each)
D Rooney (1-2); K Beirne (0-3, 1 free); R Kennedy (0-2); D Moran, B Gallagher (0-1 each).
C Lavin; G Patterson, J McManus, N McInerney; S McDermott, S Mullooly, C Devaney; E Smith, T O’Rourke; F Cregg, N Kilroy, B Stack; C Murtagh, D Murtagh, D Smith
C Connolly for Smith (14 – bc), C Compton for Connolly (45), R Stack for Kilroy (45), S Killoran for Patterson (48), B Murtagh for B Stack (60), T Featherston for C Murtagh (65)
B Flynn; N Plunkett, D Wrynn, P Maguire; J Rooney, M McWeeney, O Madden; D Moran, S Moran; C Gaffney, R O’Rourke; K Beirne, B Gallagher, D Rooney.
N McGovern for D Moran (35+3 – bc), R Kennedy for D McGovern (35+6), G Reynolds for McWeeney (45 – bc), C Cullen for O’Rourke (47), R Gallagher for Wrynn (58), G Plunkett for Gallagher (67) Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow)
Anthony Nolan (Wicklow).