Surprise selection

Maughan wields the axe National Football League Division 2A: Roscommon v Meath (On Sunday in Kiltoom at 2.30 pm; referee J White of Donegal)  Seamus Duke  If Roscommon supporters were under any illusions about what lay ahead in this division of the league prior to the match against Monaghan in Clones two weeks ago, then they are not now. We all knew before the league started that this is a young and very inexperienced Roscommon team and that we were in the same division as several of the game’s heavyweights and that to survive in this division would be a big achievement. That’s counting the absence of Cork which will probably leave only one team to be relegated.   We are in the opposite corner to another heavyweight of the game – Meath – on Sunday next and it is a much-changed Roscommon team that will be taking to the field for this encounter against the Royals.   Following the heavy defeat against Monaghan in Clones, changes were expected but John Maughan and his selectors have really swung the axe with five players being dropped from the last day, notably Seamus O’Neill, who has been a permanent fixture on the team since 2001. His  Kilbride clubmate Conor Devanney, who has been Roscommon’s top scorer so far in 2008, is also left on the bench.   Another surprise is the placing of Castlerea’s Enda Kenny at centre half-back in place of All-Ireland winning captain David Flynn, who drops to the bench. Kenny played at centre half-back in a challenge game against Laois last Sunday and he did very well and so he retains his place there. However it is a huge risk to play young Kenny in such a pivotal role.   Frankie Dolan is back at centre half-forward and others to come into the attack are the experienced John Tiernan and Johnny Dunning, both of whom came on as subs in Clones.   This is clearly another attempt by the management of the Roscommon team to find the right blend and it’s a more experienced team than that which took the field in Clones against Monaghan.    The Meath team will not be picked until Thursday night because many of their players are in Sigerson Cup action on Thursday and manager Colm Coyle is hoping that all his charges will come through those games.   The last time the two teams met Meath beat Roscommon rather easily in the league division two final in Breffni Park last spring. Meath went on to do very well in the championship. They drew with Dublin before losing the replay, however they defeated Sligo, Galway and Tyrone to reach the All-Ireland semi-final where they went down badly to Cork.   Meath are a very physically imposing team. Darren Fay is still the lynchpin of their defence while they have other excellent performers like Cian Ward, Nigel Nestor, Nigel Crawford, Brian Farrell, Stephen Bray, Shane O’Rourke and Mark Ward to name but a few.   The decision to move the game to Kiltoom was made last weekend and older Roscommon supporters (like me!) will remember what happened when Meath came to Kilktoom as All-Ireland champions many years ago. Roscommon beat them by 16 points!!   That’s unlikely to happen on Sunday next but Roscommon fans will be looking for a vastly-improved performance from what is almost a brand-new Roscommon team.   There will be huge pressure on young Enda Kenny in his new position at centre half-back while Karol Mannion and Mark O’Carroll will be hoping for at least an even break at midfield and on their home ground. Frankie Dolan’s experience should be a plus on the ’40’ while Johnny Dunning will have to use his pace to un-hinge the Meath defence.   It is in defence that the key to the outcome of this game lies. Meath have two of the best forwards in the game in Brian Farrell and Stephen Bray as Roscommon found out to their cost in Breffni Park last spring. Rocommon will have to stop the ball reaching these two. If they don’t then another two points will disappear on Sunday next.   The selection of the Roscommon team for this game is a bold one. I am prepared to wait and see how it goes – however I am worried about the half-back line as we have two natural forwards (David O’Gara and Enda Kenny) playing out of position.   I think Roscommon will be far better than they were in Clones but it is hard to see such an inexperienced and untried team winning against a seasoned outfit like Meath. Bookies’ odds: Roscommon 5/2 v Meath 2/5; Draw 8/1.  Prediction: Meath to win narrowly.