O’Donnell plays down the Rossies expectations

O’Donnell plays down the Rossies expectations
There are few men better placed to assess the youth of Roscommon than current minor boss Fergal O’Donnell.

There are few men better placed to assess the youth of Roscommon than current minor boss Fergal O’Donnell.

The Rossies, after O’Donnell took a team of relative no-hopers in 2006 and bringing them all the way to a superb All-Ireland minor title, will forever remember the Garda Juvenile Liaison Officer.

Co-incidentally Donegal also had a fine minor side that year which included Michael Murphy and Declan Walsh but they lost out to Kerry in the semi-final.

But, in his day job, Fergal is in constant contact with young GAA players from all over the county.

That famous 2006 team was backboned by the considerable talents of Donie Shine, David O’Gara, Niall Carty and David Keenan.

They hadn’t won a single match in the League and O’Donnell, who had captained Roscommon to a Connacht senior title in 2001, took the job that nobody wanted.

“There wasn’t exactly a big queue to take it to be honest and it was a team that had absolutely no expectations.

“Nobody gave us a chance but we got a fair few breaks and we did beat a very good Kerry team after a replay.

“But those lads were very keen and hungry to improve and it got them the ultimate reward.

“It was a wonderful achievement as it helped us develop some fine Under 21 sides who have carried through until last year.”

O’Donnell followed up his minor exploits by taking the Roscommon senior side to a Connacht title against a hotly favoured Sligo in 2010.

And he was back in charge of the minors last season.

“We were a little bit unlucky to lose to Tyrone last year and we had five of them on this year’s Under 21 squad which is fairly pleasing”.

But unsurprisingly he does not give his current charges much chance against a “very athletic and clinical Donegal side”.

Fergal references Noel Gately and team captain Owen Fallon as key figures for the Rossies, who beat Leitrim and then lost to Mayo in the Connacht final by seven points.

But he says there are no obvious parallels with that famous 2006 side.

“We have no real marquee players but there are seven from the Clanna Gael club near Athlone and we have a good even mix.

“And we are not as big as that 2006 side or indeed even last year’s team either so we are really up against a very good Donegal side on Saturday.

O”Donnell was a keen spectator at the Ulster final where he saw Donegal cruise for 40 minutes and then snooze for almost as long.

“I was very impressed with their strength and athleticism.

“I had been told that they were the side to watch in Ulster.

“They were very clinical and their midfield of Niall Harley and Caolan McGonagle are very powerful.

“I was also very impressed by Ciaran Gillespie, Tony McClenaghan, Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Andrew McClean.

“They don’t seem to have any real weaknesses.”

But when asked about their ability to go out of matches for a considerable amount of time, he continues to talk up Tir Chonaill.

“They may have slackened a bit in the second half but you always felt at the same time that they could just up the ante any time they wanted.

“They are really an excellent side with very few real weaknesses.

O’Donnell said he was a little surprised that Tyrone had not featured this year as they had been a powerful force last year.

“I heard that Donegal beat them in the Ulster Minor League final and that is significant.

“At the start of the year we would have targeted a Connacht final slot as a realistic slot.

“We are now really in bonus territory.

“We beat Leitrim, the Minor league champions, in our semi-final and then played fairly well for long periods against Mayo before eventually losing.”

Unlike in 2006, this Roscommon side does not contain too many long striding giants.

“We had a fairly big minor team last season but this year’s team is much smaller and I suppose is not quite a typical Roscommon side.

“But they have worked very well together since the start of the year and they are a fairly easy bunch to motivate.

“We will be hoping to give a good account of ourselves on Saturday.”

One thing is sure.

The canny Fergal is making sure that there is no pressure or expectation on Roscommon ahead of Saturday’s clash in Markievicz Park.

No, the pressure and expectation will be firmly on the shoulders or Tir Conaill, as they are firm favourites to advance.

You would think that all Donegal would have to do will just be to turn up.

That is the road to disaster, but there is no doubt that Declan Bonner and co will have their young charges well tutored. despite the kind words of a truly modest man from the West!