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Dolan confident Roscommon can battle

BY NIALL GARTLAND

ROSCOMMON legend Frankie Dolan is confident that they won’t be found wanting in the physical stakes in Saturday’s ‘Super Eight’ opener against Tyrone.

Tyrone strolled to a resounding 4- 24 to 2-12 victory when these two sides met at the same juncture last year, and Roscommon’s manager at the time, Kevin McStay, admitted his shock at the disparity in physical conditioning between the two teams.

Dolan played under his successor Anthony Cunningham for St Brigid’s in the tailend of the noughties.

His club won three Senior Championship titles on the trot between 2005 and 2007, and Dolan says one thing Cunningham prioritises above all else is having players with the stomach for battle.

“It’s a totally different game now but one thing that he brought that stands out is that he wanted a really physically fit and strong team which has the ability to impose themselves on a game.

“He doesn’t take excuses from players lightly either – you’re either on board or you’re not, and if you don’t commit fully you’re shown the door.”

He added: “Anthony seems to have brought a bit more speed and edge to the team.

“He’s brought a lot of players back who were out of the fold but we’ve lost something like 10 players as well.

“I just hope we learn from last year. We seem to have improved defensively but  Saturday will tell a tale as Tyrone seem to have upped it big time in the last couple of weeks.”

It doesn’t bode well for the Rossies that their championship record against Tyrone literally couldn’t be worse.

They’ve only met four times in the championship – in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2018 – and they’ve lost on every occasion.

Dolan, who was one of the most gifted forwards in the country during his intercounty career, says they’ve struggled to come to grips with Tyrone’s style of play.

“We don’t talk about Tyrone much but I suppose they are a bit of a bogey team. We’ve played them a number of times in the last decade and we’ve always been beaten, and sometimes humiliated.

“We possibly struggle to adapt to Tyrone’s style of play, the midlands play a different sort of football than they do in Ulster.”

Roscommon claimed their second Connacht title in three years when they overcame Galway four weeks ago.

Their fans invaded the pitch before the match had even ended, but Dolan says it’s about time they do something outside the provincial championship.

Saturday’s game against Tyrone will play a massive part in determining which teams progress from the group to the All-Ireland Championship, but he worries that injuries to key players could harm their chances.

“It’s great to win two provincial championships but to develop and become a better team they need to lay down a marker on Saturday.

“It’s going to be hard as I heard Conor Deveney and Ultan Harney are injured. It’ll be interesting to see what team is picked. Anthony likes a starting team which will be able to impose themselves on the game so it’ll be interesting to see what he does.”

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