National Hurling League Division 2A: Roscommon v Westmeath (Cusack Park, Mullingar on Saturday at 2.30 pm) Seamus Duke The Roscommon hurlers and footballers are in very similar positions in the league in 2008 in that both sides are experiencing a big step up in class. However in the case of the hurling team, Roscommon’s opening game saw them unlucky to be beaten by seven points by Kildare last Sunday. In that game Roscommon missed a number of gilt-edged chances in front of goal while they conceded a very soft goal at the other end, which gave Kildare the vital cushion they needed early in the game. Roscommon have been without a lot of the experienced players that helped them to their various victories last year and that was vital in that first game last weekend. However David McConn will take heart from the performances of many of the young players who lined out last weekend as they never gave up trying against Kildare. The Roscommon manager will also be heartened by the return of three players to training this week (including last year’s brilliant U-21 captain Michael Kelly) and who will be on the panel for Saturday’s game against Westmeath. David McConn spoke to the People on Wednesday. ‘We were disappointed to lose to Kidare last weekend but I can tell you that they came to to win here easily and they were not too happy at how it turned out. We played very well at times’ he said. ‘We let in a soft goal and they were lucky to get their second goal because their player dropped his hurley before he gave the final pass – it should have been a free out’ he said. ‘I knew that the opening two games in this league would be the most difficult for us. We are under no illusions about Westmeath. They are very close to being a bona fida Division One team. They have a full panel of 25 top class hurlers and we have to travel to their own backyard too. It will not be easy’ he said. ‘However I am appealing for people to be patient. Our panel is taking shape again and I am very encouraged to tell you that we will have two or three players from last year back on the panel this weekend. ‘We will be trying very hard on Saturday but I have always said it that it is the next three games in this division that will be vital. We were in the same position as this last year at the start of the year and it turned out well, so let’s see how it goes. We will be getting stronger as the year goes on, I can assure you of that’ he concluded. There is no doubt that this is Roscommon’s toughest league game. Westmeath have won the Christy Ring Cup two years out of the last three and they have not been disgraced when they have played Kilkenny, Wexford and Offaly in the Leinster Championship in recent years. It would be the shock of the GAA year so far were Roscommon to win, however David McConn and his selectors will be hoping to build on what was a reasonably good show against Kildare as they prepare for the next three games in the Division -against Kerry Mayo and Wicklow – matches which will decide their future in this division. Prediction: Westmeath to win.