GAA Football

McStay happy with lengthy break

Roscommon have only the winners of New York v Leitrim to come in the 78 days between Sunday's Division Two final and the Connacht decider on June 17.

ROSCOMMON boss Kevin McStay says he is “happy” with the lengthy break between their Division Two final and the Connacht final in which they will be strongly fancied to appear.

Only New York – who have never won a championship game – or Leitrim, whom Roscommon have beaten by 16 and 13 points respectively in the last two Connacht championships, stand between the second tier champions and a place in the June 17 final.

That represents 78 days in which they will play just one game against either Division Four opposition or a side that does not compete in the National Football League, which itself takes place on May 26.

Roscommon are one of several counties that will use April for early rounds of their round-robin based club championship, with the clubs each set to play two games over the weekends of April 14/15 and 21/22.

The former RTÉ pundit, whose players won’t return to the county camp now until April 24, says he has no problem with the long gap in the inter-county calendar.

“Sure we have to play the semi-final. That's our next challenge is the semi, Leitrim or New York, and they go to their clubs in the month of April. That's the arrangement we have.

“I think we see them on the 24th of April and then a month later we have Leitrim or New York. The time blocks are fine for us. We're happy with them from our perspective.

“We have enough time to get ready for Leitrim or New York and to let them back to their clubs at the same time and please God then we can plan for a Connacht final.”

Roscommon’s attacking display lit up Croke Park as they hit 4-16, all but three points of it from play, and had superb individual performances from the likes of Conor Devaney, Diarmuid Murtagh and Donie Smith.

They were wide to the world at the other end though, with Cavan’s pace causing all sorts of trouble in a first half where McStay decided to keep Niall Kilroy up the pitch and operate without a sweeper.

Conor Bradley burned them for an early goal before Dara McVeety did likewise twice, first winning a penalty that Martin Reilly converted and then netting one of his own with a blistering low finish.

The former Mayo player hinted that his side will have a different shape when it comes to the battle to retain the Connacht title they won last summer.

“Absolutely, Cavan were never going to set up to close it down and we weren't either. It's the league, it's a kind of a bonus game and nobody is going to show their hand too much up here.

“It's quite different to what's going to go on in the next few minutes. We've a big, big match that qualifies us for Connacht if we can beat Leitrim or New York. Today wasn't Championship, we weren't going to be showing our hand too much.”

On top of the brilliance of their starting forward division, Cathal Cregg came off the bench to score 2-1, while Niall McInerney, Enda Smith and Ian Kilbride all scored after coming on to bring the tally from their replacements to 2-4 for the day.

Having reached the last eight in 2017, where they held Mayo to a draw before being crushed by 22 points the second day, McStay feels that his options are deepening.

“Ah there is [greater strength in depth], and we're working towards that. But every team....that's how the game operates now, people are just wrecked with 20 minutes to go.

“You see Dublin have been at it for the last three or four years where they can bring on fellas who are marking fellas who have just put in a big shift and the openings are there, decision making is a bit better when you have energy.

“We'd prefer to have Enda Smith and Cathal Cregg on the pitch, if they can get onto the starting 15 in their own right that would be grand.

“They have five or six weeks or whatever it is to do that. I'm not keeping my better players off the field, if that makes sense.

“If their form was good enough, if they'd enough done they'd have started but obviously… Cathal now has made a big push to see if he can keep a starting jersey.”

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