By Seamus Hayden
The following was written for inclusion in the 2010 Roscommon SFC Final match programme
I would like to thank Roscommon County Board for allowing me the privilege to pen my thoughts on the late Dermot Earley who passed away recently. Dermot Earley is for me the greatest Roscommon person I have known.
I first met Dermot Earley in 1966 when I was nine years old and Dermot was eighteen. We met at Fullard’s filling station in Roscommon town. It was a Sunday evening and Dermot was on his way back to the Curragh. I was in the back of my family’s black Anglia. I was so excited to meet this fine, strong Roscommon footballer with the crew cut hairstyle. Even then he made an impression on me. For the next few years playing football at home in Kilteevan and elsewhere I was, in my own mind, Dermot Earley. He was simply my idol.
You can imagine the feelings of joy and awe when years later the then-Roscommon senior team manager Tom Heneghan informed me that I was selected to play midfield beside Dermot in the National Football league of 1978/79. To play alongside my boyhood hero was something special.
We won the League that season and went on to play together in the 1980 All-Ireland Final against Kerry. Our eight-year midfield partnership lasted until Dermot retired in 1985.
Dermot was a mighty man to play with, welcoming us young fellows onto the team, encouraging and praising all the time –“your ball” mighty catch”, and “well done” rang out from him during a game or on the training pitch. His words of encouragement made us younger players feel bigger, faster, stronger, and eager to win all our games for Dermot’s and our beloved primrose and blue.
We all looked up to Dermot and he was a hero and role model for us. That team of the 1970s and 1980s remain very close to this day. We were all stunned and saddened by the passing of Dermot this year.
Even after we stopped playing, meeting Dermot was still a special and memorable experience. With his great handshake, his big smile, his hand on your shoulder, and his genuine words of “good to see you”; we knew we were with a very special man and friend.
He was always upbeat about Ireland and Roscommon and life in general. After spending time in Dermot’s company one would walk away feeling good about life. This was a very special and wonderful gift that Dermot had. He had many other fine qualities also that are all too rare in people and that we could do with finding in the Ireland of today.
In the 1990s when Dermot was asked to manage Roscommon, he did it with great pride and enthusiasm. He invited myself and John McGowan to be his selectors – an honour for both of us. We all loved Roscommon but none more so than Dermot as he proved time and again when he was asked to do so many things for his native county and clubs in and around the county.
Dermot was the greatest ambassador that Gortaganny, Roscommon and Ireland could have. He made us proud of who we were and where we are from. He was proud and emotional about his roots and he delighted in Mary and their fine family yet was humble about his stature in Irish society and the esteem in which he was held in the GAA community.
When news broke that Dermot was not well we all wondered how such a strong man could be brought down like this. Alas for us there will be greater interest in the All Heaven final this year. I am sure Dermot will have some role to play either as a player or team manager or match analyst in the proceedings.
To his mother Kitty, his wife Mary, who was always at his side, his children and grandchild, his brothers and sisters it is difficult to find words that offer any consolation in your great loss but rest assured that we know Dermot will share in the laughter and special memories whenever we meet and recall the many great memories that we have of this very special man.
As for my Roscommon teammates, we were privileged and honoured to have played with such a man on the playing fields of Ireland and especially here in Hyde Park. Every time a ball is plucked from the sky in this great theatre of Gaelic games we will know that we have seen it done more gracefully and skilfully by Roscommon’s mighty No 8 Dermot Earley. We are confident that Dermot will continue to inspire future generations of young players in his beloved primrose and blue.
Many fine, accurate words have been penned to describe Dermot Early, an officer, a gentleman, an ambassador, a legend, and possibly the greatest footballer never to have won an All-Ireland Senior medal. Personally, I know one thing; I have lost a true and genuine friend.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh do anam dilís Dermot.
(Interview by Michael Fahey, then County PRO, in October 2010)
Michael McGuire became Chairman of Roscommon GAA County Board during the summer of 2005 following the resignation of Stephen Banahan. Michael faced many serious problems on taking up office. Michael has now completed his term of office and will step down as Chairman at the convention in December 2010. In the following interview, Michael speaks candidly of the challenges and successes that he experienced during his tenure of office.
When you became Chairman in 2005 what was the biggest challenge facing you as Chairman?
The first and most pressing issue was to become familiar with the causes of the crisis that had hit Roscommon GAA and to try with set about resolving it. As most people will be aware our county was facing huge financial problems and these in turn were impacting on virtually every facet of the GAA in the county. I have no great wish to revisit the crisis but suffice to say that it was a massive job involving work with auditors, solicitors and other interested parties culminating in two EGM’s before we were in a position to move on..
What lessons were learned by Roscommon County Board and the GAA in general from the financial troubles that Roscommon GAA faced in 2005/06?
There were a number of very important lessons;
- To ensure that the auditor’s annual report and findings are acted upon and that regular financial reports are produced and presented to the county committee.
- To generate enough income annually to service all the boards outgoings.
- To ensure that a proper accounts package is in place to allow the board to have regular reports as to the state its finances
- To engage at provincial and central level regarding all financial matters.
- To implement an agreed fundraising programme for each year.
What are the major improvements you have witnessed during your period as Chairman.
I suppose I would have to say the major improvement in our finances, also the fantastic progress at coaching and at underage level. Further to that there has been a tremendous improvement in the way the whole GAA operation is run in our county. The ability of our clubs and administrators to embrace the massive changes in IT and other innovative changes has resulted in the county’s affairs being run in a very professional manner.
However one of the most impressive changes has been the number of clubs that have completed high quality upgrades to their facilities. The quality of our club facilities is currently at a very high standard throughout the county.
What were the most memorable moments of your chairmanship
There were quite a few.
- The trip to New York in 2006 and the famous speech made by the late Dermot Earley.
- All our provincial successes at county and club level.
- The great year we had in hurling in 2007 culminating in the Rackard Cup victory in Croke Park.
- The great goodwill and friendship shown to Maureen and myself as we attended all types of social occasions in our clubs.
- The provincial success of our U21 footballers this year.
- The fantastic achievement of winning the Nestor cup this year against all the odds.
- But for sheer raw emotion and pleasure it would be hard to equal our All Ireland Minor success in 2006. The whole campaign and the homecoming will be forever etched in my mind.
In your opinion what do you see are the biggest challenges facing the GAA at local and national level?
In my opinion there are two major challenges facing our clubs and counties. To maintain player numbers during the current recession and to generate enough income to manage clubs and County Boards.
Nationally I think the biggest challenge continues to be the provision of a fixtures schedule and programme that embraces the requirements of all players.
How do you see Roscommon’s prospects for success at provincial level and national level in the future?
For several years now Roscommon has become very competitive at all levels of underage footballer. With good management, I see this as a stepping stone to eventual senior success at Provincial and National level. We must however continue to work very hard to ensure that the current high standards our coaching and games development do not slip.
For hurling I would very much like to see more by way of national initiative that would help counties like Roscommon to underpin the very good work that continues to be done locally.
Under your chairmanship, a number of exciting development projects are in the pipeline for improving training facilities for the county teams. How important are these for Roscommon and in the current climate can the Board afford them?
Most counties are endeavouring to update their training facilities and county grounds and Roscommon is no exception. Our proposed training facilities development at Runnabracken would put us on a par with most counties and would taken the enormous burden off our managers, officials and clubs who are constantly burdened with the task of providing facilities at the moment. Dr. Hyde Park is also in need of an upgrade and Kiltoom is also embarking on a project that will further enhance their status as our second county ground.
There are still a number of issues to be finalised for all these developments but I am confident that they will be in a position to progress quite soon.
It is fair say that because of our financial commitments that Roscommon’s task will be that little bit more difficult as we endeavour to fund these developments but I would be confident that with National support and the right financial package we will be in a position to progress on all fronts.
You spoke about memorable moments during the past 6 years. Are there any moments when you were worried about the future of Roscommon GAA?.
While there were several difficult moments in the initial years I was never worried. I always felt that once we kept people fully briefed about the various problems, then everything would work out. The Roscommon GAA family is an amazing unit with a huge loyalty to the county and its teams and the support and goodwill that was always there kept me and the board going no matter what the difficulties were.
We had tremendous sponsors, benefactors, supporters and supporters clubs, who were always prepared to dig deep to ensure that we met our commitments.
The club scene in Roscommon is sometimes criticised for the standard of football played. Would you agree with this?
My own view is that our standards are as good as in most other counties. Since the inception of the current format for our championships, we have had some very competitive and exciting fare.
Also our club teams have been competitive in Connacht in recent years and again this year, St Bridgets, Strokestown and Ballinameen are progressing well in their respective provincial championships
In an ideal world is there anything you would wish to see in place or happening in Roscommon GAA?
For our wonderful supporters, I would love to see us winning another National title and maybe bridge the long gap since 1944 at senior level. I would also love to see our major developments completed thus enabling our players and supporters to enjoy the highest standard of facilities.
Now that you will be stepping down shortly how you intend to continue your involvement in the GAA
The GAA has always been a major factor in my life both as a player and administrator so it would be very hard for me to walk away just yet. Within the county I have decided to contest the Central Council delegate position when it becomes vacant. If successful this would afford me the opportunity to represent the county at National level. I will of course endeavour to help our new Co. Committee in whatever way I can.
Whatever the future holds I would like to say that it has been an enormous honour to have served as County Chairman and I would like to express a special thanks to all who have worked so hard during my term, to keep the GAA alive and well in our county. Mo buíochas libh go léir.
(Interview by Michael Fahey, which originally appeared in the 2010 Senior Football Championship Final programme)
Peter Domican Roscommon Senior Football Captain reflects on a season that started badly for Roscommon but, as summer arrived, the performances of the team became part of Roscommon football folklore culminating with the magnificent win in the Connacht Final and a fighting performance in the All Ireland Quarter-Final in Croke Park.
Peter how did find out you were going to be captain for the 2010 season?
Peter Domican: Fergie contacted me before the start of the league and asked me if I would act as captain for a few games and to see how it would go. I accepted and it carried on from there. He wanted me to lead by example on the pitch
Were you surprised?
PD I was. There were a lot more experienced players on the panel besides me. This is only my second year on the panel and it came out of the blue.
Had you been captain before?
PD I had never captained a Roscommon team before but I had been captain of a few underage teams in my club St Brigids.
When you became captain did you see yourself playing any particular role or was it just a matter of just standing in for the toss at the start of the game?
PD. Nothing specific just leading by example and encouraging players around me and talking to players to get the best out of them.
Did the role of captain impact your own game?
PD No not really. I would talk to players around me anyway and also encourage them so it didn’t really impact on game.
Did the role of captain bring extra pressure on you?
PD No I didn’t feel any extra pressure on me at all
The league campaign in the Spring was poor. As captain how did you feel about the team’s league performance?
We were all aware that this was so. It was due to a number of factors-new players, younger fellows coming in, new tactics, a number of experienced players injured It’s hard to gel as a team with this situation and also a number of the team were playing in Sigerson. We improved as the league went on but it’s hard to pinpoint anything in particular to explain our form.
At any stage were you told that you would be continuing as captain?
PD No not really it just continued.
After the league had ended and Roscommon had been relegated did you still feel that the team had turned a corner?
PD. No. We felt that we had a good panel of players. In our last league match against Sligo, we were without seventeen players that we could not choose and yet we lost by a few points. Karol Mannion played his first game of the season that day. We knew that we had a strong panel going into the championship and we could gel into a good side.
Prior to the London game and especially on the day of the game, there seemed to be a sense of apprehension among the panel about the game. As captain how did you feel about the team’s chances against London?
PD We were over in London just to do a job. The media were building up London and we had a lot of players who hadn’t played there before. So we talked to the older players about London and playing in London and we knew if we got on and played well we would win.
Was there any stage in the game when you felt that Roscommon were under pressure?
PD No not really. I thought that we had a good start and were playing well. We may have relaxed a bit in the second half and maybe we should have pushed on a bit more in that half.
Did Mark O Carroll’s injury affect the team?
PD No. We were not aware that Mark had suffered such a serious injury. Everyone was concentrating on their own game and getting on with the game.
Confidence seemed to grow within the camp after the London victory. How did preparations go for the Leitrim game go?
PD Training went well. We were playing a lot of challenges and we were playing well. Training was comfortable as well and there was competition for places. We were pushing each other and this is what you want. Everyone knew that there were places up for grabs and that pushed us on.
There was pressure on us because it was a home game and the pundits had made us favourites. The fact that it was Leitrim we playing probably made us favourites but we knew it was going to be tough; every game against Leitrim is tough.
Did the fact that ye were favourites make it hard for the team or do you pay any heed to that sport of stuff?
PD. No, not really. We knew that if we played well we would beat them and if we didn’t we would lose. It didn’t matter if we were favourites. We had to play well to win.
In the first half Roscommon were tentative. The second half saw a transformed performance. What brought about the change?
PD I felt we played well but they scored a lot of frees. We trended to start a lot of games slowly and then come into it. I don’t know if anything changed. We just came out and played with confidence, confidence in ourselves and won the game.
How did the panel approach the Sligo game?
PD. We looked a lot at the videos of Sligo. We knew that if could dominate the Sligo midfield, keep Mark Brehoney and David Kelly quite we had a great chance. Mike Finneran and Karol Mannion could do the job at midfield while Seanie McDermott and Seanie Purcell could handle Kelly and Brehoney, while Donie could deliver the scores.
Despite Roscommon’s poor competitive record in 2010 there was a huge air of confidence among the squad in the week leading up to the Connacht final. Our last competitive game in Castlebar in 2009 had been very poor .Can you explain the reason for this confidence
PD As I said we had played a number of challenge games in the build up. We had played Down with an experimental team and had played well losing by a few points. You can only beat what is put in front of you so Sligo were there and we felt we would beat them. We had the talent to beat them and the confidence was there to do so.
Your second year on the panel and now captain of a team in a Connacht final. How did this feel?
PD A very proud moment for me and my family. I never expected it and it was great.
At any stage in the final were you uneasy?
PD I knew that they would come back at us and they did. But Johnny Dunning won the vital free towards the end and Donie knocked it over. Then Kevin Higgins made a vital block down and we regained possession from that.
How did you feel when Donie’s free went over?
PD. Brilliant. I found it hard to believe.
The reaction of the Roscommon fans was fantastic. When you looked down on the crowd with the Nestor cup in your hand it must have a special moment.
PD. Marvellous. It brought memories of 2006 and Ennis when the crowd came out on the pitch. It made up for all the hard work and the disappointments of the previous year and a half.
To play well in the championship is important and winning Connacht proved to ourselves and to everyone in Ireland that we were a good side.
You are now Connacht champions. In the All Ireland quarter-finals you faced Cork, the favourites for the All Ireland. What were the expectations among the panel?
PD.WE had looked at their games and we had seen them play Limerick. They hadn’t play particularly well. We had played Limerick a few times in the last year or so and had beaten them and been close to them in every game. We felt we had a great chance against Cork.
We felt if we could stop them getting going and winning possession and prevent them getting the ball into the full forward line that we could win. We needed to put pressure on them and match the level of intensity that they had and we felt we could do that.
The occasion was huge and we were probably a bit overawed. We did play well in the first half but the strength in their panel told. They could bring two All Stars and it is hard to counteract that.
There was a huge sense of disappointment among the panel and management after the game.
PD. People expected us to be blown out of the water but we were level at half-time with them. We were disappointed as we genuinely believed that we could beat them. During the game we felt that also.
The reaction of the media and the Roscommon fans after the game was very positive. Looking to 2011 what are your hopes for the new season given the raised expectations in the county?
PD. Well, we would hope to reach the Connacht Final and win it. We have this year’s U21Ss coming up and the experience we have of playing the likes of Cork will be beneficial. We shouldn’t fear anyone and hopefully, we can do Connacht again next year.
We wish you Peter, you colleagues and team management all the best for 2011 and all Roscommon supporters are genuinely delighted with the memories you gave us in 2010
(Interview by Michael Fahey, then County PRO, in Summer 2009)
John Joe Nerney became President of Roscommon County Board this year. A member of the Boyle club he won All-Ireland medals at minor and senior levels as well as Connacht Senior championship medals. In this interview, he reminisces on his involvement in the GAA.
John Joe where did your interest in the GAA begin?
John Joe Nerney As a youngster I went to school in Belagh NS between Ballinameen and Croghan. A teacher in the school bought a football for me and one day my uncle thought that I broke a window in the house with the ball and he put a knife through it!! Later on, we got another ball and myself and my brother tied a string to it and we practiced kicking it around the fields at home.
How did you get involved with club football?
That came about in 1938 when Martin Regan, a Boyle man began a minor team in Boyle. Martin owned a bicycle shop in Patrick Street and Boyle won two minor titles in 1938 and 1939. Martin played a big part in helping Roscommon win the All-Ireland title in 1939. I was a member of the 1939 panel. They were a great team—Phelim Murray, Liam Gilmartin, Bill Carlos, and Gerry Kilduff. We beat Monaghan in the final.
After the 1939 minor championship how did your involvement continue?
I played minor again in 1940 and I had won minor titles in 1938 and 1939. Boyle were beaten in the minor final in 1940 by Tarmon after a replay. Bill Carlos missed the drawn game but he cleared us all out of his way in the replay and Tarmon won.
I must say that all the time Dan O’Rourke was a wonderful man. Roscommon would have never won anything without him. He opened his house to us and we had the full run of the place.
When did you first play for senior for Roscommon?
That was 1944 against Sligo in Boyle. I had been all day on the bog the Saturday before the game. I came on as a sub in the second half. We beat Galway in the Connacht final and Cavan in the All Ireland semi-final.
What are your memories of the All-Ireland final?
I felt very nervous in that match. I was marking Tadgh Healy. I remember struggling for the ball with him and winning the struggle and keeping the ball on the ground. We had a rule in training KTBL—keep the ball low. We did that against Kerry and beat them. I also remember the huge crowds at the game.
What was training for those games like?
We went to the old Infirmary in Roscommon town and also trained in Tarmon. We trained twice a day morning and evening. Running in the morning and football in the evening. Our trainer was Billy Keogh a Waterford man. We practiced kick passing a lot . We had very little hand passing but did use fist passing in practice.
After the 1944 win you lost to Mayo
That’s right but we played very badly. They didn’t do it to us in 1946 though!
Tell us about 1946
The 1946 team was our best team. We knew each others play well. In 1946 Mayo objected to us and there was a replay. We met again and there is a famous photo of the two teams together before the replay started.
In the semi-final, we played Laois. I remember Tommy Murphy playing that day. He was a huge man. Gerry Dolan our goalie made some great saves in that semi-final. Gerry was a fine man and very popular
We drew our first game with Kerry and the replay was put back for a month because of the harvest. I feel we were over-trained for the replay. Our feet felt very heavy. I am not making excuses. The best team won. The best team always wins!!
Turning now to 1947 what do you recall of that campaign?
In 1947 we won Connacht again. We met Cavan in the semi final and they beat us. Tony Tighe was playing that day. It seemed that there were three Tony Tighes playing. He was everywhere. In those days backs were supposed to stay back but not Tony. He was all over the place. A wonderful footballer
After 1947 what happened?
I continued to play with the county until 1954. I always say that the team was capable of winning more. That team was good enough to continue. We did lose Liam Gilmartin. We would have won a few more All Irelands if we had him. Bill Carlos was also a huge loss while some players were playing for a long time. Maybe more could have been done.
Liam Gilmartin has said that you were pound-for-pound the best forward to play for Roscommon. Would you agree?
No, I would not, but it’s nice to hear. Liam Gilmartin was always a fair man. I want to say that in Roscommon team s there were no divisions. We were all treated the same. And all were equal. Nobody was made feel small
When did you stop playing county football?
In 1954 but I should not have been playing at all. I played in the All Ireland semi-final in 1953 against Armagh. I was marking Sean Quinn. I kept him off the ball. I got bottles and everything thrown at me. I didn’t foul or dirty him I just kept him off the ball.
When did you finish playing altogether?
In 1962 against Ballyfarnon in Croghan I realised that my timing was gone but I did play a bit up to the early 1970s.
What memory stands out for you of your time playing football?
It was great to go in training with the county team in 1944. They were great times and I made great friends.
Were you a special team?
We were. You had two great midfielders –Eamon Boland and Liam Gilmartin. They were the best midfielders in Ireland and they could beat anyone.
Who was the best opponent you came up against?
Tom O’Sullivan from Galway. I played on him a few times and I remember being able to count the cogs on his boots when he was going high for the ball. I also admired Gilmartin, Phelim Murray, and Bill Carlos, while Des Boyd and Jimmy Creighton were also great footballers of my time.
I also thought that Tadgh Healy (Kerry), Dinny Lyne also of Kerry, John Forde (Mayo), and Frankie Stockwell (Galway) were other county footballers that stand out in my memory.
What is your opinion of Roscommon football currently?
It is very good. A lot of good young players. I don’t think there has ever been as many good young footballers in the county. I can see a very good senior team in two or three years.
Finally John Joe how do you feel about being President of Roscommon County Board?
I feel very proud to hold this position with Roscommon
(Interview by Michael Fahey, then County PRO, in Summer 2009)
Tony McManus, a former Clann Na Gael player, holds a record 14 county senior championship medals, winning his first one in 1976 and his last in 1993. He also has won 7 Connacht Connacht club titles and played in five All Ireland club finals At inter-county level he played senior football with Roscommon from 1977 until his retirement in 1993 and won six Connacht senior championship medals as well as Connacht minor and u21 medals. In 1978 Tony won an All-Ireland u21 medal with Roscommon. While a student at UCD he played in five Sigerson Cup finals winning three and was captain of the successful UCD side in 1979.
Tony how did you become involved in football?
Tony McManus It was always a big thing in my life. From the age of 10 or 11 I started playing with Clann na Gael U12s. I lived beside the pitch in Johnstown. My father was always very interested in football. He didn’t play but as I grew up he was always on the sideline, always going to matches. My older brother Pat played for Roscommon and later played for Meath while my other brother Eamon was also playing.
What are your earliest memories of playing for Clann?
At underage for Clann, I was a small nippy corner forward. I began at U12 and went on to play U14 and U16. I always remember Paddy Nicholson who brought us to matches in the back of his van. He wouldn’t collect us at the house so we had to walk a mile to the heard of the road as Paddy didn’t want to take us away from farming or hay. Five or six of us always went in the back of Paddy’s van.
When you played underage with the club was their any formal coaching done with you?
There was coaching. Tony Whyte was over us at underage. He was very thorough. On certain evenings he would confine us to our weak leg. Afterward he would be very proud of the fact that my left leg appeared stronger than my right leg. Tony was certainly coaching us before coaching became popular. Every evening he had a particular point to make to us.
Was Clann successful at underage during your period playing with them?
We won all grades up to and including minor. We won two minors and in my last year as minor we did not win as we hadn’t a great team.
You made the transition from underage to senior rapidly.
I played as a17 year old against Roscommon Gaels shortly after they played in an All-Ireland final. As minors we played with the seniors and intermingled. I hadn’t trained with the seniors. A week and a half after that mixed game I was playing along with the seniors.
Clann had a remarkable record the late 70s and the 80s. to the early 90s.To what do you attribute this to
Of the two minor winning teams that I played on only myself and Mike Keegan came through. The older lads were there and the younger fellows came through. As a group of us came through we gradually added more to it. I have to say that the first two county titles we won, in 1976 and 1977, we were average. We were never going to win an All-Ireland.
It is also important to pay tribute to the two managers we had during this period- Tony Whyte and Donie Shine. Both brought different things to the team but they had a very thorough and professional approach to all we did. This was very important to our success.
The first year we got to the All-Ireland in 1983 we were lucky to get to the final . We robbed St Galls in the semi-final and were not good enough to win the final. I was carrying an injury into the semi-final and final.
After that, we started gaining confidence. In club matches in Roscommon, we started to move the ball from one end of the field to the other. It started to develop. It didn’t happen suddenly. It was not until the mid-1980s that we started to become competitive at All Ireland level.
Was that because you were winning Roscommon and gaining experience at Connacht club level?
Winning a county title is always important. The first title in 1976 was special. We were the underdogs and that made it even more special. After one or two county titles you get a taste for Connacht. You are not just thinking of Roscommon. Someone once said that it now gets serious.
Confidence grows in you and Connacht becomes a bug and you need to start winning. I used to start looking at other county results and see who was winning them. A new team would certainly not be equipped to take us on. You need to have the experience of winning in Connacht.
Players grow old; they tire. Physically you grew old but your attitude and determination remained. Can you explain why this was so.
There are two different levels-club and county. In the mid-80s Roscommon were playing terribly badly and took time to re-emerge. Clann were always good. We were competitive. It was always nice to go back to the club after the county were beaten. We were playing good football. While we didn’t win them, we were in All Irelands
Did Roscommon’s lack of success help Clann?
I don’t know. It never changed my attitude. There were certain times during the year when the county came first. This was never an issue with me. There was always a clear dividing line about which was most important. If the county was coming up that was it. The club then would then have you back fitter than ever.
When it came to the other side and Clann were playing the club and Roscommon were playing their League games I never missed playing a Roscommon league match because of Clann. During that period I missed one league game due to injury and I came on as a sub when I shouldn’t have.
You cannot say club or county. There are certain priorities at certain times. I see and hear nowadays when clubs are in the championship they don’t play county. I am glad that didn’t happen in my day.
The six-in-a-row in Connacht. A remarkable achievement. What was the secret?
Basically we had a great attitude. If we went to Castlebar or Ballina we were confident. If you are champions you are confident. We lost four in a row All Ireland finals. The biggest loss was the first of those against St Finbarrs. We should have won that one. And if we won we would definitely have won more.
I remember when Burren played us in 88 and we played great football that day. After losing to the Burren, Shorty Treanor told us that at half time in that final the Burren manager told his team to just give it a go as they already had a title and put pressure on us. They did this. We had that one in the pocket but the fear of losing cost us.
Did the pressure of having to win get to you in the end?
It did. It was getting harder and harder. The pressure was getting bigger and bigger each year.
How did Clann come back each year and go back to Croke Park
In Roscommon while each match was important it didn’t require the same effort as for Connacht and All Irelands. We always got a couple of matches to recover form All Ireland defeats. So you got to a county semi final or final and you were up for it. If you got hit by a good team early on then you are in trouble.
So not winning All Irelands was due to the ghosts of defeat
Definitely. In the final against Baltinglass we were odds on to win. I had a feeling we were vulnerable. The other defeats were hurting us. Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day had become a bit of a mountain.
That Clann side had a huge bond. How did that develop?
This developed through winning county and Connacht titles. We hung out together, we were very close. We were spending our lives together; so we were always together. When we won the Connacht six in a row we spent Christmas together training. So at that time we were always together-a big family.
Does any victory in that period stand out?The 1988 semi final win over Portlaoise and the 1989 semi win over the Burren.
Portlaoise had beaten us in a final and had shown little or no respect to us so that was sweet.
In Connacht, the final win over Knockmore was memorable as we played as good a game as we ever played that day.
In club football in Roscommon were there players who were on a par with you?
The county players that I played against were special. They could give you plenty to think about
At Connacht level, it was the same. There was nobody I feared.
You played in five Sigerson finals. What do recall of this?
I went to UCD and was one of the few Roscommon players in the place. I got on the Freshers team in first year. A lot of big names from minor football were in that year.
Eugene McGee was our manager. He was special. I really enjoyed my spell with him. You never really knew where you stood with him. When you played well he could eat you in case you got cocky and if you played poorly he subtly build you up. He had a great way with players. I was lucky to go to UCD with a great bunch of players but Mc Gee always said that it was to play football and had nothing to do with veterinary!!
When did you first play senior with Roscommon?
I came into the panel in 1976 and my first game was in the Gael Linn cup. I didn’t play championship in 1976 and made my debut in 1977.
What was it like to join a team that were beginning to emerge as a force?
It was great. I wouldn’t have been overawed. I was welcomed. Dermot Earley was delighted to see young fellows coming through.
That team lost three All Ireland semi-finals and the 1980 final Have you any regrets?
I would have always said that the 1980 defeat was down to losing the semi final against Dublin in 1979. I remember going into the 79 final and meeting some of the Dublin players. Anton O’Toole said” we shouldn’t be here. I should be ye.”
We would have lost to Kerry in 79 but the experience would have won 80 for us.
The 1980 defeat seemed to have dealt a mortal blow to that side
Losing in 1980 was a severe blow. Everyone knew that we should have won in 1980. A lot of things came out in that one. The referee was poor. He felt intimidated by Kerry. They were street-wise. They dictated to him. After the game Dwyer and Spillane said things that rankled and still do.
The 80s were barren years. Did you feel like throwing in the towel?
No it never occurred to me. I could go back to the club and perform.
The late 80s and early 90s saw a remarkable turnaround. How did this happen?
Marty McDermott was a thorough manager. He moved the preparations up a gear and we were unlucky. In 1990 we were learning. I had a goal disallowed that day. A team on the way up needs to get the breaks. 1991 was one that got away.
What players at county level stand out?
Pat Lindsay was one. His attitude was tremendous. I marked him many evenings in training and he was phenomenal. When Pat left we lost a huge influence. Dermot Earley brought a presence to the team while Harry Keegan had a big influence. John O Connor, Michael Finneran and I had a special bond as we came through together.
The Kerry team of the 70s and 80s was exceptional. I marked John O’Keefe a few times. A tough player. Paidi O’Shea was a proud, tough player but very fair. Galway’s Seamus McHugh another tough player, a tight marker. Again always fair.
Did you regret retiring?
No. I had come to a stage where I felt I wouldn’t miss being out there. No, no regrets.
I tipped Western Gaels at the start but then fancied Castlerea. I will go back to Western Gaels. If they get the silly things out of their play they are good enough to win it.
Finally, can you see Roscommon returning to the top tier of counties in the near future?
Certainly. Our underage structures are good. We could have won the last two Connacht minor titles. This losing factor is there again but at underage a lot of good work is being done. It is now a size thing with us and that is something we have to work on and maybe go for a bigger player. However I would be very hopeful.