Roscommon can edge past Sligo on Sunday

There is a major prize of a Connacht SFC final place on offer as Roscommon and Sligo meet to do battle at Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday next (throw in at 3.30 pm).  Since the draw was made last October both sides would have been viewing this game as a great chance to reach a provincial decider and it would appear that there will be very little between the sides.   Indeed over the past thirty years except for a time when Roscommon had exceptionally good sides Sligo have always given Roscommon problems and on more than one occasion they have shocked the Primrose and Blue in the senior championship.   Roscommon finished their league campaign well with a great second half performance against Offaly and another excellent display against Cavan – however the inconsistency that has plagued the side over the past number of years returned in the Division Two final against Meath when they were well beaten. However it must be said that Roscommon conceded two very soft goals that day and Meath have looked an excellent side since in their epic encounter against Dublin. It’s also a fact that Roscommon had a number of injuries to key players for that game.   Sligo had a similarly inconsistent league campaign and they faced a must-win game in their final round away against Wicklow and they duly delivered, scoring seventeen points in a very impressive display to secure promotion to Division Three for next season.   Sligo travelled to New York and encountered little difficulty in beating the exiles in Gaelic Park in the first round and they have beaten Wexford and Derry in recent challenge game which is a solid preparation.   Roscommon have been to Portugal for a week’s training camp and have returned with almost a fully fit panel of players which is always a plus going into any championship game.   Roscommon will line out with Geoffrey Claffey in goal and he will be fronted by the two McDermotts, Anthony and Seanie, and Elphin’s Paddy O’Connor. It’s an untried championship last line of defence and they will be hoping that the players further out the field will be doing their job so that they will not be under too much pressure.   The half-back line looks a strong one. Stuart Daly is probably Roscommon’s best footballer this year so far and if David Casey is back to his best then he and Richard Dooner should be prominent on Sunday.   Roscommon hold the aces at midfield. Michael Finneran and Seamie O’Neill are both formidable footballers and if they can hit form they will provide an excellent platform for the attack.   Gary Cox leads a settled looking attack and his experience will be vital where Cathal Cregg and John Tiernan will be hoping to use their pace to inflict damage on the Sligo defence.   However inside, Roscommon will be hoping for a big showing from team captain and St. Brigids man Karol Mannion. Ger Heneghan has been prolific this year and Roscommon will need his accurate free-taking on Sunday next. In the other corner Derek Connellan will be under pressure to deliver with players like David O’Gara and Enda Kenny waiting in the wings to come in.   Sligo have a few injury problems in the build-up to this game. There are doubts about established stars Eamonn O’Hara and Padraig Doohan as I write. Either player would be a huge loss to Tommy Breheny and his men.   Sligo have many experienced players and the likes of Padraig Greene, Noel McGuire, Michael McNamara, Mark Brehony, Sean Davey and Eamonn O’Hara have seen it all before.   Speaking to GAA people in Sligo this week they are very confident that they can win on Sunday and get to a Connacht final. The last time the sides met was in 2004 and it took over 185 minutes of championship football to separate the teams.   I know that Sligo are coming to Hyde Park with all guns blazing and I expect a close, hard game. However I visited the Roscommon training camp last Sunday morning and I was most impressed with the fitness and determintaion of the Roscommon players after their training stint in Portugal.   The prize of a Connacht final appearance against Leitrim or Galway is a huge one and after two years of the current management reign Roscommon are finally lookig like they have a settled team.       Roscommon fans will be expecting to beat Sligo in this championship game, especially at home. I expect that it will be a tight, tough championship game but I expect that Roscommon will win by three or four points after a few scares along the way.   Prediction: Roscommon.