Roscommon urgently need key players back

Burke’s men need to play with more positivity

Pictured during the launch of the 2024 Connacht GAA Football Championship at the Connacht GAA AirDome in Bekan on Wednesday were: (l-r) Jack Casey of Leitrim, Diarmuid O’Connor of Mayo, John Daly of Galway, Conor Hussey of Roscommon and Keelan Cawley of Sligo. Pic: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

The league table doesn’t lie (unfortunately in this instance), and as such Roscommon deserve to be heading back down to Division Two of the National Football League after the 2024 campaign.

Still, now that it’s all over, there will be a few obvious missed opportunities to reflect on. The games against Tyrone and Galway were very winnable. Three points from those games – instead of the one achieved against Galway – added to the two against Monaghan would have seen our status in the top tier maintained.

Certainly when one reflects on Roscommon’s relegation there were mitigating factors, with injuries to a host of players and the absence of the St Brigid’s contingent early on being factors to consider. But the pattern of regular second-half fade-outs cost Davy Burke’s men in almost every league game. Whether it was the fact that they had put so much energy into the first half of games or whether the real training is yet to come isn’t clear, but that will most likely reveal itself in the next few weeks. If the current trend continues, it will be a short championship season.

In terms of how players are operating, our best performers in the league are familiar names. Enda Smith and Brian Stack were excellent, for the most part. Eoin McCormack was probably our most consistent player while Diarmuid Murtagh was our best attacker.

Hopefully Ben O’Carroll will be back soon and we need to see more from the likes of Daire Cregg and Cathal Heneghan. Newcomers like Paddy Gavin and Niall Higgins have done well too.

We are still having problems in the middle of the field. Hopefully Ultan Harney will be match-fit for the championship and we need a fit Keith Doyle too. Put simply, Roscommon will need the majority of their players available for the championship.

The good thing about the new shorter season is that the team will have to park the disappointment of relegation quickly as the championship is coming up very soon. With all due respect to New York, I expect that Roscommon will face Mayo in Dr Hyde Park on Sunday, April 21st.

One would have to say on current form this will be a very difficult assignment for Roscommon. Roscommon have not beaten Mayo in the championship in Dr Hyde Park since 2001. Such records are all there to be broken, but Kevin McStay’s side will be the hot favourites to advance to the Connacht final.

Roscommon will hope for a favourable draw in the championship round robin. Last year was very disappointing, with losses to Kildare and Cork. It followed a superb league season when the team finished third on the table. This year, maybe a poor league campaign can be followed by a positive championship outing. Let’s hope so.

The hope will be that Roscommon can play with more positivity in the championship than we have seen in this league campaign. There were times in the first half against Derry and in the first halves of many of the other matches when it was evident that if Roscommon ‘have a go’ and get their talented attackers into the game they can be a scoring threat of note.

Looking at the wider picture, Dublin look the best team around, with Derry following behind and Kerry next. Despite the disappointing league campaign, Roscommon are as good as any of the rest of the top teams on their day. A couple of good championship wins and this miserable league campaign will soon be forgotten. 2024 is not over yet!