Burke’s baptism of fire as Tyrone come to town!

Rossies hoping for positive league start

Allianz National Football League Division 1: Roscommon v Tyrone on Sunday in Dr Hyde Park at 1.30 pm

Davy Burke. Pic: Bernie O’Farrell

With the distractions of the much-maligned pre-season competitions out of the way, the ‘real’ senior Gaelic football action gets underway this weekend. For Roscommon, it is the dawning of a new era, with a new manager in place.

As Roscommon fans know, the county’s capacity to stay in Division One is always uncertain. This year will be no exception.

The Roscommon team will not be named until late in the week. Conor Hussey could be given the number 3 jersey, with new team captain Brian Stack lining out at centre-back. Davy Murray is a doubtful starter as he is carrying a knock, while Eoin McCormack, Conor Daly, Colin Walsh and Niall Daly all have solid shouts for defensive positions.

In midfield, Keith Doyle could line up alongside the returning Tadhg O’Rourke. Eddie Nolan could also figure in this sector as the season goes on.

Up front, Donie Smith, Diarmuid Murtagh and Conor Cox look nailed on starters, with the likes of Ciaráin Murtagh, Daire Cregg, Ben O’Carroll, Adam McDermott, Paul Carey, Peter Gillooly and Dylan Ruane all in with a shout. Fit-again Enda Smith played in a challenge game against Fermanagh last Sunday and could start at centre half-forward.

Tyrone began their McKenna Cup campaign in fine style with a couple of good wins, but they were decisively beaten by Derry in the final last Saturday night (3-11 to 1-5). Some of their supporters made their annoyance known on social media. Of course with multiple All-Ireland winners from 2021 – and their general top flight pedigree – they are very formidable opposition for Roscommon on Sunday.

Tyrone will approach the game with a conservative mindset for the first 25 minutes at least. Holding on to possession will be the order of the day. Both sides will have to be patient and take their chances as the play opens up. On the question of playing style, I have been impressed with Davy Burke’s very honest views on how he wants his side to play. More of the negativity that we saw last weekend (against Mayo) will almost certainly result in Roscommon struggling in this ultra-competitive division. We simply have to play a more positive brand of football.

Common wisdom dictates that six points mean safety in Division One – and that tally must be Roscommon’s aim. The home games will be crucial.

There is a feeling that Roscommon have tightened up considerably in defence – if that’s a common                   theme of the campaign, the prospects for survival will be much better. Up front, we have good forwards who can get the scores to win this game if provided with sufficient ball. Hopefully we will see a rousing performance to get the campaign off to a good start. I predict a surprise result.

Prediction: Roscommon.