It hasn’t been an easy week for Kevin McStay. In his own words, it has been “tough”. Then, just to put the tin hat on it, the mother and father of all hail showers intervenes during his television interview with RTE’s Marty Morrissey. But McStay keeps going, just as Roscommon must persevere for the rest of the league, despite their fate being sealed.
When McStay returns to the sanctuary of the Hyde Park press box, he launches into an understandable defence of his team. He’s in the game long enough to know that a repeat of Castlebar would have nourished divisions in different parts of the county. Instead his players pulled out the stops for him, even though the result didn’t reflect their efforts.
“I don’t think six points reflected the difference between the teams. I am awful proud of the way they played. They gave it a great shot. The week that was in it — we could have come out of it two ways and I’m just proud of the way they came out of it. We were under huge pressure there,” he maintained.
He went on to defend John McManus, saying that the Roscommon defender was adamant that he didn’t strike James O’Donoghue in the 57th minute. He added that the introduction of Diarmuid Murtagh at half time gave the team a massive boost.
“He (Murtagh) is a quality player. It’s lovely to have him back. I just hopes he stays healthy. At this stage of his career he needs a healthy run at it. We have Ultan Harney and Cathal Compton coming back.
“You take James O’Donoghue out of their team, Diarmuid is our James O’Donoghue. You take Cillian O’Connor out of Mayo. That’s where we have some hope — when they come back and we get everybody fighting fit.
“These are good learnings for us. There is no doubt about that. It is a tough experience for the players and they know that. They are disappointed but they are picking up loads of experience along the way. I am happy enough with the direction we’re heading.
“The reaction today to the nonsense of the last seven or eight days was fantastic. If we didn’t get a reaction, we would have had strong words as a group. But I am very happy with the effort,” he continued.
Despite relegation looking inevitable, McStay defended his record in Division One, noting that the team are putting all their eggs into the championship basket this season.
“Today was my 12th national league game since we came up. We won four of them, we lost two by a point. And there were two games we weren’t competitive in — Mayo last weekend and Kerry last year in the semi-final.
“Every other game we’ve won, we’ve lost by a point or we have been competitive in. So what is the big nonsense? This is a young team that are playing in Division One. They are finding their feet. You saw Ciaráin Murtagh out there today. He wasn’t outstanding — you couldn’t mark him.
“We are trying to get our best team out for the end of the league. Obviously we are trying to get a few points on the board to get ourselves a bit of confidence as we turn towards the summer. I just said to them — and I know you might think I am tripping away from the current reality — we are setting things up to have a good summer.
“I can’t do it both ways. It just can’t be done with the team we have at the moment. We will be going flat out for Leitrim, the minute our league is over — that’s the only thing in our sights. Beyond that we will try and build a very substantial summer. If it doesn’t work, we will have to go back and see where we are,” he explained.
McStay was also asked about the comments of Gay Sheeran on Shannonside Radio on Saturday week last where the former goalkeeper and manager questioned having “Mayo men” managing Roscommon.
“It was tough for me personally. My kids read that. Of course it’s tough for me. My loyalty to Roscommon is being questioned because of my birthplace.
“My mum and dad are from Tuam, County Galway. They are Galway people. They left Tuam in the 1940s to set up in Mayo. My father had played for Tuam Stars all his life, but he immediately committed to the Stephenites. When he died, he was the president of Mayo GAA.
“I came here and the first thing he said is if you want to be part of the community, move in with Roscommon Gaels and make your home in Roscommon. I do that, and then to have this. As a former footballer and manager — a guy who, for the record, sat on the interview committee for John Evans — I won’t put a name on it,” he concluded.
Kerry manager Eamon Fitzmaurice praised the courage and spirit of his players in eking out a six-point victory.
“I am pleased with the result, pleased with the attitude and the spirit in the group today. It was better than last weekend. There were aspects of the performance we would not be pleased with it. We are still not where we would like to be football-wise but we expect that this early in the year.
“The big difference was that the attitude was spot on this time whereas last weekend I was very disappointed with our attitude in front of our own crowd. With us, we need to be at it and you know pretty quickly if they are really going at it. You could see from the start today that they really were. It wasn’t the perfect performance but you could see that the attitude was right. If you have that right, you can make up for a lot of other flaws,” he pointed out.