Results in Ballybofey and Dr Hyde Park meant Sunday was something of a red-letter day for Connacht football, three counties from the province securing Division 1 status for 2019.
Kevin McLoughlin’s late equaliser against Donegal saw Mayo avoid relegation from the top-tier, while Roscommon’s three-point win at home to Cork meant a swift return to Division 1 for Kevin McStay’s charges.
“Brilliant for Connacht,” was McStay’s response when hearing that Roscommon will be greeted by neighbours Galway and Mayo next spring.
Not since 2002 have three Connacht counties been among the league’s top eight. On that occasion, 16 teams operated across Division 1A and 1B; Roscommon topped Division 1A, Mayo topped 1B, while Galway were fourth in Roscommon’s group.
McStay is hopeful his side can replicate Galway’s spring exploits when returning to the top table next year.
“Three teams [in Division 1] and we’d like to think that we’ll go about our business a bit better next year than we did in 2017 (when they were relegated). We just didn’t have that squad, we didn’t have that strength in depth to have a go at the first division. But next year, who’s to say we won’t be the Galway of Division 1?”
There’s a fair bit of football to be played between now and then. And first up on Roscommon’s radar is a Division 2 final against Cavan on Sunday. Since 2012, there have been 10 meetings between the counties, including an All-Ireland U21 semi-final. Cavan have triumphed in only one of these encounters, a 2014 Division 3 round-robin fixture.
Diarmuid Murtagh, with five points (two from play), was their top-scorer in the promotion-clinching win over Cork.
The corner-forward says it’s imperative this group churn out a performance at GAA HQ this weekend, given how meekly they bowed to Mayo in last summer’s All-Ireland quarter-final replay.
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