Connacht SFC Quarter-Final: Leitrim v Roscommon at Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada, Carrick-on-Shannon on Sunday at 3.30 pm
Roscommon firepower can decide derby
Games between Roscommon and Leitrim in the championship tend to take on a life of their own and are always very intensely-fought local derbies – but the facts will show that Roscommon have a very good record in this fixture over the years.
This year is no different. The poor display that we saw from Roscommon in New York will have lifted spirits in Leitrim – and given them added hope – but the fact remains that this is a game between a team who comfortably retained their Division One league position against a team who struggled in Division Four. I am expecting a battle, but I am also expecting Roscommon to win. Anything other than a Roscommon win would be a major shock.
Yes, there are factors to consider here. Roscommon are short a lot of players through injury, while Leitrim have players returning, not least their talisman, Emlyn Mulligan, but Roscommon still have enough firepower to deal with the challenge that will be offered up by the home side.
I don’t see too many changes being made to the Roscommon team that lined out in New York. Geoffrey Claffey will play in goal behind Seanie McDermott, Neil Collins and probably Niall McInerney. There may be a change or two in the half-back line, with John McManus and David Keenan likely to retain their places, with Davy Murray and Sean Mullooly and the returning duo of Niall Carty and Seanie Purcell in contention for places in the defence too.
Roscommon will probably opt with Niall Daly at midfield, along with Cathal Shine. James McDermott or even Fintan Cregg are also options there. It is an area that has been a problem for Roscommon all year so Leitrim will be focusing in on this as an area of weakness in this Roscommon team.
Up front, Fintan Cregg, Ciaran Murtagh and Conor Devaney look very likely to start in the half-forward line. Inside, we have Diarmuid Murtagh and Cathal Cregg. Cian Connolly is injured, but Donie Smith, Donie Shine, Cathal McHugh and Niall Kilroy are all options in attack. Roscommon may have a lot of injuries, but they have plenty of good players fit and ready to go.
Leitrim have some very competent players, including the prolific Emlyn Mulligan. Gary Reynolds, Paddy Maguire, Adrian Croal, Kevin Conlon, Donal Wrynn and Ciaran Gilheaney are all experienced lads who have played inter-county football for a number of years. There is no doubt that this game could be closer than a lot of people think, and that Leitrim will give it everything. This is their All-Ireland final and the atmosphere in Carrick will be hostile for Roscommon. But there will be a big Roscommon crowd there too. Roscommon will hopefully have learned their lesson in Gaelic Park. A lot of the hype that was surrounding Roscommon is now gone, which is a positive. Complacency in the Roscommon camp will not be an issue now.
Roscommon have problems, particularly at midfield, but I am looking at the Roscommon attack and I can see enough players there who will be able to get the scores that will win this game for the visitors. When Roscommon get ahead they have to kick on and close the deal and I think they will do that. It may not be straightforward, but Roscommon should win it by a few points.
Match odds: Leitrim 7/1, Roscommon 1/10; Draw 12/1.
Prediction: Roscommon, by four points.