Roscommon ready for bite at Big Apple

Connacht SFC First Round: New York v Roscommon on Sunday, May 1st at Gaelic Park, New York at 4 pm (9 pm Irish time)

Roscommon begin their 2016 championship campaign with a trip to New York on Sunday to take on the home side. In many ways this is a good way to get back into action after what was a very successful league campaign that ended on a slightly sour note against Kerry.

  Roscommon’s primary aim in the league was to preserve their Division One status and they did that with two rounds to spare, which was a marvellous achievement. The losses against Mayo and Kerry showed Roscommon just how far they have to travel before they can compete at the very top level, but now that the championship has started, an appearance in the Connacht final in July is a very legitimate ambition.

  Anything other than a fairly emphatic win in this opening round game would be a setback and as long as the players take it seriously (which they will) they should have no problems in Gaelic Park.

  Injuries mean there will probably be a number of changes in defence – particularly in the half-back line – and in midfield, but the attack looks strong.

  Geoffrey Claffey played in New York in 2011 and looks likely to be the goalkeeper again on Sunday. Seanie McDermott, Neil Collins and Niall McInerney will be the full-back line, but outside them there may be changes. David Keenan, John McManus, Sean Mullooly, Gary Patterson and Brian Murtagh are in line for call-ups as there are injuries to  Ronan Stack, Ronan Daly, Seanie Purcell and Davy Murray.

  Fintan Cregg looks likely to partner Niall Daly at midfield while up front Conor Devaney, Cian Connolly, Ciaran Murtagh, Diarmuid Murtagh, Senan Kilbride and Cathal Cregg look likely to start, with Donie Smith back on the panel and likely to see some action too. James McDermott, the returning Niall Carty and Cathal McHugh, Tom Corcoran and Cathal Compton will also be hoping to feature at some stage.

  New York are managed this year by JJ O’Halloran, a Cavan man who has played football for New York in the past. As usual New York have a high turnover of players from one year to the next and their lack of challenge games has proven a stumbling block in the past as they prepare for the championship.

  Captain of the New York team is Galway man Johnny Duane who is a very accomplished player and who has played in the Connacht Championship for the past four years. Ex-Galway hurler Johnny Glynn is also on the panel as is former Longford player Enda Williams.

Gerard McCartan and Keith Quinn from Down both played last year and may feature.

  Speaking to GAA people in New York over the past few weeks, reports are that the team have been training hard for this game.

  In the past New York have usually come up well short of their opposition, however they gave Galway a real fright in 2010 and Leitrim a scare on another occasion.

  Roscommon players and management should be far too professional to slip up here and while the opening 20 minutes could be a battle, Roscommon’s superior fitness and ring-craft after a successful season in Division One should mean a comfortable win.

Match odds: New York 25/1; Roscommon 1/500;  Draw 66/1.

Prediction: Roscommon.