With all of our excitement it was only on Saturday evening that I realised Roscommon were over in New York this weekend taking on the locals at Gaelic Park. The traditional opening shot of the summer campaign is always a bit of an oddity, taking place so early and so far away, but last evening’s astonishing contest in the Bronx – from which the Rossies emerged with just a one-point victory on a 1-15 to 0-17 scoreline – threatened for long stages to be the result of the championship.
We know for ourselves the perils of going in undercooked to a championship opener on foreign soil. In fairness to New York, they did say plenty in the build-up to last night’s match that this was the best team they’d fielded since they’d run Galway close back in 2010 so Kevin McStay and his colleagues should have been expecting a stern enough challenge.
But, of course, the stats would have told them that since that seven-point game with Galway six years ago, the best the Yanks have done has been to keep the margin down to sixteen points (historic data here). The Rossies would surely have taken the field last night expecting to emerge with a victory of similar proportions.
They didn’t, though, and by the sounds of it they could easily have fallen to what would surely have been the biggest shock result in championship history. They never shook clear of New York at any point – the furthest they were ever ahead was
just three six points – and it seems they wilted alarmingly as the Yanks, with Brian Gallagher from Claremorris leading the charge from midfield for the locals, came at them in waves at the finish.
But the Rossies survived and the question now is what this result – and the Sheepstealers’ abject performance – means in the broader scheme of things. It’d be easy from our perspective to ladle on the schadenfreude: that’s where Kildare-esque early-in-the-year form gets you, this is what peaking in April looks like and all that.
We’d need to be careful, though, with that type of reasoning. The most important thing that Roscommon needed to do last night was win and in that they succeeded. They’re still in the Connacht championship and still on a possible collision course with us come July. But that’s all further down the road.
John McGahern once said that the biggest task facing the writer was “to mind his sentences”. In that context, the most important one that needs looking after is the one that comes next. One step at a time.
Roscommon next face McGahern’s own countymen up at Carrick and they can expect Leitrim to have a right cut at them then. Win that one and they have another hurdle to surmount before they can even start thinking of a Connacht final appearance. The best thing they can do now is keep the heads down and concentrate solely on the next hurdle facing them. We’d be well advised to do the same.