Reality check shows O'Donnell the level Tyrone have reached
ROSCOMMON joint-manager Fergal O’Donnell says Tyrone are further up the pecking order than his side after they were beaten by Kerry in last Sunday’s Division One semi-finals.
The Rossies chalked up four wins in the top flight this season, but they were brought back down to earth at Croke Park with a bump by Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s Munster kingpins.
Kerry were 10-point winners and, after the game, O’Donnell admitted his side had a lot of ground to make up before they could be considered credible All-Ireland contenders.
“We know and I think anyone knows, if they are realistic, that we’re in the Division One semi-finals, but we’re not in the top four teams in the country,” he said.
“You look at the likes of Tyrone coming up and Tyrone would be miles ahead of us and we know that. An All-Ireland is a long way away and we’d be looking to see if we can compete against the best teams in Connacht.”
Tyrone are gearing up for a Division Two final against Cavan on April 24, while Roscommon’s next game is the first of the All-Ireland series. They meet New York at Gaelic Park in the Connacht SFC preliminary round on May 1 and, if they come through that, they’ll have Leitrim in the quarter-final, Sligo in the semi and, potentially, Mayo (if they get past London and Galway) in the decider.
Mayo have won four titles on-the-trot in Connacht and beat the Rossies by four points at Hyde Park in late March. O’Donnell said that game was a reality check for the Rossies, who won Division Two last year.
“There’s been a lot of media about us and I suppose the Mayo game kind of showed up our shortcomings,” he said.
“We know where we’re at. The biggest thing we find out is about game awareness, the decisions that we make when we’re under pressure. I think that’s something that we really have to learn from these big games, that you have to be smart.
“If you turn over the ball, especially around the middle, then you get punished and that's what happened us today and it was the same against Mayo.”
O’Donnell rejected the suggestion that fitness had been an issue for his side on Sunday, but said Kerry’s top flight conditioning and experience had been factors in their win.
“We would think that we’re fit enough but then, in certain areas, we wouldn’t be as mobile as we should be,” he said.
“But fitness isn’t an issue for us. Maybe tiredness in that a few of the lads haven’t got breaks and there’ve been club games as well. We’ll be able to review that now and see where we’re at.
“Kerry are contesting at the top level all the time and they are used to that - there was only one team in it, unfortunately. It was their ability to transition compared to us, that when they get back so quick they can then come up the field. Like, Kieran Donaghy can float in at 14 and, next minute, you look and he’s back in the full-back line. That’s something we have got to look at.
“I suppose you have to play at this level and I suppose if we get another year at Division One you get used to marking players at the top level and that’s what we need, to be playing these games consistently and then there mightn’t be this awe or this fear factor.
“We didn’t feel it [nervous] coming into the game, there was no sense of it, the dressing-room was great - everyone says that - but we didn’t sense it. When you go in at half-time and the game is up, then it is disappointing. I didn’t anticipate that, I thought that we’d be in the game at half-time.”