Rossies look forward to league adventure

Allianz National Football League 2017- Preview

On Sunday, February 5th, Roscommon footballers will begin their 2017 league campaign at Healy Park in Omagh. Roscommon fans will fondly remember the 2016 campaign when, after a narrow opening loss to Monaghan, their top flights status was secured with two rounds to go after four spectacular wins against Kerry, Down, Cork and Donegal. Remember also that Roscommon played only one game at Dr Hyde Park last year which made that achievement all the more remarkable.

  However, this is a new year and everyone starts again with a blank sheet. Roscommon have only three home games this time around and will start with the very difficult trip to Tyrone.

  The management shake-up and the retirement of a number of players will see Roscommon with a new panel and there are many inexperienced players now involved. The availability of Dr Hyde Park for matches and for training will be a huge boost to the team but that will be more important as we head towards the championship.

  The reality is that it would be another huge achievement for Roscommon to retain their Division One status.

  This week we take a look at our opponents over the next two months, their strengths and weaknesses and Roscommon’s prospects. Remember that there are no semi-finals this year. The top two teams will play in the final while the bottom two will be relegated to Division Two. Roscommon’s odds to win the league are 25/1, and they are 5/6 to be relegated.


National League wins: 3 (last in 2003)

Last season: Winners of Division 2 – promoted.

Manager: Mickey Harte (15th season)

Players to watch: Justin McMahon, Peter Harte, Mattie Donnelly, Darren McCurry, Tiernan McCann.

Odds to win the league: 9/2

Odds to be relegated: 6/1

Prospects: Tyrone are one of four or five counties who have genuine ambitions on winning the Sam Maguire Cup in 2017. It could well be Mickey Harte’s last year and they have a very strong team who are very difficult to beat on their home patch. They have a great chance of making the final in the league and will be very hard to beat, home or away.

Roscommon v Tyrone (Round 1) on Sunday, 5th February in Healy Park Omagh at 2 pm – It would be a huge achievement to get anything out of this game. Even Dublin, Kerry and Mayo would struggle to win here. A really tough opener for The Rossies. 


National League wins: 3 (last in 2007)

Last season: Finished 4th in Division 1.

Manager: Rory Gallagher (3rd season)

Players to watch: Ryan McHugh, Paddy McBrearty, Michael Murphy, Mark McHugh, Anthony Thompson.

Odds to win the league: 16/1

Odds to be relegated: 11/8

Prospects: It is a time of huge transition in Donegal. Many of the great players who led them to their All-Ireland success in recent years have retired and Rory Gallagher will have to blood a lot of young players this year. The influence of Michael Murphy will be vital as usual.

Roscommon v Donegal: (Round 2) on Sunday, February 12th at Dr Hyde Park at 2 pm. This is a game that Roscommon will surely be targeting to win. The fact that Dr Hyde Park is re-opening and the associated hype will ensure a huge crowd. It would be a huge boost to the campaign to have two points from this game.


National League wins: 11 (last in 2001)

Last season: Finished 6th in Division 1

Manager: Stephen Rochford (2nd season)

Players to watch: Colm Boyle, Patrick Durcan, Lee Keegan, Aidan O’Shea, Evan Regan, Conor Loftus, Stephen Coen.

Odds to win the league: 9/2

Odds to be relegated: 6/1

Prospects: Mayo are still deservedly in the top three teams in the country but one has to ask the question how often can this team go back to the well and stay at the top? The fact that they won the All-Ireland U-21 title last year will give them a boost and the likes of Stephen Coen and Conor Loftus will surely be prominent this year.

Roscommon v Mayo (Round 3) on Saturday, 25th February at MacHale Park at 7 pm. This will be a very difficult game for Roscommon. Mayo always raise their game against Roscommon and will be keen to do the same on their home turf. Mayo have been in the top division for 16 seasons and they will be determined to stay there ahead of another championship campaign. Unlikely that Roscommon will get anything here.


National League wins: 19 (last in 2009)

Last season: Finished 2nd in Division 1, beaten in the final by Dublin.

Manager: Eamon Fitzmaurice (4th season)

Players to watch: James O’Donoghue, Paul Geaney, Darran O’Sullivan, Jack Savage, David Moran, Jack Barry.

Odds to win the league: 4/1

Odds to be relegated: 15/2

Prospects: Winning the All-Ireland minor title for the past three years in a row suggests that the Kerry production line is in great condition. Eamon Fitzmaurice will be without the Dr Crokes contingent early in the season but watch out for young stars like Jack Savage and Jack Barry. Kerry are notoriously slow starters in the league. It will be interesting to see what their attitude is this year.

Roscommon v Kerry (Round 4) on Sunday, 5th March at Dr Hyde Park at 2 pm. This is another huge game for Roscommon that should draw a big crowd to Dr Hyde Park. If Roscommon are to survive in the division then they will have to hope to win their home games. A win here is possible but Roscommon will have to play out of their skins but hopefully another two points.


National League wins: 1 (1985)

Last season: Finished 5th in Division 1

Manager: Malachy O’Rourke (5th season)

Players to watch: Conor McManus, Rory Beggan, Drew Wylie, Darren Hughes, Colin Walsh, Owen Duffy.

Odds to win the league: 16/1

Odds to be relegated: 7/4

Prospects: Monaghan are under the radar this season but remain a very accomplished side and under Malachy O’Rourke are capable to giving any team a game in Division One. They will be looking at survival in Division One as a priority and on their home patch they will be very hard to beat. Conor McManus remains their inspiration and one of the best attackers in the game.

Roscommon v Monaghan on Sunday, March 15th at Pairc Grattan at 2 pm. Another very difficult game for Roscommon but one that they can target for two points. Roscommon were very unlucky to have lost to Monaghan in injury-time in Kiltoom in 2016 and they will travel to the Farney County with confidence. 


National League wins: 12 (last in 2016)

Last Season: Winners

Manager: Jim Gavin (5th season)

Players to watch: Where do you start? Philly McMahon, Jonny Cooper, Brian Fenton, Ciaran Kilkenny, Con O’Callaghan, Diarmuid Connolly.

Odds to win the league: 11/10

Odds to be relegated: 20/1

Prospects: If Dublin really want to maintain their unbeaten record then they will win the 2017 league, it’s as simple as that. They have an enormous panel of fantastic players. They will be without the St. Vincent’s contingent in the early stages but I am looking forward to seeing the likes of Con O’Callaghan and Conor McHugh getting a chance in the league. They are just so strong it is hard to see them losing a game at all.

Roscommon v Dublin (Round 7) on Saturday, 25th March in Croke Park at 7 pm. This is the kind of fixture that players in Roscommon and other counties work so hard in training to play in. It will be a great occasion for Roscommon football and Roscommon GAA in general and a great night out for the supporters. To expect a win would be stretching it but hopefully a good display.


National League wins: 1 (1948)

Last Season: 2nd in Division 2 and promoted

Manager: Mattie McGleenon (1st season)

Players to watch: Rory Dunne, Gerard McKiernan, Seanie Johnston, Martin Dunne, Cian Mackey, David Givney.

Odds to win the league: 25/1

Odds to be relegated: 8/11

Prospects: Having been promoted and changed manager, Cavan will head into the unknown in 2017. Along with Roscommon they are favourites to drop back down again to Division Two. There is a huge passion and following for football in Cavan and they will be hard to beat at home but it is hard to see them being able to deal with the really big teams.

Roscommon v Cavan (Round 7) on Sunday, 2nd April at Dr Hyde Park. Both sides will be hoping that they are still in with a shout of retaining their status when it comes to this game. Roscommon have a good recent record against Cavan in recent years and at home they will want to finish their campaign with a win ahead of the championship preparations.

(Odds courtesy of Paddy Power)

Roscommon’s prospects: 

The fixture schedule has thrown up a very difficult programme of games for Roscommon, and Tyrone away in the opening round could not be any more daunting for Kevin McStay’s men.  The three home games will be crucial. Six points there would almost certainly assure Roscommon of survival which must be their main aim. The game against Donegal which will see the re-opening of Dr Hyde Park will be a huge one. A win there will set up the season.

  To be in the top division again this year is a very exciting prospect and the huge crowds of Roscommon fans who went to the games last year really enjoyed the campaign. It would be a massive achievement to remain in the division for a third year. The bookies don’t think Roscommon will survive but then again they were wrong last year too. If Roscommon have two points after their first two games (like last year) they have a great chance of survival.