Liam McHale has warned Roscommon not to take anything for granted in Carrick-on-Shannon, adding that the management will be ruthless in dealing with players that don’t adhere to the game plan devised in an effort to reach a third Connacht final in succession, writes Kevin Egan.
“We understand why we’re favourites and we’re going to Carrick expecting to win. But we have to be on the ball and make sure we’re right. We’re approaching this match as if we’re playing Mayo or Galway.
“In games like this you need to be very solid defensively. The players have been warned. We haven’t used the word complacent in training but the players know that if they’re not up to scratch, we’ll be making changes. As a management, we’ll be ruthless about that.
“We have greater strength-in-depth. I feel the same about the player on the bench as the player that’s starting. Everyone knows what they’re supposed to do, so the players would be very foolish not to pay heed to what we’re saying to them. They’ve worked so hard to earn the right to a starting jersey. It’s up to the 15 who start in Carrick to hold on to it,” he explained.
While Roscommon were hugely impressive in attack during the recent league, the concession of soft goals left management tearing their hair out - “We gave away a lot of bad goals, especially against Tipperary and Cavan. But they were down to individual mistakes, not so much the team.
“So we’ve worked on that, trying to get our defenders to dictate when they want the forward to go, not the other way around. We’ve put a lot of hours into our individual defence. As a result, I’d be disappointed if we’re not at least 30 per cent better defensively on Saturday.
“But we’re also conscious about not changing our system and taking away from our offence. We want to do what we’ve been doing in attack and become a bit more stingy at the back. We’ve been trying to concede 0-12 or less. The problem is that we’ve been leaking goals.
“It’s about an expansive style of football that the Roscommon public can be proud of. If we score 18, 19 or 20 times and hit our targets at the back, we’ll be happy.”
Despite Roscommon’s unbeaten championship record in Carrick, McHale is expecting Leitrim to be full of confidence following their victory in New York.
“I’ve always admired them - the way they play with heart and guts, given the small pick they have. After the first quarter last year, I think they were level before we pulled away before half time. We were really delighted with the way we played in the second half.
“But they’ve got young Beirne and Emlyn Mulligan is back as well, so we know what’s coming at us. People will say we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t but we just need to be professional and ruthless, and that applies to the management as well.”
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