Minors meet Mayo with a Connacht final place at stake

There is a fascinating duel in prospect at Dr. Hyde Park this Saturday evening at 6.30 pm when old rivals Roscommon and Mayo clash in the Connacht minor football championship semi-final. It’s a chance for some redemption for Roscommon football after last Sunday’s shattering defeat in the senior semi-final.   It’s been a low-key start to the year for the defending All-Ireland champions who scraped a draw with Leitrim in the first game of their round robin series before putting Sligo to the sword to claim a place in the semi-finals.   However despite the less than impressive performances in those two games Roscommon’s preparations have been centered exclusively on this Saturday’s game and I expect to see a very determined and focussed Roscommon team hit the field in Hyde Park.   Mayo will be anxious to reverse last year’s Connacht final result which saw Roscommon win by three points on their way to All-Ireland glory. However home advantage should prove a big plus for Roscommon and while there are injury worries for Fergal O’Donnell and his selectors in the run-up to the game a big Roscommon crowd should be there to cheer on the reigning All-Ireland champions.   There is mixed news on the injury front. Donie Shine will be back on Saturday but there are worries over his match fitness. However his presence alone will be a huge lift to Roscommon. Niall Carty was back in training recently but he has had a further setback and unfortunately he will not be able to play a part which is a big blow because Carty is potentially a match-winner for Roscommon.   There are also fitness worries over full-back Jack Sharkey who has aggravated his hamstring injury in recent days. Hopefully Sharkey can take his place in the full-back line alongside Neil Collins and Niall Brogan.   The half-back line is expected to be along the lines of James McKeague, Darragh Lennon and Eamonn Bannon. Midfield will see Colm O’Neill or maybe Eugene Stritch partner Kevin Higgins.   Up front Roscommon have plenty of options. Alan O’Hara, Paul Garvey, Donie Shine, Darren McDermott, Kevin Cummins, Alan Duffy, Leon O’Connor  and Kevin Brady are all in with shout of a starting place. In fact the forward division looks very strong and they should be able to get plenty of scores if they get enough ball from midfield.   Mayo have a very strong team this year – players like Aidan O’Shea, Keith Glynn and the Freemans, Cathal and Cathal, are all excellent players. They will come to Hyde Park on Saturday with all guns blazing and they will want to try to catch Roscommon on the hop with early scores.   Roscommon need to be able to weather that storm and that’s what the minor team team did so well in every game last year. When they were under pressure they yeilded very few scores. That was the key to All-Ireland success.  Fergal O’Donnell and his management team were almost as impressive as the players on their way to All-Ireland glory last summer. Almost every single decision that they made on and off the field worked a treat.   I know that Fergal and his selectors have their homework done on this Mayo team and they will have a gameplan in place. The preparations for this game have been low-key and that’s just the way that Roscommon will like it.   This could well be one of the games of the year and I expect a big Roscommon following to be there to cheer on the team. It will be a very tight game and if Roscommon can get a bit of luck and an even break at midfield they have the forwards to get the match-winning scores.