Calmness — that’s what Mike Malone put Pearses’ change in fortunes down to this year.
It has taken 30 years for the club to get back to the top of the pile of Roscommon senior hurling. But the Galway native, who only took over the team this year, didn’t reinvent the wheel. He applied a few subtle changes.
“Remaining calm — when we were under pressure. We had worked hard in games during the year to remain calm. And when Four Roads got the goal, that’s when we really opened up, came back and scored six or seven points.
“We kept working and reinforcing the fact that Pearses had the hurlers. They just had to remain calm under pressure. Down through the years, once they came under pressure, Pearses tended to panic and retreat back. And we stopped that this year. We worked and worked on it,” he proclaimed.
In the drawn and replayed semi-final, Pearses’ form didn’t look to be that of a team about to win a county final. As the Cappataggle native pointed out, however, conditions were different, and they were missing a few players.
“They were wet, mucky days. If it was dry, it would suit us as we’re a young, light team. It’s about winning semi-finals and getting to the final. We had injuries for the first semi-final and we got to bring in a few lads for the replay. Things fell our way too in that we were able to get the injured players back,” he felt.
He could sense in the build-up to Sunday’s game that the atmosphere in the camp was perfect.
“In the last couple of weeks, we felt that the mood was good. The lads were confident they had the work done and that they had the panel and management team to get them over the line. We had a fantastic trainer in with us as well — Mike Kelly from Abbey-Duniry.
“The second game against Oran gave game time to a couple of injured players coming back in like Mike Donoghue. You can play all the challenge games you want, but championship matches are what bring on players.
“Four Roads are the kingpins of Roscommon hurling and obviously they’re not that easily beaten. We got great confidence early in the year when we beat them in the junior final,” the manager noted, before adding that the club will cherish this success before looking ahead to the provincial campaign.
“We’ll celebrate this, and I think it’s important it’s celebrated. We’ll sit down then maybe Wednesday night and we’ll see where we go from there,” he concluded.
Joint-captain David Loughnane agreed that the replay against Oran brought the team on that few extra per cent to enable them win Sunday’s final.
“We had a new manager this year and it makes a difference when you break a cycle. We had a lot of young players playing today and I think the next generation are going to drive it on too,” he predicted.
David Loughnane is one of a long list of players from Pearses that has soldered for years without winning a senior medal. Persistence paid off for him alongside a whole host of team-mates who have suffered heartbreak at the final hurdle time and again.
“It was hard to put your finger on why we weren’t winning. I’m 12 years playing and there’s are lads 15 years there. I think it was only a matter of keeping at it. Didn’t Galway show it this year? When you keep the standards high and keep improving every year, you mightn’t get there, but as long as you can maintain the standards you have a chance of getting over the line,” he highlighted.
The regular full-back, who played wing-back on Sunday, broke his arm in a challenge match in August. He missed a lot of hurling, but crucially just made it back in time for this historic occasion.
“I was out, and Mike Donoghue and Tadgh Cogavin were out too. All of us got back for the final and it probably made a difference as well to get us over the line,” he remarked.