Allianz NFL Division Two (Round 4):
Down v Roscommon at Pairc Esler, Newry on Saturday at 5 pm
There was a time when travelling to Newry to face Down was in the “extremely difficult assignment” category but in recent years the Mourne men have slipped down the pecking order.
They appointed legend James McCartan for his second stint as manager earlier in the season, and hopes are high in the county that he can restore some of the good times for this sleeping giant of Gaelic football.
Last Sunday in Pairc Tailteann, Down gained their first point of the campaign when they drew with Meath (2-6 apiece) and with their Kilcoo players still missing after their All-Ireland club heroics, Down will need at least two wins in the remainder of the campaign if they want to avoid relegation to Division Three and suffer the ignominy of having to play for the Tailteann Cup this summer.
However, the ‘red and black’ have some excellent performers like Darren O’Hagan, Niall McPartland, Caolan Mooney, Andrew Gilmore and Kevin McKernan and at home they will have to be respected.
The Roscommon panel looks much stronger now the Pearses and Faithleach’s players are back in the fold. Expect to see Conor Daly and Davy Murray challenging for places this weekend in addition to the players who returned last week.
Eoin McCormack, Brian Stack, Niall Daly and Richard Hughes have impressed at the back for Roscommon and Anthony Cunningham and his selectors are expected to continue with Ultan Harney and Eddie Nolan at midfield.
Up front, the Smiths, Conor Cox and Cathal Heneghan have earned their corn thus far and Niall Kilroy continues in the ‘engine room’. Ciaráin and Diarmuid Murtagh will be putting the pressure on to get into the starting fifteen too.
It would be unfair to judge any team who played in the storm last Sunday as the conditions played havoc across the country.
Down failed to score in the entire second half in Navan last Sunday, which is a damning statistic. It will be interesting to see if James McCartan can get a couple of the Kilcoo players back for this match. He certainly needs them.
This is a very tricky game for Roscommon and much like Clare last Sunday, Down will take advantage of any complacency. However, Roscommon’s work ethic has been good in this campaign and the panel is getting stronger with every passing week. If Roscommon show Down the respect they deserve, they can prosper again this week.
A win would put Roscommon in pole position for promotion. It will not be easy, but they have the quality to win by a couple of points.