Allianz National Football League Division 2: Roscommon v Meath on Sunday at Dr Hyde Park (2.30 pm)
There is a huge sense of anticipation around the county at the start of a new season of football. The general view would be that Roscommon have a much stronger panel than last year and that promotion back to Division One is a legitimate target for Kevin McStay and his team.
It is always good to start any league campaign with a home game and while Roscommon will be the favourites to win this match they will have to be very serious about their work against a Meath team that will travel as underdogs.
In three out of the past four years Meath have missed out on promotion by a single point, so they are very dangerous opponents. They have had a number of players dropping out of their panel for one reason or another in recent weeks but they retain some excellent players.
Donal Keogan, Cillian O’Sullivan, Graham Reilly and Bryan Menton (a man with Roscommon connections) are all excellent performers and if Roscommon are not up to their game then the points will be going to the Royal County on Sunday evening.
But Roscommon have a strong panel and I don’t envy the selectors’ job of choosing the starting 15 for Sunday’s game. Very few counties have the amount of talented attackers that Roscommon have at the moment. All of the starting six forwards know that if any of them do not perform there is someone equally as good waiting to replace them.
Midfield has been a conundrum in recent weeks and Roscommon have to find a settled pairing for the season ahead. The defence looks strong and there is an air of quiet confidence about the squad this year.
As I pointed out elsewhere this week, the new pitch at Dr. Hyde Park lends itself to fast, attacking and open football, and that should suit Roscommon on Sunday.
Players like John McManus, Seanie McDermott, Niall McInerney, Conor Devaney, Sean Mullooly, Davy Murray, Fintan Cregg, Brian Stack, Enda Smith, Ian Kilbride, Diarmuid and Ciaráin Murtagh, Colm Lavin and many more have the experience of a tough year behind them in Division One and a Connacht Championship medal to boot.
Add in the returnees like the Dalys, Cathal Cregg and newcomers like Finbar Cregg and Ciaran Lennon – and I hear that Brian Stack may even return to the bench as well. It looks a very strong Roscommon panel.
Meath are very dangerous opponents, but at home and with a very strong panel and few injuries to report, I am expecting that Roscommon will start 2018 with a win after a tight struggle.