Monaghan a tough league opener for Maughan’s men

NFL Division 2: Monaghan v Roscommon at St. Tiernachs Park, Clones Sunday at 2.30 pm –  Referee Maurice Deegan (Laois).  This Sunday in ths splendid setting of St.  Tiernachs Park in Clones Roscommon footballers begin their 2008 season in earnest with a very tough away game against Monaghan in the Allianz National Football League Division Two (throw-in 2.30 pm).   I realise that when one is at the start of any  new year hopes are always high, but it is my firm belief that Roscommon have a very talented young team on the way.    For them to achieve their potential this year is probably asking a bit much but I believe that there is great hope for the future.   The football reality is that this game (along with the trip to Parnell Park) will be one of Roscommon’s toughest in this league campaign, but it is  game that Roscommon supporters should be looking forward to.   In terms of preparations, there has been good and bad news for Roscommon. The FBD League was an unmitigated disaster and extremely unfair on the management of the team and the players as they tried to do their best with half a team. Unsurprisingly Roscommon finished at the bottom of their section with three losses out of three.   On the plus side there has been the progress of the U-21 team that has featured many of the minor heroes of 2006 plus classy ‘older’ players like Cathal Cregg and Enda Kenny.   With due respect to the older players on the Roscommon team, these young players are the future of Roscommon football and I expect that many of those lads will be on the first fifteen (team news elsewhere) when Roscommon take the field on Sunday.   I presume that Mark Miley or Geoffrey Claffey will be the goalkeeper, with Adrian Murtagh, Anthony McDermott and Richard Dooner strong contenders for the full-back line. David O’Gara was very impressive in a wing half-back role against Kildare in a challenge game last weekend so I expect him to be in contention for a spot there. Others that will be vying for a place in the half-back line will be Stuart Daly, David Flynn, David Keenan and David Hoey.   Seamie O’Neill will be partnered at midfield by Mark O’Carroll or Michael Finneran while up front Frankie Dolan will come back into consideration. Cathal Cregg and Karol Mannion will also feature in the attack as will Ger Heneghan, Enda Kenny, Conor Devanney and Jonathan Dunning.   I know that it’s a young Roscommon team and in terms of experience John Maughan’s men may be lacking in that vital department which is so important wheh the going gets tough in these league games away from home.   Monaghan will be without the influential Eoin Lennon who is injured and it is likely that team captain for the fourth year in a row Damien Freeman will only be a sub as he only comes back from his honeymoon on Friday.  However Monaghan have plenty of class performers who are able to win the game for Seamus McEneaney and his selectors.   It’s likely that James Coyle will be sited at full-back with the versatile Vincent Corey outside him at centre half-back – although don’t be surprised to see Corey at full-forward if needed!   Dessie Mone is a classy wing half-back while Paul Finlay is a very good performer in the centre of the field. Up front the chief threat will come from the brilliant Tommy Freeman and the equally elusive Ciaran Hanratty while Rory Woods was one of the most exciting full-forwards in the country in last year’s championship.   I have written elsewhere this week that Roscommon followers (myself included) are inclined to get carried away especially at this time of the year but I genuinely believe that Roscommon football is on the way up and the young players will only improve as a result of the kind of test that they will face on Sunday.   In every game the midfield exchanges will be important and I also believe that if the Roscommon attack get enough ball, they have the talent to hurt any defence – but as usual that’s a big ‘IF’.   I am not so naive as to predict a win for Roscommon on Sunday, however I expect this young team to put in a big display on Sunday  and if we can be coming home from Clones  with memories of a good solid display behind us then we will have made substantial progress and we will be able to look forward to the rest of the league with confidence. Prediction: Monaghan by three points.