Roscommon in Royal coup?

National Football League Div. 2 Final Roscommon v Meath Roscommon’s senior footballers have a chance to win their first title at national level since 1979 when they take on Meath in the Allianz National Football League Division 2 final at  Kingspan Breffni Park this Sunday (throw-in at 3.30 pm).   The sides met in the All-Ireland qualifiers last summer in Navan and on that occasion Meath won rather easily – however since a brilliant second-half performance against Offaly in the final round of league Division 2A games which secured Division 2 status for next season and the manner of their win over Cavan in the semi-final at Croke Park last Saturday night, Roscommon will go into this game full of confidence.   The only concern for the players, management and supporters as they prepare to travel to Cavan on Sunday will be the absence of midfielder Seamus O’Neill who sustained an ankle ligament injury last Saturday night in Croke Park which will put him out of action for a number of weeks.   However I expect the minimum of changes on the Roscommon team with team captain Karol Mannion likely to come back into midfield and John Tiernan into the attack.   While a top-two place would have been the priority for Roscommon at the start of the league campaign, this final, and a chance to pick up some silverware, is a very welcome bonus and a reward for the players who have trained very hard over the past six months.   It is only in the second half of the game against Offaly and the game against Cavan that we have seen the best of this Roscommon team and a repeat of last Saturday’s form in particular will leave Roscommon in with a great chance of winning the title on Sunday.   Geoffrey Claffey has been quietly efficient in goals all through this league and he has made no mistakes at all, with his kick-outs excellent.   Seanie McDermott, Anthony McDermott and Robbie Kelly are now the men in possession of the jersies in the full-back line and they deserve another chance to show that they are the men for the job in this department later in the summer. They will be stretched by a very potent-looking Meath full-forward line on Sunday so they will need to be on the ball.   Out in the half-back line Richard Dooner and Stuart Daly will be hoping to keep up their heroics on the flanks while John Nolan definitely deserves his chance to make the No. 6 jersey his own at centre half-back.   I suspect that Michael Finneran will be joined at midfield by either Karol Mannion or Rory O’Connor (who subbed for O’Neill last Saturday) and Finneran will have to repeat his brilliant form from Croke Park if Roscommon are to win on Sunday.   Up front there was a welcome return to form for David Hoey last Saturday and he will be hoping to continue in Croker vein next Sunday. Gary Cox has prospered at centre half-forward in the last two games and beside him Cathal Cregg has been a model of consistency this season so far.   Inside, Ger Heneghan is the Roscommon scorer-in-chief and young Enda Kenny is maturing into a top-class target man at number fourteen. I expect the experienced John Tiernan to complete the line-up in the full-forward line.   I got a chance to watch Meath at close quarters last Saturday. They are very physically strong and will be very hard to beat – as usual.   Darren Fay and Peader Byrnes were both excellent in the Meath full-back line last weekend but the tactic that Monaghan employed of kicking in the ball high suited Fay perfectly and he hoovered up  almost every time. Anthony Moyles is a skillful and experienced centre half-back who will lead the team from that position.   Nigel Crawford and Mark Ward formed a very competent midfield while up front I was very impressed with centre-half forward  Kevin Reilly (a former full back!), Stephen Bray, Brian Farrell and Joe Sheridan who played in place of the injured Graham Geraghty.   I hear that Geraghty will be fit to start next weekend and that is bad news for Roscommon because the would-be TD is still a very strong and accomplished footballer and Roscommon will have to keep a close eye on him for sure. He is still a match-winner.   I think that this will be a close and well-contested game between two evenly matched teams and if Roscommon play the fast, intelligent football that we saw in Croker last Saturday then there is no reason why John Maughan’s men cannot win this title.   Seamus O’Neill will be a huge loss but if Karol Mannion is the man to play with Michael Finneran on Sunday a good display from him would go a long way towards victory and the title.   The attack have proven that they will deliver ther scores if they get the ball so a lot will be decided in the midfield battle.   The main worry I have is if the Meath full-forward line get a lot of ball. I was very impressed with the speed of Stephen Bray and Brian Farrell against Monaghan and when you add in the strength of Geraghty and Sheridan, you are left under no illusions that Meath will be dangerous.   However there is a feel-good factor about Roscommon football after the Offaly and Cavan matches and I expect that to continue on Sunday next. There was not a big crowd of Roscommon supporters in Croke Park on Saturday night last but I expect that to change on Sunday next and I would envisage at least 5,000 Roscommon fans travelling to see the hurlers and footballers in action in what is a very attractive double bill.   Roscommon can win it by a couple of points and give the county football scene a great boost in the run-up to the championship. We wish them all the best.