Roscommon can advance to U-21 final

Cadburys Connacht U-21 FC semi-final Roscommon v Sligo  (at Kiltoom on Saturday at 2.30 pm)  Referee: E O’Grady (Leitrim) Team managers – Roscommon (Michael Ryan); Sligo (Fergal O’Flaherty)  Seamus Duke  Despite what many of the so-called observers might think, this Connacht U-21 football semi-final at Kiltoom on Saturday next is far from being a foregone conclusion.   In the preliminary round last Saturday in Tubbercurry, Sligo turned in an excellent display to deservedly beat a highly-rated Galway team and on this Saturday, that win will ensure that the Yeats County will turn out in very confident mood of beating Roscommon even if the game is being played in Kiltoom.   Roscommon have a very talented U-21 team and they have prepared very well under Michael Ryan and his management team. They have played several challenge games against very strong teams from all the other three provinces in recent weeks. However the advantage that Sligo have of a tough championship game under their belts will be a big factor as Roscommon are going into the game without a championship game played.   Notwithstanding the team that appears on the back page of the paper this week, I expect that Roscommon will line out in a different formation on Saturday. That having been said, there are many very talented players on the Roscommon team who will be very anxious to win this game and get a crack at Mayo in the Connacht final.   David Flynn will be Roscommon’s full-back and he will probably be flanked by Ronan Brady and Stephen Ormsby. Brady will have his hands full as Sligo’s chief marksman is St. Mary’s clubman and full-forward Stephen Coen, who slotted over six points against Galway in Tubbercurry.   I see Enda Kenny is named at centre half-back but don’t rule out the possibility that David Keenan will be played there. However it is at midfield where the major battle of this game will be waged and the outcome could well be decided here.   Sligo have two excellent midfielders, Stephen Gilmartin and Stephen Henry, who totally dominated the game against Galway. Roscommon will have to come up with a plan to counteract that pairing if they want to win the game.   Up front it is expected that Done Shine will make his long-awaited return to competitive action and his classy play and free-taking ability will be crucial to Roscommon’s challenge. Paul Garvey is also another vital player for Roscommon and his intelligence and passing ability will be crucial. Expect Paul Garvey to be playing a centre half-forward.   Then there is the part that the senior stars have to play in the Roscommon challenge. Cathal Cregg, Enda Kenny, David O’Gara and David Keenan are all class players with bags of ability and loads of footall intelligence. Roscommon will need all these lads to play well on Saturday if they want to win.   Sligo have class players all over the field and if any Roscommon supporter thinks that this will be an easy game then they will get a rude awakening on Saturday in Kiltoom. Stephen Gilmartin, Stephen Henry, Danny O’Grady, Stephen Coen and David McDonagh are all top performers and if Roscommon take Sligo for granted for one minute then their dreams of Connacht U-21 glory will have gone for another year.   Michael Ryan and his management team have done very well this year so far. Having been a county U-21 selector in the past myself, I know just how hard it is to prepare for the U-21 championship with all the distraction there is at this level but I have been very impressed with this Roscommon management team and I know that the players have been impressed with them too and that is the most important thing of all.    I hope that there is a big crowd of Roscommon supporters there to shout the team on because this is a team that is well worth supporting. After what happened with the senior team in recent weeks a win here would be the perfect boost that is badly needed in the county. A ‘health’ warning though:  expect to see a number of positional changes when Roscommon take the field on Sunday.   The vast majority of these talented young Roscommon fooballers have tasted Connacht and All-Ireland glory in the recent past. Their footballing ability should carry them through this game which I expect will be extremely competitive, well-contested and close. I am expecting Roscommon to win by no more that a point or two. Prediction: A narrow win for Roscommon.