Free-scoring Rossies can prevail over Cavan


Allianz NFL Division 2 (Round 6): Roscommon v Cavan on Sunday at Dr Hyde Park at 2 pm


Promotion to Division One is on the line when these two old rivals clash in a game that is sure to draw a huge Bank Holiday weekend crowd to Hyde Park. Victory for the Breffni men will assure them of a place in the final and promotion to Division One while Roscommon can set themselves up for a quick return to the top table if they can take the two points on offer.

  It’s a mouth-watering prospect and as close to a championship game that one can get at this time of the year. It is just the kind of clash that the team managers Kevin McStay and Mattie McGleenan would want with the championship just around the corner. Both teams will know where they stand after this one.

   I have many GAA friends in Cavan and hope to renew acquaintance with them this weekend. It is very interesting to report that after the appointment of Mattie McGleenan as manager there was much suspicion about what he was doing with the team. They were beaten by Antrim and hammered by Tyrone in the McKenna Cup and the knives were being sharpened. But Cavan have been playing great football in the league so far and the public have had a complete U-turn. The Doubting Thomases have been silenced.

   Owen McConnan a friend, long-time Cavan GAA analyst and BBC Radio Ulster commentator, spoke to me on Tuesday. He wrote in his column in the Anglo Celt last week that he and many others had got it wrong about McGleenan and the Cavan GAA public are getting more excited about the direction that the team are taking with every passing game.

  “He (McGleenan) has brought in a number of new young players who are doing very well. The defence has tightened up and the team are scoring well. We would still have our worries about the midfield area but overall things are very positive,” he told me.

  “The feeling in Cavan is that it is finally time to banish the hoodoo that Roscommon have had against us in recent years and there are many players playing for Cavan who have not been on a losing team to Roscommon so they don’t have that baggage. Cavan will be going to Hyde Park on Sunday in a confident mood,” he said.

  Cavan will come with an unbeaten record and know that a win will see them promoted with a round to spare. Gearoid McKiernan is still their inspiration and although he will probably be named at 14, he will be called on to put out fires anywhere in the midfield area over the course of the game. He is a fantastic player.

  Raymond Galligan, Conor Brady, Dara McVeety, Conor Moynagh, Cian Mackey, Conor Bradley, Seanie Johnston, Ciaran Brady, and the inspirational McKiernan are just some of the names that we will see in Hyde Park on Sunday wearing Breffni blue.

  Roscommon come into the game on a high after two very good displays in their last two away games that have seen the team score an impressive 3 goals and 40 points. Despite losing concentration in games, which has become a worrying habit, Kevin McStay’s men are capable of playing some brilliant attacking football which is so easy on the eye.

  With John McManus doubtful for Sunday’s game I expect that Peter Domican will deputise at full-back. Niall Daly or Davy Murray will probably be at number six although Roscommon were once again vulnerable when Clare ran straight at them last Sunday. It’s a recurring theme.

  Roscommon still don’t have a settled midfield partnership yet. I was very impressed with Conor Daly against Louth but Tadgh O’Rourke and Cathal Compton worked hard there last Sunday. With an eye on the championship it is a worry that there is still uncertainty in that area.

  Up front Donie Smith must start again after a couple of sensational displays as will the two Murtaghs and Conor Devaney. Enda Smith will surely be looking to get his starting shirt back again and Cathal Cregg was excellent when he came on last Sunday. From a Roscommon point of view there are plenty of attacking options.

  Cavan have shaken their negative style of play and are working very hard under Tyrone man McGleenan. Speaking to a number of people in the county they are convinced that they can come to Hyde Park and secure their place in Division One on Sunday. Their record against Roscommon in recent years is very poor and they aim to change that on Sunday.

  With Roscommon equally well prepared and motivated this has all the ingredients to be a cracking game. Kevin McStay’s men are very close to producing a clinical performance and if they can eliminate the silly mistakes they have been making from time to time they are well capable of prevailing here. With both sides in with a big chance of promotion there will be a super atmosphere in Dr Hyde Park. It’s a match to savour and the outcome will be in doubt right to the finish. I am really looking forward to it.

  Forward power is always a serious advantage in Gaelic football and Roscommon have that in spades. If they can get ahead early, and close up that middle channel at the back they can record another victory against Cavan. In front of a huge crowd I am expecting a narrow Roscommon win.

Prediction: Roscommon