Allianz National Football League Division One (Round 6): Dublin v Roscommon on Saturday in Croke Park at 7 pm
Every player who plays county football wants to play in Croke Park and Roscommon will get that chance this Saturday evening when they take on a Dublin side who are not only unbeaten in the National League so far, but who are going for an all-time record of 34 games unbeaten in league and championship. On the basis of what we have seen so far in this league it would be too much to expect Roscommon to put a stop to the Dubs on this occasion. The bookies’ odds of 16/1 for Roscommon to win are probably a fair reflection of the chances of Kevin McStay’s men.
While Roscommon are pointless they have been competitive against Donegal, Tyrone and Kerry but the displays against Mayo Monaghan have given cause for concern. The way that Monaghan brushed Roscommon aside last Sunday in Inniskeen will not give Roscommon fans any basis for confidence as they travel to headquarters on Saturday night.
Dublin haven’t shot the lights out in the league so far but they remain unbeaten and they have drawn three of their five games so far. But chatting to Dublin fans and former players, it seems Jim Gavin is very happy with the progress of his side and they are building a formidable panel ahead of the championship.
I don’t think that there is even the slightest danger of complacency in the Dublin set-up ahead of this game, which could be bad news for Roscommon. Dublin have so many fantastic players scrambling for places on the panel, never mind the team, that any player who gets his chance against Roscommon will be chomping at the bit to impress.
Players who have yet to play any significant part in Dublin’s league campaign so far include: Cian O’Sullivan, Diarmuid Connolly, Bernard Brogan, Paul Flynn, Jonny Cooper, James McCarthy and Jack McCaffrey. That’s some line-up! My information is that it is likely that we will see Diarmuid Connolly at some stage on Saturday night. That in itself is a frightening prospect.
Roscommon will go into the match with no expectations at all. No one will give them a chance of winning and the pressure will be off in that respect. It will be a chance for the team to go out and see what they can do against one of the greatest football teams of the modern era.
One thing is for certain; they will have to put in the tackles if they want to have any chance of disrupting Dublin at all. Last Sunday, Monaghan got an almost free rein against Roscommon in the second half and put up a big score and if Roscommon are not competitive in the tackle Dublin could also put up a big score.
It is good to see Ultan Harney, Cathal Compton and Diarmuid Murtagh back in the team but so much work needs to be done in terms of fitness as the summer creeps ever closer. Roscommon are always able to get scores and I am happy with how the attack has been doing. But Roscommon must tighten up at the back and try to get an even break at midfield. That won’t be easy as Brian Fenton will be operating there for Dublin and he is a magnificent player, arguably the best in the game at the moment.
The lack of physicality cost Roscommon very dearly in the games against Mayo and Monaghan and it may prove a problem against this ultra-competitive Dublin team playing in their own back yard. Roscommon fans will be hoping to see some positive signs after a poor display in Inniskeen last Sunday.
The beauty of sport is that nothing is guaranteed but a Roscommon win on Saturday night would be the shock of the GAA season so far. Realistically, a good display is the best we can hope for with the final game against Cavan coming up on Sunday week at Dr. Hyde Park. Dublin to win with a bit to spare.
Match odds: Dublin 1/14 Roscommon 16/1 Draw 14/1.