Reinvigorated Roscommon ready for big Mayo test

Cathal Hennegan in action for Roscommon during last Sunday’s Allianz NFL Division One match against Monaghan in Dr Hyde Park. Pic: Bernie O’Farrell

A reinvigorated Roscommon will travel to Castlebar this weekend in a positive frame of mind following a confidence-boosting win against Monaghan last Sunday. Division One of the National Football League has suddenly evolved into ‘Derry and the rest’ with Mickey Harte’s charges proudly standing on the summit.

Meanwhile, just two points separate the remaining seven teams. Realistically, only some of those teams are at risk of relegation, Roscommon amongst them.

One can’t overestimate how timely a boost last Sunday’s win over Monaghan was. While the understrength visitors were lamentably poor on the day, Roscommon, in contrast, were very impressive.

Davy Burke’s men dominated all over the pitch, and won easing up. Perhaps the only disappointing aspect of the performance was the failure to add to Shane Cunnane’s goal. That lack of goal threat apart, Roscommon were in fine fettle. Enda Smith led the onslaught, scoring three terrific points and consistently linking defence and attack. Scoring 1-16 was satisfactory, while the concession of a mere 0-7 – just three of those points from play – was just as pleasing.

Roscommon’s 12-point win, their first of the campaign, significantly boosts their prospects of staying in Division One, although they are certainly still in some peril, especially as their remaining games are against Mayo, Kerry and Derry. But at least Roscommon have now given themselves a shot at survival. The win over Monaghan trebled their points’ tally (from one to three) and created a real (overdue) sense of a limp campaign finally being energised. Roscommon now travel to Castlebar with every belief that they can challenge for both points in this eagerly-awaited derby.

Mayo will of course start as favourites, partly because of home advantage, mainly because they almost always start as favourites against Roscommon. But it will be a surprise if this isn’t a fiercely contested and close game. Formidable as any trip to Castlebar is, it will be disappointing if Roscommon aren’t competitive – and in contention – into the final minutes on Saturday evening.

Mayo opened their league campaign with two fine wins, against Galway and Dublin. They were just as impressive against Kerry, before unluckily losing to the last kick of the game, a typically confident score from David Clifford. Last weekend, Mayo let a half-time lead slip as a resurgent Tyrone overpowered them to win by four points.

Roscommon are still without the injured Ben O’Carroll, who is a big loss, though they do of course have many exciting attacking options. But they travel on Saturday in good shape. Mayo go into the game as favourites, Roscommon go into it with a realistic chance of gaining a bit more ground on the road to survival.