Kevin McStay drops punditry for Roscommon hotseat
Connacht hopefuls go for 'dream team' of Mayo ace and O'Donnell
KEVIN McSTAY ponders for a moment on what he has just let himself in for. "I imagine this to be the biggest challenge I've ever taken on. I'd say it has to be," he declares.
As of today, McStay is no longer a Sunday Game pundit or Herald columnist. For one good reason: the former Mayo All Star and Fergal O'Donnell have been chosen as new joint-managers of the Roscommon senior footballers.
O'Donnell, who managed Ros' to All-Ireland minor glory in 2006, is embarking on his second senior stint: the high point of his previous three-year tenure was a Connacht SFC title against the head in 2010. McStay has a much higher national profile but this will be his first senior inter-county gig.
The duo will be ratified by a county board meeting, having been earmarked by an appointments committee and duly endorsed by the Roscommon executive last night.
The term is for three years, with the option of a fourth, and they'll be joined by Stephen Bohan, David Casey and McStay's brother-in-law, Mayo icon Liam McHale. The latter will share coaching duties with Casey.
McStay's move into management could have happened a year ago but, in controversial circumstances, the Mayo county board looked elsewhere - ironically to another two-man ticket, Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly.
It means that, next season, he'll be tasked with halting the Mayo juggernaut - a huge challenge but one to relish. "Why now? Well, I'm 53, I have the energy for it, the enthusiasm for it - I'm not going to have that forever," he told The Herald. "I saw this as probably the best time to go into county management. It's an ambition I've always had. Fergal's already done it, so he has huge experience in that regard.
"But I haven't done it. As you know, I'm a very proud Mayo man and I had two goes at managing my native county (he also applied in the autumn of 1995) ... it just didn't happen. So this gave me a chance to test myself at inter-county management, and I obviously was never going to get it with Mayo.
"But I'm happy to have the opportunity with Roscommon. I've lived most of my adult life in Roscommon; my three girls are Roscommon girls and they support Roscommon. Why should it be anywhere else?"
On closer inspection, the retired Defence Forces officer is immersed in a place he has called home for 26 years. He managed the Roscommon minors for three years, prior to managing the Mayo U21s. And of course he led St Brigid's of Kiltoom to the All-Ireland club summit in 2013.
He crowned his own playing career by skippering Roscommon Gaels to a county title in 1994, then managed the club - and O'Donnell - to another Roscommon SFC crown in 2004.
O'Donnell's involvement was an absolute must. "He has the status of a young Dermot Earley," McStay enthused. "He's an iconic figure in the county because of his success as a player - he captained Roscommon in 2001 to the Connacht championship. Then he managed them to their next one, in 2010 … I wanted to make sure there was an incredibly strong and credible voice for the people of Roscommon as well."
The Ballina native is "delighted" that John Evans has left the legacy of Division One football, while stressing that "it's going to be a different group" and that championship (where recent results haven't been hectic) is the "priority".
He signed off by clarifying a recent Herald column intimating that Connacht will be won for a sixth time in a row next summer: he was alluding to the expectation within Mayo.
"What we're saying now is that the six in a row for Mayo just got a little bit more difficult. That's what we'd like to think," he concluded.