Familiar foe stands between Roscommon and three-in-a-row

Eirgrid Connacht U-21 Football Championship Final: Roscommon v Mayo at Markievicz Park, Sligo on Saturday at 6 pm

Roscommon bid to win their third Connacht U-21 Football Championship title in a row when they face Mayo in this year’s final, which will be played in Sligo on Saturday.

The game was initially fixed for Dr. Hyde Park but the problems with the surface there resulted in the match being switched to Sligo earlier this week.

Roscommon have a brilliant recent record in this competition but Mayo will provide very strong opposition on Saturday and will travel with confidence in the knowledge that their group of players won the minor All-Ireland title in 2013.

Mayo have not been in a Connacht U-21 decider since 2009 and they will be very keen to win the provincial crown this year. They easily accounted for Leitrim in the semi-final and will be confident of turning Roscommon over in this decider.

Expectation levels in Roscommon were low coming into the championship this year because of a catalogue of injuries to key players.

However an excellent display against Galway saw Roscommon sweep into the semi-finals while a less than convincing performance was good enough to deal with the threat of Sligo in a one-sided semi-final.

However Roscommon players, management and fans will know that Roscommon will have to be at their best if they are to deal with this impressive Mayo side. Mayo have plenty of players on their team with senior experience.

Diarmuid O’Connor, Conor Loftus, Stephen Coen and Fergal Boland have all seen senior action, but there are others who Roscommon will have to watch out for too.

Seamus Cunniffe from Ballaghaderreen is an impressive full-back while Michael Hall has been doing well at centre half-back.

Val Roughneen will partner Stephen Coen in what looks a very strong midfield pairing. Conor Loftus will lead the attack and the Roscommon defence will have to be ready for the threat posed by Diarmuid O’Connor and the razor-sharp Brian Reape, who scored 2-4 in the semi-final against Leitrim.

Roscommon will probably line out almost similar lines to how they did against Sligo. Sean Mullooly will have his hands full with Brian Reape and Ronan Daly will be given the job of shadowing Diarmuid O’Connor.

Fergal Lennon will have the task of following the impressive Conor Loftus. However Tadhg O’Rourke and Cathal Compton will have the biggest job of all on Saturday and their battle at midfield against Stephen Coen and Val Roughneen could hold the key.

Roscommon look good in attack – if they can get enough ball. Henry Walsh will lead the Roscommon forward-line and the return to full fitness of Ultan Harney is so important for Roscommon’s hopes.

Diarmuid Murtagh is also a key man. His scoring prowess will be crucial as will the performances of Hubert Darcy and Cathal Callinan. This promises to be a fascinating game and I don’t think there will be any more than a point or two in it.

Mayo look a strong side but Roscommon are coming into the game in need of a huge performance and a lot of their key players are coming back to full fitness at just the right time.

This is a well-coached and well-managed Roscommon team and the desire to win a three-in-a-row is there in the panel. If Roscommon can hang in and be in with a shout with 10 minutes to go they can win it.

Match odds: Roscommon 1/1; Mayo 1/1. Prediction: Roscommon to win by a point.