It’s not every week that one can begin a preview by saying that ‘Roscommon begin the defence of their All-Ireland title’ but that’s what lies ahead for the Roscommon minor footballers against Leitrim in Hyde Park on Saturday evening (throw-in at 6.30 pm). Roscommon start this game after an up and down preparation on the field of play. The Connacht minor league featured defeats at the hands of Mayo and Galway but wins over Sligo and Saturday’s opponents Leitrim. Roscommon’s preparations have been hit by injury and Niall Carty is ruled out for the year. However it is expected that one of the stars of last year’s historic All-Ireland win, Donie Shine will be fit to play on. Judging from recent games the Roscommon team will feature players like Conor Boylan, Jack Sharkey, Niall Brogan, James McKeague, Kevin Brady and Ger Brady in defence. Darren O’Malley is certain to wear the number one jersey. Kevin Higgins will be at midfield while his partner could be any of three or four players and up front Roscommon will be depending on players like Alan O’Hara, Donie Shine, Darren McDermott, Paul Garvey and Kevin Cummins. Roscommon beat Leitrim rather easily in the Connacht minor league but Roscommon team manager Fergal O’Donnell knows that league game will count for nothing on Saturday next. ‘Leitrim will be really up for this game and we know it. They always raise their game against Roscommon regardless of what level of football it is and this game will be no different. We will have to play very well to win’ he told me last week. ‘We have got to win two games to be certain of emerging from this group of three and we must be ready for a tough battle on Saturday night. The players have trained hard so all we need is a lot of hard work and a little luck on the day’ he concluded. Leitrim are jointly managed by Seamus Mallon and Gareth Phelan and although they will be the underdogs as they travel to Hyde Park, Letrim football teams are renowned for putting in a big display when they are least expected to do so – especially against Roscommon. However it would be a majort shock if Roscommon were not to win this Connacht Championship opener at Hyde Park – and they should do so.