THERE is a sense of realism, but also respect for London in Roscommon. Having cut a dash through the Allianz Football League in the past 18 months rising from Division Three to the top tier Roscommon now feel ready to make a Connacht Senior Football Championship impact again.
Speaking at the provincial launch in Ballyhaunis a fortnight ago selector Gay Sheerin admits Roscommon must deal with the heavy burden of expectancy. “We will be hot favourites,” Sheerin says about the trip to the Emerald GAA Grounds. “We will expect to go over, and we will have to play as favourites.
“There is no doubt about it. We are not going to dress it up any other way. It is a game we have to win to progress in the Connacht Championship. We feel we are capable of going over to win in London.”
With the other western heavyweights, Galway and Mayo, on the other side of the draw Roscommon are expected to reach a Connacht final, but Sheerin reckons it will be demanding. “People look at Galway and Mayo being on the other side of the draw, but we have all of our games away from home which isn't easy.
“In the league we had four games away and we were saying it was going to be tough. It is the same in the Championship, but Championship brings a totally different feel compared to league matches.
“I know it isn't a knockout basis in that you get a second chance, but you'd like to win the games.”
Championship fever is gripping Ros again, but Ruislip can be a tricky venue according to Sheerin. “There is a different buzz around the place, the ball is that little bit quicker, the ground is quicker, more people are out playing, the sun is shining.
“Nerves take a huge toll too. John Evans said at the start of the Championship we are preparing one game at a time.
“We are going to go to London. I haven't been there before with this team he said, so I don't really know what to expect so I can expect everything. We are treating it that. The Championship is fabulous; everybody is looking forward to it. I've played and managed over there. I'm going over now as a selector. It is a huge challenge.”
Roscommon are aware of exactly what they will face in London. “The one thing that has changed is the social media aspect. Everybody is in contact now. I remember us over there one time when we were on the pitch at the parade being introduced to people and two or three neighbours came up walking along with the Mayor of London or whoever.
“It is gone away from that now hugely. The players are totally professional in what they do. They know it is a game that defines where we go.
“There will be great craic over there, but we will have to shield the players from that. I know we will meet people, friends and relations.”
Ultimately Roscommon’s brief on Sunday is to register a victory. “We have to do one thing over there which is to win a Championship match against London.”