Can minors grasp place in semi-final?

Roscommon’s minor footballers face a mammoth task when they play Laois in the ESB All-Ireland Minor Football Quarter-Final at Semple Stadium in Thurles on Saturday next (throw-in at 2 pm).   The Leinster champions have been the favourites to land the All-Ireland title since early in the campaign and although they struggled to beat a spirited Carlow side in the Leinster Final recently, they have several players who not alone have minor championship experience but – in Conor Meredith and Donal Kingston – players too who figured with the Laois U-21 team which lost narrowly to Cork in the All-Ireland U-21 Final this year.   Fergal O’Donnell’s Roscommon have to take the long trip to Thurles which was a surprise choice as the venue for this game. Although the Roscommon U-21 hurlers are playing at the same venue later in the evening – which is ideal for Roscommon supporters – it’s an unsuitable venue for  Roscommon minors again as Thurles is very close to Laois and will favour the O’Moore County in terms of support. Surely the minor game and the hurling game could have been accommodated in Tullamore?    Last year’s All-Ireland champions Roscommon will be determined to show that their below-par performance in the recent Connacht Final is not an accurate reflection of their ability. Despite not playing well, Roscommon probably would have beaten Galway were it not for the bizarre sending off of Roscommon captain Paul Garvey at a vital stage of the second half while Roscommon were leading.   Roscommon will field much the same team as lined out in the Connacht Final. However Niall Carty has made a good recovery from his injury and will probably start. Donie Shine is still restricted by a back injury althoug he will line out  at centre half-forward or full-forward and Roscommon will need him to be on top form, particularly from frees.   Roscommon will need to play at or near the top of their ability to overturn the strong favourites Laois.   Against Galway Roscommon missed a number of chances and they will have to sharpen up in that regard.   James McKeague has been Roscommon’s best player this summer and Roscommon fans will hope that he will lead from the front again on Saturday next. Colm O’Neill and Kevin Higgins played well against Galway but they will have their hands full on Saturday and they will have to perform to give the Roscommon attack enough ball to get the vital scores to win the game.    Inside, Paul Garvey has led by example and Roscommon will need him to do that again on Saturday and Niall Carty (if he starts), Donie Shine, Alan O’Hara and Darren McDermott will have to supply the scores if Roscommon are to win.   Against Galway in the Connacht final and despite the incorrect sending off of Paul Garvey, Roscommon did not play anywhere near the standard that they produced against Mayo in the semi-final. They need to re-discover that level of performance against a very strong Laois team if they are to have any chance of advancing to the semi-final.    Fergal O’Donnell and his team have always  produced the big performances when needed in the past two years so there is no reason why they cannot do that again on Saturday. As a well-known Roscommon fan said to this writer during the week: ‘We are playing against a right good team on Saturday – however they are playing a right good team too!’    There will be nothing in it. Roscommon can win it – and I think they will. ESB All-Ireland MFC quarter-final: Roscommon v Laois in Semple Stadium, Thurles on Saturday at 2 pm.