Lights, camera, action!

Roscommon’s senior footballers make their first competitive appearance at Croke Park since 2004 when they take on Cavan in the National Football League Division Three semi-final under lights on Saturday (throw in at 7.45 pm).    It’s a great chance for this young Roscommon team to sample the atmosphere of Croke Park and the fact that this semi-final will be played under lights adds another slice of intrigue to the contest.   Roscommon played wonderful football in the second half of last Sunday’s game against Offaly in Tullamore and a continuation of that form would see John Maughan’s men in with every chance of reaching the Division Two final.   The team is likely to be along the same lines as that which lined out against Offaly. Geoffrey Claffey is growing in confidence and has made the goalkeeper’s position his own in this campaign. Anthony McDermott did very well last Sunday and surely deserves another run. Seanie McDermott and Robbie Kelly are also sure to feature in the Roscommon defence. John Nolan will get a chance to make the No. 6 jersey his own after doing well when he came on as a sub last Sunday while Stuart Daly (Roscommon’s player of the year so far) and Richard Dooner should continue in the half -back line.   Michel Finneran and Seamie O’Neill are now Roscommon’s established midfield partnership and both played really well in that frantic second half last Sunday.   Up front team captain Karol Mannion will be hoping to lead the attack while Cathal Cregg, David Hoey, Enda Kenny and the prolific Ger Heneghan should all feature. Gary Cox had an excellent outing at centre half-forward last Sunday and it looks the position that he is most comfortable in.   The Roscommon team will be playing this game full of confidence after last Sunday’s heroics in Tullamore and the response of the players in the second half warmed the hearts of supporters and management alike. While a loss in this game would not be the end of the world it would be a huge boost to reach a national final after the inconsistency shown during this league campaign and it would be a big advantage to the team going in to the Connacht Championship to have a few more competitive games under their belts.    Cavan have operated out of Division 2B of the National League this year where they have remained unbeaten winning five of their games and drawing two (against Meath and Wexford).   The Cavan team are managed by former star Donal Keoghan who is the first Cavan man to train the team in the past ten years and there are signs that this sleeping giant of Ulster football is beginning to wake again after years in the doldrums.   They have a largely young team – similar to Roscommon’s – but they have also some experienced players. The likes of Dermot McCabe, Jason Reilly and ex-Fermanagh star Rory Gallagher are formibable players on any stage and the must be respected.   Cavan also feature a number of the players who played against Roscommon in the U-21 Hastings Cup final a couple of months ago. This is Cavan’s first time to play in the re-developed Croke Park so the word is that there will be a big Cavan crowd at the game to cheer the team on.   It is also interesting to note that Cavan do most of their training under lights at the St. Brigids GAA club grounds in Blanchardstown and they played four of their seven league games under lights too. Whether that will be an advantage or not, time will tell.   It’s a unique occasion and the supporters will be looking forward to this semi-final under lights at Headquarters. It’s a great reward for the Roscommon players for their win last Sunday. If they can bring their second half form with them from Tullamore then there is no reason why they cannot qualify for the final.   Cavan are a good side but are no world-beaters and I would contend that they are no better than the Offaly team which Roscommon beat on Sunday last so there is every hope for the Rossies to qualify for the final.