Resurgent Roscommon aiming to raid Orchard

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final:
Roscommon v Armagh on Saturday in Croke Park at 4 pm

What a difference a couple of weeks has made. Before the recent game against Cavan, the mood among most Gaelic football supporters in Roscommon was downbeat. But now, after a high-scoring win against Cavan and that magnificent performance against Tyrone last Saturday, the county is buzzing and people are really looking forward to this weekend’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final with Armagh on Saturday.

Now the Rossies are actually playing to their strengths and giving their talented attackers a chance to show what they can do – and it is paying rich dividends.

Out of the three possible draws (Armagh, Donegal or Kerry), this one is probably the most favourable for Davy Burke’s men. That is certainly not to suggest that this will be an easy assignment, but the Orchard County are eminently beatable. A last-four place is the prize for the winners, which would be a huge achievement for either side.

If this game was three weeks ago it would be hard to make a case for Roscommon, but they were a team transformed against Cavan and Tyrone and will certainly carry momentum into this quarter-final.

Make no mistake though, Armagh are a formidable side. They only lost out to Donegal in the Ulster final on penalties, while they drew with Galway after beating Westmeath and Derry, topping their group in the process.

Under Kieran McGeeney, they would be regarded as a team that have underachieved in recent years, and they will feel that this could be their chance to get to the very top table. They will certainly see this game against Roscommon as one they can win.

Armagh’s success is built on defensive solidity. In Blaine Hughes they have a very competent goalkeeper. Aaron McKay, Tiernan Kelly and Aidan Forker are excellent defenders and Forker is a threat to all opponents when he goes into attack.

Niall Grimley and Ben Crealey have been playing very effectively in midfield for Armagh this summer, while up front Rian O’Neill leads the attack. The Crossmaglen man is a prodigious talent and one of the finest footballers in the country.

Rory Grugan, Stefan Campbell, Conor Turbitt and Andrew Murnin are all excellent attackers and the Roscommon defence will have to be in top form to keep them at bay.

For their part, Roscommon have played some superb football in their last two games. With all due respect to Cavan, it was the display against Tyrone that has made everyone sit up and take notice.

Everyone in Roscommon knows about the strength of the attack, but in Omagh the defence was excellent. Conor Carroll, Brian Stack, Davy Murray, Niall Higgins and Robbie Dolan were outstanding, and they did a marvellous job on a highly-rated Tyrone attack.

Enda Smith is marshalling the midfield area brilliantly, while over the past two games we have seen what the attack can do if they get enough ball. Diarmuid Murtagh is having his best year in a Roscommon senior jersey – and that’s saying something.

Donie Smith is back to his best, and Daire Cregg is improving with every game he plays. Some of his movement and score-taking against Tyrone was out of the very top drawer. Conor Cox is also back to his best form and Shane Cunnane and Dylan Ruane have been working hard for the team too. So the team as a collective will go into this game with momentum, which is always a good thing.

The statistics are not in Roscommon’s favour though. We have not been in an All-Ireland semi-final since 1991, when we lost to Meath by a point. In fact our last win in the championship in Croke Park was in 1980, against Armagh! But these records have to tumble at some stage too.

Roscommon have a fairly good record against Armagh in the championship. The last time the sides met was in 2018 on a scorching hot day in Portlaoise when the Rossies won by six points in a thrilling game. Roscommon also had a one-point win in the All-Ireland qualifiers back in 2012.

If Roscommon can show the same intensity and energy that was evident against Tyrone then they have a great chance of winning this game. Armagh are a good side but they are not unbeatable. Roscommon have the forwards to win any game and are capable of putting up a match-winning score if they get enough ball.

A place in the last four is the prize, and although Armagh are the justified favourites there is something big stirring in this Roscommon team. I am giving them every chance of upsetting the odds and of reviving the memories of that famous day in August of 1980 when the Rossies defeated Armagh to make the All-Ireland final. Roscommon to win by a point or two.

Prediction: Roscommon.