Roscommon bid to restore lost pride against Westmeath

Allianz National Football League Division 2 Roscommon v Westmeath  (Sunday at 2.30 pm at Dr. Hyde Park) Referee: David Coldrick (Meath) Managers: John Maughan (Roscommon), Tomas O’Flaharta (Westmeath) Bookies odds: Roscommon 6/4, Westmeath 4/6; Draw 13/2. Seamus Duke  Roscommon senior footballers have a chance to redeem themselves after the nightmare of Crossmaglen on Sunday next in the National Football League when they entertain Westmeath in the latest round of games in Division 2. However expectations among Roscommon supporters will not be high for this game and rightly so because the few who travelled to Crossmaglen for the game against Armagh were witness to one of the worst days in the long history of Roscommon football as Armagh ran riot in the second half, inflicting  a record 24-point defeat on John Maughan’s team in what was a day to forget for the Primrose and Blue.   I suppose that I can say with certainty that this game on Sunday will certainly not be as bad as that mauling but it is hard to predict a victory for Roscommon given the beating they got against Armagh. At least ten of the Roscommon panel will be involved for Roscommon’s U-21 team when they play in the Connacht semi-final against Sligo less than 24 hours earlier and that will not aid preparations.   Despite the best efforts of the team management, the confidence of the Roscommon senior players must be at rock bottom after the debacle in Armagh and it would be a miracle if they could turn it around so quickly in Hyde Park on Sunday. Despite good shows against Meath and Cork it would appear that Roscommon are doomed to relegation from this division.   I presume that the manager and his selectors will not be able to finalise their team until Sunday morning but they will certainly hope that some of the senior players can take the lead on Sunday and not be leaving the U-21 players to take up the slack.   Anthony McDermott is sure to continue at full-back but he will be faced by either Denis Glennon or more probably the returning Dessie Dolan so he will have his hands full. Enda Kenny has been picked again at centre half-back and he will be hoping for an easier day than he one he had against Martin O’Rourke in Crossmaglen.   Karol Mannion and Mark O’Carroll will have to play well at midfield if Roscommon are to have any chance against the likes of the experienced Martin Flanagan and others and the will have to restrict the supply in to the likes of Glennon and Dolan.   Frankie Dolan is out injured for this game so Gary Cox will lead the attack against Westmeath and the fans will be hoping that the forward-line can get more ball than they received against Armagh.   Westmeath are certainly no world-beaters but they have been playing at a consistently high level in the National Football League over the past four or five years and it is standing to them.    In their four games to date they have played very well. They beat Armagh and Meath (at home) while they lost by a point to Dublin at Parnell Park and they were unlucky to have lost to Cork at Pairc Ui Rinn in the last round. Dessie Dolan scored what he was convinced was a good Westmeath point in injury-time that day but the ball was waved wide and Cork went down the field to score the insurance point to win by two.   Speaking to the Westmeath GAA secretary Paddy Collins yesterday (Wednesday) he told me that Westmeath are happy enough with their progress so far. ‘We have done reasonably well so far in the league. We were unlucky against Dublin and then we had a good win against Armagh and we beat Meath well in Mullingar, but I thought that Meath were very poor on the day. Against Cork there was a controversial point disallowed so I suppose we could have won that one. So I suppose you could say that we are reasonably happy with the way things are going’ he said.   Roscommon U-21 and senior player Cathal Cregg told the Hogan Stand GAA magazine this week that the bad beating against Armagh did nothing for the confidence of the team. The DCU student said: ‘It’s a big downer. We are out in the U-21 championship next weekend and if we got a win against Sligo on Saturday it would be a big boost. We might forget about the Armagh game hopefully. We were six points down at half-time. But I don’t know what happened in the second half. It all went wrong. All the lads talked after the game and we got together then and training was good the last two weeks. Hopefully it will come good the next day, especially at home.’   Westmeath have some excellent performers and the return of Dessie Dolan is a major boost to them. Gary Connaughton is a top class net-minder and in front of him John Keane, Martin Flanagan, Kieran Gavin, Alan Mangan, Tom Cleary and the classy Denis Glennon and Dolan are as good a players as you would find on any team.   With the U-21 game assuming most prominence this weekend (and rightly so too) it will be difficult for the senior team management to focus on preparations for this senior game which is a ‘must win’ one for Roscommon if they want to have any chance of avoiding relegation from this division. A win for the U-21 team on Saturday would be a boost surely.   I am expecting an improved performance from Roscommon but after what happened on Crossmaglen it is far too much to expect a win. Another honourable defeat is about as much as we can hope for at this stage. A win for the U-21 team on Saturday would be far more important with the long-term in mind. Prediction: Westmeath.