Can Roscommon raid Orchard County in Rackard Final?

This Saturday Roscommon’s hurlers face  Armagh in the 2007 Nicky Rackard Cup Final  in what is one of the biggest games for the senior team in many years. The game will be played in Croke Park as a curtain-raiser to the Dublin/Derry All-Ireland SFC quarter-final and with tickets for the occasion sold out in 30 minutes last week there will be in the region of 82,000 people in attendance.   After two or three disastrous years for Roscommon hurling 2007 has seen the start of a revival. The appointment of David McConn as the senior and under-21 manager along with his selectors Ciaran Connell, Sean Farrell and Joe Mannion has resulted in a huge change on the attitude of the players and in Four Roads last week there were 40 panel members training, which was unheard of in recent years.   It must be acknowledged that such was the plight of Roscommon hurling that they couldn’t fall any further. They had fallen into the bottom Division of the NHL and also into the Nicky Rackard Cup, which would see hurling in the county at its lowest ebb.    The new managment has brought about a hard work ethic and a determination that has seen the county win Division Three of the Leage and secure promotion into Division Two for next season and now by virtue of their qualifying for this weekend’s final they will play in the Christy Ring Cup next summer.   In the Rackard final on Saturday McConn’s men will be faced with a very stiff test. Armagh have been playing in a higher division that Roscommon in the league and they have also been playing in the Ulster SHC and performing very well there in recent years.   They will provide Roscommon with stern opposition on Saturday and the fact that Roscommon have coasted into this final, winning every game by a huge margin, might not be in their favour on Sunday. However it must also be said that Armagh have put up even bigger totals than Roscommon in this competition and they have conceded less so it will be no more than a 50/50 game.   Davy Connell will continue in goal while Noel Cunniffe, Liam Murray, Colm Moran and Alan Cunniffe should form the bulk of the backline where Michael Mulry is a long-term absentee through injury.   Mervyn Connaughton (the captain) and Thomas Lennon could be the midfield partnership while up front Tom Reddington, Shane Sweeney, Colm Kelly and David Loughnane will be expected to play a major role. There are lots of good young players from the U-21 squad too so there are plenty of options for David McConn and his men.   It’s a major opportunity for Roscommon hurlers to show what they can do in front of a massive live crowd and hundreds of thousands of people at home watching on live TV. Roscommon hurling is certainly in the shop window this weekend.   The U-21 title is now firmly in the bag after last weekend’s brilliant performance in Thurles. The win is behind Roscommon now and a measure of the commitment that Roscommon have shown this year is that the U-21 win was not celebrated on Saturday last. The players will wait until this weekend to see if they can add the Rackard Cup to their All-Ireland crown. In fact the U-21 players on the senior panel trained on Sunday morning!   Armagh might be the slight favourites but I have a feeling that David McConn will have a gameplan hatched to unhinge the Orchard County and I think that by 2.40 pm on Saturday evening Mervyn Connaughton will be preparing to bring the Nicky Rackard Cup home to Athleague – and signalling that the revival in Roscommon hurlings fortunes is really gathering pace. Prediction: Roscommon. Nicky Rackard Cup Final. Roscommon v Armagh in Croke Park on Saturday at 1.15 pm.