Roscommon senior footballers face Sligo in the Connacht Championship semi-final in Markievicz Park, Sligo on Saturday, June 20 at 7 pm.
When it comes to the championship every year, there are always so many possibilities. This game is no different. Roscommon are the hot favourites to advance to a Connacht final against Mayo – and rightly so too, given the form lines. But a local derby frequently means that the formbook is shredded and passion takes over.
Sligo have plenty of reason to go that extra mile on Saturday evening. They are at home and they want revenge for the Connacht Final defeat in 2010. Make no mistake folks, for Sligo this is their All-Ireland final. There is nothing that they would enjoy more than to lower Roscommon’s colours on Saturday night.
So, have they the team to do it? I have to say that I am impressed by their attack and the Roscommon defence (which has been excellent all year) will have their hands full. David Kelly, Adrian Marren, Mark Breheny and Kenny Sweeney are all excellent players and they will need to be closely policed on Saturday.
However any attack will only prosper if they can get a plentiful supply of the ball and that might be Sligo’s problem. Despite there being a number of experienced players in the Sligo defence like Ross Donovan, Niall Ewing and Keelan Cawley, I am not so sure that they will be able to keep that talented attack supplied with enough ball.
On the Roscommon side the defence looks very settled with Seanie McDermott, Niall Carty and Neil Collins certain to start in front of Darren O’Malley. Niall Daly will be centre half-back along with Ciaran Cafferky and either David Keenan or Ronan Stack in the half-back line.
Cathal Shine will be at midfield and his job will be to keep the supply lines open to the Roscommon attack. Mark Healy is a doubt, so Conor Daly (or Ian Kilbride) could figure in the middle.
Up front Cathal Cregg, Donie Shine, Ciaran Murtagh, Senan Kilbride, Diarmuid Murtagh and Enda Smith look the likely starters. Donie Smith, Mark Nally and Cian Connolly will also be knocking on the door for a place in attack.
For Sligo, they will have had this game only on their minds since the draw was made and a win here for them would be a huge achievement and a major shock. I was very impressed with Niall Carew, the new Sligo manager, when I met him recently. He is a shrewd operator who will have this Sligo team read for the fray.
Roscommon will have to go into this game in the right frame of mind and ready for the mother of all battles. The key will be the midfield diamond and while Roscommon are short a few players (who are injured) in that area, I have a feeling that if Cathal Shine can play well Roscommon will get enough ball into their attack to make the difference.
Senan Kilbride will again be crucial to Roscommon’s chances. His ball-winning qualities and excellent team play and distribution is vital to Roscommon. I think Roscommon will get several scares along the way but I am expecting them to win by a couple of points, and no more than that.
Match odds: Sligo 11/4; Roscommon 4/11; Draw 8/1. Prediction: Roscommon.