Burke targets topping group

Coming in under the radar, Roscommon can shock Dubs

All-Ireland SFC Group 3 (Round 1): Dublin v Roscommon in Croke Park on Sunday at 4 pm

Roscommon Manager Davy Burke. Pic: Bernie O’Farrell

Roscommon manager Davy Burke has revealed that he would have preferred a shorter build-up to Sunday’s big championship date against Dublin, the dominant team of the past decade.

Speaking to People Sport, Burke said: “Our preparations have gone well, but the five-week gap was a bit of a slog, to be honest. We played challenge games against Westmeath, Cavan and Cork. It was nice to get game time into players. The lads have trained very well and we are really looking forward to the start of the championship now”.

Burke reports an absence of injuries and a fully fit squad. As to this weekend’s challenge, he says: “We are going up to Croke Park to have a crack at them. Dublin have not played any Division One opposition so far (this season), and we hope to test them out on Sunday. You saw how Louth played against them in the Leinster final. They were very open and aggressive in the way they attacked and Dublin just picked them off at will. I have a lot of experience watching the Leinster Championship and Dublin love when a team do that against them.

“Dublin love to control a game and we have got to make sure that they don’t do that against us. We are going up there to compete fiercely and we intend to be there or thereabouts after 55 minutes… and then let’s see where that takes us”.

Roscommon captain Brian Stack in action earlier this year. Pic: Bernie O’Farrell

The Roscommon manager says his ambition is to top Group 3. “Our aim is to qualify for the quarter-finals from the number one position in this group. If we cannot do that we will be targeting wins against Kildare and Sligo to ensure that we have a home draw. We have had a good year so far and are confident that we can do well in this championship.

“I know that our house is in order and we are going to Croke Park to give this game a serious rattle. Not a lot of people will be giving us a chance of winning, but we are confident in our own ability and we know that we are capable of going to Croke Park and doing well this weekend” Burke concluded.

It’s new territory for both Dublin and Roscommon as the teams make their debut in this new-look All-Ireland championship on Sunday. While three teams from each group will qualify for the knockout stages, the winner of each group will have passage straight through to the quarter-final, and an extra week’s rest too.

The big question is… which is the real Dublin? The one that struggled against Kildare, or the one that hammered Louth? It’s probably halfway between the two. They have not met Division One opposition so far, but will on Sunday.

One thing is for certain, Roscommon will not be taking on Dublin ‘man for man’ like Louth did. Davy Burke and his players will hope to defend in numbers, restrict the Dublin attack, and break quickly and use the potent forwards that they have.

Dublin love to be able to play a game on their terms. They like to dominate the opposition in terms of possession and decide when it’s time to go for scores. Roscommon will need a plan to disrupt that pattern, and if they can frustrate the Dubs in that regard they can sow seeds of doubt in their ranks.

Dublin have household names in every position. In front of their own fans they will be under pressure to win, and win handsomely at that.

Roscommon are in a great position going into this match. No one will give them a chance, so they can go there and give it a real go. They are well capable of giving the Dubs a real scare. If there is any complacency in the Dubs’ camp Roscommon can take full advantage.

Burke’s team must try to stop a liberal supply into the likes of Con O’Callaghan and Paul Mannion. This season Roscommon’s defensive work has been excellent, and it will need to be again this Sunday.

It’s a huge test for Roscommon but a great way for them to start their campaign. Key Roscommon players like Brian Stack, Niall Daly, Conor Daly, Davy Murray, Enda Smith, Diarmuid Murtagh, Ciaráin Murtagh and Donie Smith will have to stand up and lead from the front if the Connacht team are to cause a shock.

I know a lot of people will be raising their eyebrows at this prediction, but with Roscommon coming in under the radar, I think they can win.

Prediction: Roscommon.