Roscommon need to find best form for daunting date with Dubs

Allianz National Football League Division One:
Dublin v Roscommon in Croke Park on Saturday at 5 pm

There is always something special about a game against Dublin in Croke Park, and this Saturday’s meeting between Roscommon and the current All-Ireland champions is certainly no different.

It is not entirely clear what approach Dublin are taking to this league campaign. One would presume that they don’t want to be relegated again. Or do they care? Dessie Farrell and his selectors have been looking at many squad players in their matches so far, both of which they have lost by a single point. Against Mayo, none of the players who started for the Dubs in the number one to number seven positions began the All-Ireland final last year. The likes of Stephen Cluxton, Mick Fitzsimons and James McCarthy have yet to feature in this league campaign and the chances are that they will be kept in reserve for the championship.

In contrast, the likes of Lee Gannon, Gary McEneaney  and the returning Jack McCaffrey are likely to feature against Roscommon. They played well against Mayo. Further up the field, there will be many familiar faces, including Brian Fenton, Con O’Callaghan, Ciaran Kilkenny, Cormac Costello and Colm Basquel.

I know it’s early days yet, but Roscommon have not found their mojo in this campaign so far. At this stage of last year’s campaign, the Rossies already had four points. At present, they are on just one. The second-half display against Tyrone was poor, while some of the exchanges in that arm wrestle against Galway were ponderous and negative.

It is good to have the St Brigid’s contingent back.  Davy Burke needs all his top players to be available. One problem area is midfield. Tyrone bossed that sector in Omagh, while Paul Conroy was the dominant personality in the recent game against Galway. With Brian Fenton in the Dublin engine room, it is vital that Roscommon get some traction in that sector.

Dublin have looked very good at times in their opening league games, but they have also shown some  vulnerability in defence. They conceded three goals against Monaghan and a very soft one against Mayo, so there is hope for Roscommon if they can be a bit more ambitious in attack. The likes of Enda Smith, Ben O’Carroll and Diarmuid Murtagh could take advantage.

When the sides met in the championship last year it ended honours even and there was plenty of controversy over the famous ‘six-minute possession period’ which ended in a Roscommon score. It was interesting to note that at the end of the season, after Dublin had won the Sam Maguire Cup, they admitted to having changed their system of play after that game against Roscommon, adopting a more attacking brand of football.

In a strange way, Dublin losing to Mayo was a bad result for Roscommon as the Dubs will go into Saturday’s game in a very determined fashion. The league may not be Dublin’s priority, but they won’t want to lose a third game in succession and will expect to win this one.

Roscommon want to stay in Division One and I expect Davy Burke’s men to give this everything on Saturday. Roscommon are capable of giving any team, even the best, a run for their money. However, all the circumstances surrounding this match point to a Dublin win. Naturally, I hope I’m wrong.

Prediction: Dublin.