Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham has called on his side to cast off their Castlebar hoodoo and overcome league champions Mayo tomorrow. Castlebar has been an unhappy hunting ground for Roscommon, who have not won a senior inter-county game at MacHale Park since 1986.
But the former Galway hurling boss wants his side to show their mettle against the All-Ireland final ‘bridesmaids’ of the last five years and reach a Connacht final against the Tribesmen.
“We want to show how good we are. There is no better place to do that than against Mayo on their home turf,” said Cunningham, who coached the Dublin hurlers last year.
“That is why we train every night. That is what we play for and that is why you are an inter-county player. We may have a score to settle with them. They beat us there in the league and we were very close that night.
“We want to go down there and give it a real go. We know how good Mayo are — they are everybody’s favourites bar Dublin to win the All-Ireland.
“They have been the bridesmaids and the best team bar Dublin for the last five years.
Everybody would have hoped that they had gone and won an All-Ireland. That is how much respect we have for them.
As a player with Galway, Cunningham played in four hurling All-Ireland finals in a row between 1985 and 1988, and won the final two.
As a manager he led Galway to the final in 2012 and 2015. He was ratified as Roscommon manager in November last year, after Kevin McStay’s three years at the helm, and despite relegation from Division 1 this spring, Cunningham is happy with the growth of his side in that spell.
“We were happy with the league. Obviously, we would’ve been happier if we stayed up, but we got a lot from the performances.
“There wasn’t a massive disappointment at the end of it to be honest with you. Yeah, we’ll be disappointed that we won’t be playing the Division 1 teams next year because that’s where you learn the most. It’s all about performance and it’s all about getting better and there were a lot of performances we’re happy with. But we’re not the finished article yet. We’re a development team and we want to keep improving.
“Our biggest concern, wish and goal for the championship is to improve our performances from the league.”
MAYO (SFC v Roscommon):
R Hennelly; C Barrett, B Harrison, K Higgins; P Durcan, M Plunkett, L Keegan; M Ruane, A O’Shea; F Boland, J Doherty, D O’Connor; E Regan, D Coen, K McLoughlin.
D O’Malley; D Murray, S Mullooly, C Daly; N Daly, C Hussey, R Daly; T O’Rourke, S Killoran; H Darcy, C Cregg, N Kilroy; U Harney, C Cox, D Murtagh