Refreshed Rossies face daunting Dubs!

All-Ireland SFC (Group 2, Round 1):
Roscommon v Dublin in Croke Park on Saturday at 5 pm

Roscommon’s Diarmuid Murtagh in action against Dublin’s Con O’Callaghan when the teams faced each other this time last year in the opening round of the All-Ireland series. Pic: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

There is a very strange build-up to this weekend’s game between Roscommon and Dublin. Usually, the prospect of a trip to Croke Park to face the All-Ireland champions would generate huge interest in the county, but the approach is very muted this week.

The new format for the championship has not resonated greatly with the public. The crowds at matches played last weekend were very mediocre, with very little excitement (with the exception of the Galway v Derry game). If there is around 15,000 people in Croke Park this Saturday it will constitute a big crowd in relative terms.

But such musings are for another forum. It’s game on, and Roscommon manager Davy Burke is bringing his team back to HQ, where 12 months ago they drew with Dublin at the same stage of the competition.

That was a highly impressive result last season, but the form lines so far this year would suggest that a similar share of the spoils (or a win) for the Rossies is unlikely this time around.

There are a few positives for Roscommon as they look to this opening game in the round robin stages. Since that loss to Mayo in the Connacht Championship, the players have had five weeks to prepare for the group stages. There are a number of players back to full fitness. Also, Roscommon will be going into this match under the radar, with little expectation, certainly nationally, as to their prospects. That’s always a good thing.

Dublin were not great against Louth in the Leinster final, but having said that, they never looked like they were going to lose either. They seem to be doing just enough to progress, but one suspects that they are looking to peak by the quarter-finals.

Suffice to say that Brian Fenton and Con O’Callaghan remain Dublin’s main men. When those two play well, Dublin win.

While the Roscommon team will be along expected lines, it will be interesting to see if Davy Burke and his selectors opt to give U-20 star Shane McGinley some game time.

I think I speak for the vast majority of Roscommon supporters when I say that a priority for us is to see Burke’s men having a real go at Dublin on Saturday. If they do so and lose, then so be it. But the negative football that we have seen in a lot of games this year will certainly not suffice.

We have excellent attackers like Enda Smith, Donie Smith, Daire Cregg, Diarmuid Murtagh, Ben O’Carroll and Conor Cox, and even new recruit Shane McGinley. We need to be a bit more direct and try to get more ball to those forwards.

Mayo are coming to town the following weekend and a good performance this Saturday will give the Roscommon team some momentum for that big game.

It would be stretching it to anticipate a Roscommon win in Croker but I am expecting a good performance, one that would send Burke’s players and supporters into the following weekend’s game in a positive and confident mindset.

Prediction: Dublin.