Senan Kilbride admits that he was going through the motions as a Roscommon footballer until the county’s conveyor belt of successful underage talent and new senior manager John Evans arrived on the scene.
It’s a noteworthy admission from a man who has been pivotal in St Brigid’s successes at county, provincial and senior level, but the April GAA/GPA Opel footballer of the month was honest yesterday in his appraisal of his career then and now.
“I was kind of going through the motions a bit a couple of years ago,” he explained in Croke Park. “I thought I was giving everything, but then in the last couple of years there has been a great set-up with John Evans and the management team.
“They are expecting higher standards of every player and the young lads coming through — they are winners. They have been winning all the way through underage. the pace and power they have, and the enthusiasm they bring to training...
“It has driven on a good few lads and it has pushed us. Competition is very high now and it’s very difficult to make the team. I’m sure it will be difficult for John and the boys to pick the team so they definitely have made a big impact on the training and the standards.”
Evans has taken Roscommon from the league’s third tier to the first where they will play next year and exclaimed after their Division Two final victory last month that the ultimate goal for the county was a senior All-Ireland title.
It was an ambition that raised eyebrows and more than a few heckles.
“I’m sure it surprised supporters and everyone else because all year he’s been saying we’re not ready, we’re not ready. Yeah, he’s putting that message out a good bit. But inside the dressing-room he’s very positive about our chances of progressing this year and over the next couple of years into a very competitive team in the All-Ireland.
“He has that aspiration for us and it’s great. He knows what it takes to win, coming from Kerry. He sees the talent that is here in Roscommon and he believes that we have the talent and commitment to make it to that All-Ireland. That is the dream. Hopefully we can fulfil it at some stage.”
First up though is a date with London in a Connacht Championship in which, after four years of domination by Mayo, there is a feeling that maybe the other quartet have something more attainable to play for this time.
“Maybe other teams feel they have a chance this year that they mightn’t have had for the last couple of years,” Kilbride agreed while pointing out that Mayo still represented a formidable challenge to the pretenders.
“Galway were very strong, they beat us in the league. Sligo finished the league very strongly and I’m sure if we get through London they’ll fancy their chances. Five or six years ago (Sligo) took Mayo when Mayo went up to Division One. They were waiting for them and they took them. It’s probably a bit more open in that teams have a bit more belief that they can actually win it. But until somebody does, Mayo are still favourites.”
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