FOUR years have whizzed by since Roscommon claimed an All-Ireland minor title by defeating Kerry in a replay in Ennis but Donie Shine accepts the time has come for the county to transfer that success to the senior stage.
Shine was the star man among that 2006 crop but he is just one of a plethora of players to have graduated to the senior side that is guided by their successful underage mentor of the time Fergal O’Donnell.
And the underage ranks have continued to record some modest successes in recent seasons with three appearances in provincial minor finals serving as an appetiser for the Connacht U21 title claimed earlier this term.
“It is a long time since the minors and it is about time since we got a bit more silverware,” Shine admitted. “This year we won the U21 and the double would be lovely against Sligo now at the weekend.”
The Clann na nGael youngster was part of the Roscommon side that defeated Sunday’s Connacht final opponents in that underage decider but he is dismissive of that result’s worth in the days to come.
For a start, the personnel will be very different in Castlebar. Aside from Shine and Sligo’s Keelan Cawley, the decks will be all but swept clean of contributors from that U21 meeting. And, as Sligo have shown, senior success does not depend exclusively on underage breakthroughs. It is 42 years since they claimed a provincial minor crown and they have never won the province’s U21 grade.
Shine agrees. He said: “Since Kevin Walsh came in they seem to have improved a lot. They were very unlucky last year in the qualifiers against Kerry who went on to win an All-Ireland so they are a good team. They have got promoted from division three. We will give them the respect they deserve.”
The county’s last meeting at senior level came just three months ago in Markievicz Park when a promotion-chasing Sligo side put 20 points on their provincial cousins.
That, too, is immaterial in Shine’s eyes who was withheld from that tie due to the All-Ireland U21 semi while a significant number of others were ruled out with injury.
“It has been hard not to be impressed with Sligo beating Mayo and Galway,” he pointed out. “I have watched all their games so far and they seem like a really good team. We have it all to do.”
If there is a positive to Sligo’s eye-catching form for the underdogs it is the fact that they have been allowed slip through this far under the radar. After all, beating London and Leitrim does not light bonfires.
“We had a bad league campaign and expectations weren’t too high. We played pretty well against London and we were happy enough to come out of there with the win. It can always be tough over there. Roscommon-Leitrim matches always seem to go down to the wire so we were delighted to get through that too. If we can keep playing and getting the wins we can improve as it goes.”
If Roscommon are to hold out any prospect of a shock then Shine will be central to their hopes having already claimed 1-16 in the county’s championship run.
Fourteen of those points came from frees, a fair few of which have been for fouls on him, but the personable Shine has no complaints about the increased attention he faces.
He is far from alone in having to put up with the peculiar tricks employed by wily inter-county defenders. His college buddy, David Kelly, will be attempting to evade the same specialised attention at the far end this weekend.
Both were part of a DCU side that claimed the Sigerson Cup title earlier this year although Shine’s contribution was limited after a suspension that left it difficult to break back into the team for the final weekend.
It was, nonetheless, just another brick in the wall that is his footballing education and he derived an extra layer of belief in playing with high profile names from other counties.
“There are a lot of county lads at DCU who played with Dublin, Meath and different counties and it just shows that there is not much separating all the teams. It does give you an extra bit of confidence.”
Roscommon will need all they can get.
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