Allianz National Football League Division One (Round 2)
Roscommon v Monaghan on Sunday at Dr. Hyde Park at 2.30 pm
The challenges come thick and fast for Anthony Cunningham’s Roscommon as Malachy O’Rourke’s Monaghan, buoyed by a superb win against Dublin last weekend, come calling to Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday for what is a very attractive round two game.
Roscommon’s new found defensive solidity will be severely tested by a very impressive Monaghan side who have top class players in every line of the field but especially in attack.
Roscommon’s line-up will probably be close enough to that which we saw in Castlebar with the three Dalys, Gary Patterson, Conor Hussey and Evan McGrath in defence in front of Darren O’Malley.
Despite some problems in the FBD League, the midfield pairing of Enda Smith and Tadgh O’Rourke did well against Mayo and they deserve another chance. Up front it would appear that Conor Cox will be in line to make his debut and that would be very welcome. I was impressed with Colin Compton and Shane Killoran again at MacHale Park while Cathal Cregg, Ciarán Lennon, Niall Kilroy and Donie Smith (if available) are other options in attack with Ultan Harney ready to come into the fray. But we must be a little more clinical in the final third. In this division you have to take almost every chance if you can.
The spirit and fighting qualities shown by Roscommon so far this season are certainly admirable and heart-warming but in this company you need quality, especially up front. Hopefully the management have been working on free taking because it is so vital in these big games.
Monaghan are a seasoned outfit full of experienced, top quality players. There is not a lot more you can say about their superb goalkeeper Rory Beggan who will also double up as a long-range free taker if required. In defence Ryan Wylie is one of the most underrated corner backs in the game while Karol O’Connell (a current All Star) and Colin Walshe (a former All Star) are outstanding footballers.
At midfield Fintan Kelly and Darren Hughes were the overall masters against no less a pairing than Brian Fenton and Michael Dara MacCauley in Clones last Sunday so Roscommon face a huge task in this regard. But it’s up front that Monaghan hold most of the aces. Conor McManus is probably the best forward in the game over the past five years and his impact as a second half sub last Sunday was huge. Jack McCarron, Shane Carey and Dermot Malone are all top class forwards too. Then add in the scintillating talent that is young Stephen O’Hanlon who terrorised the Dublin defence when he was introduced last Sunday and it’s a very potent mix indeed.
At home Roscommon will always have a chance against anyone but they are facing a Monaghan team who have been at or near the top of the football tree for the past five or six years. They were very unlucky not to have been in the All-Ireland final last year losing out to Tyrone by a single point in the semi-final. They have beaten Dublin twice in the past 12 months and they seem to be improving as every year passes under an excellent manager, Malachy O’Rourke.
I am really looking forward to this game, but honest analysis is required, and I would rate Monaghan a much better team than Mayo. They are potential league champions and are certainly in the top three or four teams in the country right now. They should have enough for Roscommon on Sunday.