The following is an excerpt from a new book, The Pressure Game, by former Roscommon manager Kevin McStay.
In this chapter, of The Pressure Game, McStay agonizes over the Gaelic Park game in May 2016 when Roscommon was lucky to escape with a one-point win over the New York all-stars.
ROSCOMMON 1-15 NEW YORK 0-17
CONNACHT SFC PRELIMINARY ROUND
NEW YORK MAY 2, 2016
I have no idea whether it was the basement of a church or a school, where we ended up a couple of hours or so after the game. We’d eaten first. The mood in the dressing room was the absolute worst. I’d spoken for two or three minutes with them all. They’d mixed with some friends for 30, 40 minutes, and then we all got on the bus.
I was still fuming. Actually, I was finding it hard to think straight. I was confused and still panicked by the performance I had just seen. But I was also boiling with anger. Cian Connolly, a young lad from my own club, a corner-forward from the Gaels in Roscommon, had broken his jaw near the end. Whatever had happened to him, it had happened off the ball.
I sought out Maurice Deegan, the referee before I went near our own dressing room. I found him in a tiny little room at the back of the building.
“We’ve a fella in there,” I told him, “… and he’s got a broken jaw! It’s your job to make sure that does not happen!”
He apologized. He said he saw nothing. “What about your linesmen?”
He said that if they saw something, they would have done something about it.
“And what am I supposed to tell his family?” I asked, thinking of Cian’s father, who is a neighbor of mine, and a Garda sergeant in the town.
“He’s in my care… and what am I supposed to tell them? That nobody saw another man break his jaw?”
Thirty years earlier, I had my own jaw dislocated by a Galway opponent who elbowed me and was later hit with a three-month suspension. You’d think that that sort of Wild West stuff was way in the past. But we were in New York City, in 2016, with five or six thousand people watching, and one man can break another man’s jaw.
I knew the Connacht Council would do nothing about it when we got home.
And I was right.
WE’D asked our local liaison man in New York, Jimmy Naughton, to find us somewhere quiet, where we could simply disappear from sight for a little while after the game. It wasn’t to hide. I didn’t want our lads getting dragged into pubs in the city quickly after the game, not at five o’clock. Afterward would be fine.
That’s why we ended up in a room with no windows. My mistake. It was a mess of a room. There were chairs thrown around the place and all I could think was…this is like a feckin Quentin Tarantino movie! Everyone looked pissed off. Some lads were sitting, but I chose to stand at the side of the room. I’d decided immediately after the game that we would go with Plan A.
We’d get on the team bus, and just go. Get far away from Gaelic Park and McLean Avenue and The Bronx. I felt a need to purge ourselves, to face down what had just happened to us, but it was a mistake. It was a big mistake. It was not a good time to ask everyone to take accountability.
“This isn’t good enough!”
“The money that was spent… and that’s all we can do?”
“Did we get it wrong as a management… did we let you down?”
“All of the people who came over here… to look at us!” “All the people we’ve let down!” That’s what the management team had to say for itself before we handed the room over to the players. It wasn’t of much value in feeding the players’ thoughts.
By then, the room looked even uglier than before. Spirits were too low. Everyone was raw. The talk started slowly, but then, when it built up a head of steam, too many lads wanted to have their say or reply to someone who had just spilled out a home truth.
Too many lads got hot. Too many were angry, and players started in on players. It was all pouring out. It was getting to the point where some lads were going to say something that they would never be able to take back.
I stood there, listening. I decided to let it wash through, but I let it go too far. But, still, I refused to call a stop. I’ve no idea what I was thinking.
Finally, Liam shouted, “Enough!”