Allianz National Football League Division Two
Roscommon v Down on Sunday at Dr Hyde Park at 2 pm
Following last weekend’s smash and grab raid in Semple Stadium, Roscommon’s footballers have a marvellous opportunity to put themselves in a strong position to make a push for promotion when they welcome Down to Dr Hyde Park on Sunday. Two points will leave them joint top of the table at worst with Meath and Cavan meeting this Saturday night.
Kevin McStay was right to say that the closing stages last Sunday papered over the cracks of what was a very patchy display against Tipperary for 65 minutes.
Roscommon are giving the ball away far too much but the manner of last Sunday’s win will have given the Roscommon players a huge boost and it would be a major disappointment if they were not to take two points on Sunday.
I expect that the Roscommon team will probably be much the same as we have seen over the past few weekends. Sean Mullooly is out for at least a month and Kevin McStay and his selectors will have to find a new centre half-back. David Murray has played there in the past and could be an option with Seanie McDermott or Peter Domican stepping into the corner. Indeed Domican or Conor Daly could be played at number 6 too.
The search for a solid midfield combination continues and Ian Kilbride, Tadgh O’Rourke, Fintan Cregg, Niall Daly and Enda Smith are all candidates. But the attack is going well and it is great to see Diarmuid Murtagh finally realising his full potential. He will be our talisman for many years to come if he can stay injury free. After another outstanding contribution from the bench in Thurles it will be hard to resist the claims of Donie Smith for a starting spot this Sunday.
Roscommon have a good record against Down in the recent past and following a good opening win for them against Louth they went down by six points at home to Cork last weekend. A huge blow for the Mournemen will be the loss of influential full-forward Connaire Harrison who received a straight red card in the dying minutes of the game last Sunday and he will be suspended.
But Down have some excellent players and the side are improving under manager Eamon Burns. Gerard McGovern, Brendan McArdle, Darragh O’Hanlon and Anthony Doherty are top class defenders. At midfield, their pairing of Conor Poland and Niall Donnelly will hope to get at least an even break of possession both are very mobile and rangy and are a formidable pairing.
Caoileann Mooney has now moved to the attack from defence and Aaron Morgan and Conor McGinn are also very competent attackers. Ryan Johnson and Kevin McKernan were back in the Down fold last weekend and will be in line for starting places this Sunday.
Any complacency from Roscommon will be punished and we have seen even in the first two rounds, how close the teams in Division Two are in terms of quality and standard. Roscommon will have to mind the ball much better than they have done in their opening two league games and get the ball forward quickly to the attack which is playing well.
Confidence after last weekend’s dramatic win will be high this week and on home ground I am expecting Roscommon to win. There have been serious flaws in their performances in both their opening games but as long as they are learning as they go along they can record another win and put themselves in a very good position prior to the mini-break.