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Sunday 4 December 2016

Rossies' scoring power driving them on

Curran always convinced McStay's team would compete

Curran on the sideline with Clann na nGael. Photo: Sportsfile
Curran on the sideline with Clann na nGael. Photo: Sportsfile

As he wryly notes, Paul Curran didn't need to set foot in Roscommon to be persuaded about the standard of club football there, though it helped corroborate his suspicions.

"We witnessed it first hand," he recalls of the 2013 All-Ireland club final his Ballymun Kickhams team lost to St Brigid's.

Two years later, he knocked them out of their own county semi-final.

The upshot of that result was the end of Brigid's six-year unbeaten Roscommon SFC run and a first title in 19 years for the county's most decorated team - Curran's current charges, Clann na nGael.

"Not that I was surprised or anything … but it was confirmed to me that the standard is excellent," he says now after a successful year in a county as football-orientated as any in that part of the country.

"The one big difference between there and Dublin - and it's the same all over the country - is that they don't have as many top teams as Dublin do.

Damage

"But they would have a very competitive championship. There's probably about ten teams who could do a bit of damage.

"So it's probably like any championship. It's a tough one to win. But a good standard of football.

"Good players. And you can see it at the county level now."

The last of Clann na nGael's previous 19 county crowns came in 1996. Before last year's success they hadn't even appeared in a final since '97.

Curran arrived with a big billing then, but also pressure to do something a generation of Clann na nGael players and supporters had never seen the club do.

"They're such a traditional club. Everyone even outside Roscommon has heard of Clann na nGael. Everyone of my vintage or anyone else," Curran points out.

"They played in four All-Ireland finals in-a-row. They won seven provincials in-a-row. But they had been down for a long time.

"They hadn't got to a final even. So to go and get to the final was obviously an achievement in itself.

"But to go and win it … ah, it meant a lot to them, I must say. It meant an awful lot."

Comparable to his 2012 Dublin SFC title with Ballymun Kickhams?

"Similar," Curran confirms. "Ballymun were 27 years. So a long time waiting. It's just a sense of relief when it happens."

He has, therefore, come into contact with almost all of the players currently making up this spring's football story-of-the-year so far.

As he outlined above, he knows plenty about their management too.

"I don't think there's a whole pile of difference," he says by way of comparison between the prototype Roscommon footballer and a Dublin one.

"Any of them who came through DCU, they're kind of brought up in the same kind of mentality. They're all into their fitness. They all train well. They're all very professional. It's no different.

"No difference whatsoever. There's real talent down there."

Long gone, then, are the days when Roscommon's talent was mentioned more as a sort of mitigation.

Unfairly, Curran reckons the county panel had, for a time, a reputation for being half football team/half stag party.

The nadir of which infamously arrived in 2002 when players were caught on camera playing pool naked in a hotel in Derry before, briefly, the county panel was disbanded.

"I don't think they were unique in that department," Curran laughs.

"I think every county had their headbangers … including Dublin a few years ago!

"But the inter-county player nowadays - no matter what county they're in - are a very professional lot," he points out.

"It's no different down there. But it's been coming the last few years in the under-21s.

"They're producing players. So I don't think it's any surprise that they're up where they are."

There is no secret to their success so far. No gimmick.

Roscommon's 7-79 scored from six games makes them the highest scorers in Division 1 and joint-second across the four Divisions with Derry, just a point off Wexford.

Quality

Their scoring difference (+29) is better than any team in the top two Divisions, Dublin included.

"That's the key, I think. They have quality up front. And some of it we haven't even seen yet." Curran notes.

"Donie Shine is making his way back after getting his knee cleaned out. And Ultan Harney is coming back from hamstring injuries. He's another very talented player.

"They have quality up front. It's hard to develop that. A lot of counties struggle with producing scoring forwards. They have them.

"And looking at them last week …it was looking like they were going to get a bit of a hiding but they kind of stuck in there until the end. And on another day, they might have got something out of it."

Their buoyancy is therefore no surprise to Curran, who predicted as much.

"I expected them to compete," he confirms. "Their management team is very organised. They would have seen that the priority would be to win enough games to stay up in the division.

"Number one priority. Forget talking or thinking about the championship.

"It's imperative that a team stays in Division 1 and gets an extended time there to develop and see what it's all about.

"So that's been achieved easily. And they're going to be in a semi-final as well. More than likely against Dublin, the way things are going.

"So they're getting big games," Curran adds, "and I don't think it's any shock that they're competing."

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