Allianz NFL Division One (Round 4)
Cavan v Roscommon on Sunday at Kingspan Breffni at 2.30 pm
I don’t have the exact statistics, but I would venture to suggest that Roscommon have played Cavan more often than any other team outside Connacht in the past decade. In fact, by my reckoning, in the past ten years Roscommon have met the Breffni men ten times – including twice in the championship – with the Rossies winning eight, drawing one and losing one.
It’s a fine record, but statistics will mean nothing when the sides enter the fray on Sunday. It’s a game that Roscommon will have to be very careful to treat with the utmost respect.
A win would put Roscommon within touching distance of survival in Division One which looked only a pipe dream a few months ago. Now it is a very realistic target and would be some achievement were it to become a reality. Since Anthony Cunningham and his management team have taken over, Roscommon have shown a resilience and spirit that has made up for the huge turnover of players from last year. Many of the new recruits this year have taken to county football like ducks to water and there is a defensive solidity about the ‘Primrose and Blue’ that has made them very difficult to beat.
On the other side of the coin, even though Cavan have been beaten in their three games to date they have been ultra-competitive.
In their opening game against Galway they were level until the final quarter when ill-discipline let them down with three black cards. Against Kerry, they led for almost the entire game but went down by three points in the end. Against Mayo at MacHale Park, a lucky goal for the home side saw Cavan playing catch up.
In summary, Cavan are unlucky not to have at least two points on the board at this stage.
This is a very dangerous game from a Roscommon point of view. The Rossies are like the Irish rugby team, the mantle of favouritism rests heavily on their shoulders and they are expected by most pundits and the bookies to win this game on Sunday.
I have been praising Roscommon’s fantastic work ethic and determination but it is also fair to point out that in the second half against Tyrone the ball was given away cheaply far too many times, and if that happens on Sunday they will be in big trouble.
Make no mistake, this is going to be a battle between two teams who know each other well and both sides will expect to win it. There will be a big crowd and a great atmosphere. Division One is the place to be playing football and the carrot of a win almost securing survival in the division should drive Roscommon on.
If Anthony Cunningham’s men can display the same intensity, appetite for hard work and will to win that we have seen in the games thus far, they may just have enough to squeeze through. But any slackness at all will be gleefully punished by the home side. It will be tight.