Underdogs Roscommon relishing Kerry challenge

Allianz National Football League Semi-final: Roscommon v Kerry at Croke Park on Sunday at 2 pm. Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh) – live on TG4

Roscommon’s reward for their four excellent wins on the trot in Division One of the league is a semi-final clash against Kerry in Croke Park on Sunday.

  When the sides met in round two in Killarney in February Roscommon eked out a one-point win and it started Roscommon on their excellent run of wins that brought them to this semi-final.

  It was also the match that kick-started Kerry’s league campaign and since that loss to Roscommon they have breezed into the semi-finals in second place in the table behind Dublin with some very impressive performances.

  Both sides will show significant changes to the sides that we saw take the field in Killarney as many players have returned to action on both sides after injury and other reasons.

  Kerry have rolled out their big guns in recent weeks and the likes of ‘Gooch’ Cooper, David Moran, Kieran Donaghy, Paul Geaney and Marc Ó Sé are all back in harness. We are told that Bryan Sheehan and Anthony Maher could be back this weekend. But Roscommon are stronger too. Diarmuid Murtagh, Thomas Corcoran and Ultan Harney are back to full fitness and available for selection and Donie Shine made his return last Sunday and was very impressive.  Trying to second-guess the line-ups is an impossible task. Kerry will have Marc Ó Sé, Aidan O’Mahony, Killian Young and Shane Enright in defence with the very interesting combination of David Moran and Kieran Donaghy at midfield.

  Up front Colm Cooper will be pulling the strings at full-forward while the likes of Paul Murphy, Paul Geaney and Bryan Sheehan are sure to feature too.

  The Roscommon team will also feature changes to the side that should have earned a draw against Dublin although Seanie McDermott, Neil Collins and Niall McInerney will man the full-back line positions.

  There could be changes in the half-back line and at midfield. Sean Mullooly’s return is welcome and Davy Murray, Donie Shine, Cathal Shine and Niall Daly will all be in line for starts in that area of the field. Up front the options are increasing with every passing week. Diarmuid Murtagh is sure to get a starting spot after a brilliant display in the Connacht U-21 final and Ultan Harney will push hard for a spot also to join Ciaran Murtagh, Cathal Cregg and Senan Kilbride.

  I am expecting that Croke Park will suit Roscommon’s fast-paced, running and possession game which was not nearly as effective in the mud in Hyde Park and Carrick-on-Shannon over the past two Sundays. I am expecting a very enjoyable high-scoring and free-flowing game. Kerry were very good last weekend against Cork and they always come on strong at this time of the year.

  I must say that I am really looking forward to this encounter. Maybe Kerry might win it by a few points but I am expecting a big performance from the Rossies. With the Dubs taking on Donegal in the other semi-final at 4 pm it will be a great day out at Headquarters.

Match odds: Kerry 1/3; Roscommon 11/4; Draw 9/1.

Prediction: Kerry, by three points.