Roscommon manager John Evans says he is not expecting the key players who are currently out injured to be back in contention for places this weekend.
Following their win over Cavan last Saturday, Roscommon face Fermanagh in Round 3 of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship qualifiers on Sunday. The game, in Brewster Park, Enniskillen, has a 3.30 pm throw-in time.
Missing several key players last weekend – “the spine of the team” in Evans’ own words – the Roscommon manager is not expecting an improved bill of health.
Speaking to the Roscommon People on Tuesday, he said: “We had a lot of injuries last weekend and I am not expecting any of those lads to be back this weekend.
“Diarmuid Murtagh came on and played well so he is in contention but the team will be much the same as it was last weekend.”
Roscommon face a rapidly-improving Fermanagh in a game that will be tricky but winnable. This is the first time that the teams have ever met in the championship.
A lot of sport at the top level comes down to mental attitude and in contrast to what we saw in Sligo, Roscommon players were well tuned in against Cavan – and, make no mistake, if Roscommon are not in a similar frame of mind this Sunday, then it will end in tears.
Fermanagh are no world-beaters but their graph is certainly on an upward curve. They have been promoted to Division Two in the league and under the very wily Peter McGrath they have become notoriously hard to beat at home. Indeed the last time that they were beaten in Brewster Park was by Roscommon in the league in a high-scoring game over 12 months ago.
Fermanagh beat Antrim in the championship by eight points before losing 1-20 to 0-13 against Monaghan. Then in the qualifiers they came up against Antrim again and won last Sunday by 1-21 to 0-11.
Fermanagh have some real quality, not least their full-forward Sean Quigley who scored a very impressive total of 0-14 last Sunday against Antrim. When Roscommon played Fermanagh last he was lethal from play and frees.
Marty O’Brien is a very impressive wing half-back who loves to attack and he scored a fine goal last Sunday. Ryan McCluskey will be back after suspension and James McMahon is usually deployed as a sweeper. Barry Mulrone, Ryan Jones and Niall Cassidy are also good attacking players for the home side.
Roscommon should line out close to what we saw in Cavan last weekend. Darren O’Malley will be behind Davy Murray, the very solid Neil Collins and Seanie McDermott in the full-back line. David Keenan had a stormer last weekend at centre half-back and will continue in that role with Ciaran Cafferky and Niall Daly on the wings.
At midfield Kevin Higgins and Ian Kilbride were very effective last weekend, but Higgins needs more game-time. Up front Conor Daly, Enda Smith, Donie Shine, Ciaran Murtagh and Cathal Cregg all played well while Ultan Harney was fantastic at full-forward. It was good to see Donie Shine back close to his best last Saturday. Diarmuid Murtagh and Donie Smith are also in contention for starting spots in attack.
This will be a very tight game but there is a huge prize for the winners and a place in the final 12 teams in the country, which would be a great achievement. While John Evans is right, and people should not get carried away, this is a very winnable match for Roscommon.
If the players’ attitude is right there is no reason why we cannot go to Enniskillen and win. We have better players then Fermanagh and on that basis I am going for a Roscommon win by a couple of points, with a few scares along the way.
Match odds: Fermanagh 9/4; Roscommon 2/1; Draw 15/2.