It’s all or nothing for Roscommon on Saturday

Can Burke’s team rediscover winning ways?

All-Ireland SFC Round Robin (Group B): Roscommon v Cavan at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, Longford on Saturday at 5 pm

Much of the criticism of the new championship format over the past two years is that there is no ‘jeopardy’ and that the absence of knockout matches has been a major flaw. Well, that criticism cannot be applied to this fixture in Longford on Saturday evening because one of Cavan or Roscommon will progress and the other side will be eliminated.

The two teams will go into this game with the belief that they can win. From a Roscommon point of view the facts are that they have lost their last five championship matches (this season and last combined) and that cannot be good for momentum or confidence. Losing becomes a habit that is hard to break. At least from a Cavan perspective they defeated neighbours Monaghan in the Ulster Championship in April.

Both sides have shown poor form in this round robin element to the All-Ireland series. Both struggled against Dublin, and while Roscommon ran Mayo to two points, they never looked likely to win. Cavan struggled against Mayo in Castlebar. That brings us to this battle of the bottom two teams in the group, with an All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final position still available.

Enda Smith is rated 50-50 to start for Roscommon after limping off against Mayo. Ben O’Carroll is very unlikely to be included in the match-day panel. Either or both would be serious losses for Davy Burke’s side.

In Cavan’s case, ace attacker Paddy Lynch is out for the rest of the year after suffering a serious cruciate injury in training. He was by far the most influential Cavan player in 2024 and his absence is huge for Raymond Galligan’s men. The fact that veterans Conor Moynagh and Gearoid McKiernan are not on the Cavan panel this year is also a blow to them.

Cavan have a number of experienced players who will have to step up to the plate if they are to win this match. Killian Brady, Padraig Faulkner, Ciaran Brady and Gerard Smith are all well seasoned inter-county players capable of spearheading a winning performance. However, this Cavan side is certainly in transition this year.

Surely an attack containing Donie Smith, Conor Cox, Daire Cregg and Diarmuid Murtagh is capable of supplying the scores needed to win this championship game.

Roscommon’s issue all year has not been the quality of their attack. The midfield area has been a problem. Meanwhile, a very tentative and conservative style of play has cost them dearly in many games this season.

A defeat this Saturday would be a disaster and a massive setback for football in the county. In contrast, a win would be a big lift ahead of a preliminary quarter-final the following week.

It’s time to throw off the shackles and go for it. Despite all the mediocre displays this year, surely there is at least one good winning performance in Davy Burke’s men?

Prediction: Roscommon.