Rossies face Clare in crunch qualifier


All-Ireland SFC qualifiers (round two): Roscommon v Clare on Saturday in Croke Park at 3.45 pm

Following the disappointment of losing the Connacht final to Galway, hopes will be high in the Roscommon camp that Anthony Cunningham’s men can return to winning ways when they meet Clare in round two of the qualifiers at Croke Park this Saturday.

Supporters will not need to be reminded that the Banner County defeated Roscommon in the qualifiers in 2016 in Salthill while there has never been much between the sides in any subsequent NFL fixtures.

The sides met as recently as February in a Division Two match at Dr. Hyde Park when they played out a draw. Clare come into this qualifier on the back of an excellent 1-11 to 1-9 win against Meath last weekend.

From a Roscommon point of view, the three-point margin in the Connacht final disguised what was a poor performance. The Rossies are capable of far better than what they showed in Pearse Stadium that day and now have an opportunity to set the record straight.

The starting fifteen will be named later this week but Eoin McCormack is surely one player who has made a strong case for a starting berth while Richard Hughes must also be in the shake up for a place in the half back line. Keith Doyle is another player who has done his chances of a start no harm in recent weeks while the calls for Diarmuid Murtagh to get a starting place in the attack are growing with every game.

Anthony Cunningham was understandably cautious following the draw on Monday morning.

“Clare are a very difficult side to beat and Roscommon people will remember well the last time the teams met in the championship so we will be taking this match very seriously indeed,” he said.

“The lads have applied themselves well since the Galway match. A number of our lads did not play up to scratch in the Connacht final, they know that and they are determined to put that right against Clare.

“Clare have a well recognised system and they are a very well managed and coached team. They set up defensively and we will have to try to break them down. The league game we played earlier was played on a very bad day but it was very tight and ended in a draw. Colm Collins has done a great job with Clare and they have some very good players.

“We watched their match against Meath and they play to a system and are very tenacious so we will prepare accordingly but it’s a challenge that we are looking forward to”.

There is a big carrot for the winners on Saturday and that should spur on the players according to the Roscommon boss.

“We want to get to the quarter-finals and another appearance in Croke Park. That was our aim all along and we are one match away from that. We will be hoping for a much improved performance (from the Galway match) and we want to see our players doing themselves justice on Saturday,” he concluded.

Clare will be very difficult to break down and their experienced manager Colm Collins has worked out a way to maximise their potential and they have some excellent performers.

Croke Park should suit Roscommon’s strong running game but they must revert to the style that saw them unbeaten this year until the Connacht final. A more direct approach to get the ball quickly into the attack has been a proven formula so far this year and we need to see a return to that on Saturday.

Prediction: Roscommon.