Two counties with a proud football tradition will come face to face in Longford on Saturday evening with a huge prize of a place in the 2012 All Ireland final at stake against Cork or Dublin.
The two counties have had only sporadic success at senior level in modern times but both have done a lot of hard work at underage level in recent years and it is beginning to pay off at minor and U-21 level.
Roscommon have been very competitive at minor level for the past seven years or so and now progress is beginning to pay dividends at U-21 level. Roscommon have contested the past three U-21 Connacht finals winning two.
Two years ago Roscommon were unlucky to be denied by Dublin in a tense semi final in Cavan so they will be hoping to reach this yearís final.
However, Cavan have an equally impressive record at U-21 level in recent years. They won the Ulster title in 2011 and went on to reach the All Ireland final where they were defeated by Galway. This year they retained their Ulster title last week with a very impressive display against Tyrone and they are determined to reach another final and to claim an elusive title.
Both sides enjoy a big following and despite the game being played at 4pm on a Saturday there will still be a big crowd there from both sides. The general view is that this will be very much a 50/50 game with both sides having solid arguments behind them as to why they should win and if the weather is kind it should be an exciting and close encounter. The bookies have installed Cavan as the warm favourites on the back of their excellent performances in Ulster this year.
The sides met earlier in the year in the Hasting Cup competition and on that occasion a last minute goal gave Cavan a one point win. While no one will be paying too much attention to that game or the result, it is still an indication that there is little between the two sides.
The Roscommon team will not be picked until Wednesday night. It will be much the same as that which overcame Sligo and Mayo to win the Connacht championship.
Naos Connaughton should have recovered from injury to take his place ahead of Tadgh Lowe between the posts. The Roscommon full back line will be led by Cathal Duignan with Ronan Stack and David Murray also in contention with Ciaran Cafferkey also an option here.
Conor Daly, Paddy Brogan (team captain) and Ciaran Cafferkey have been the half back line up to now and Brogan continues to shine as an outstanding player and inspirational leader.
Fintan Kelly and Niall Daly have been the midfield partnerships to date although donít be surprised to see Cathal Shine start there to give a bit of strength and height to this sector. Maybe Niall Daly would be a better option in the half back lie where he has shone over the past two years be his experience is vital to this team.
Up front Roscommon look strong. Finbarr Cregg, Niall Kilroy and Scott Oates played well against Mayo and Sligo, while on the inside line Cian Connolly Colin Compton and Donie Smith have been racking up the scores and look the strongest line in the Roscommon team. Darren Clabby, John Mc Manus, Cathal Shine and Ciaran Murtagh have all been used in the championship so far and a feature of the game against Mayo and Sligo have been that all the subs who have come on have shone and have made a big difference. Itís a twenty-man game now and Roscommon have a very strong panel.
Cavan have been very impressive in the championship so far. In the Ulster final last week they got an early penalty, which they converted, and a few early points, and they held on impressively after that. They scored 1-10 against Tyrone but of interest to Roscommon fans will be that 1-9 came from placed balls.
But Cavan are a very experienced and well-organised team. They are strong throughout the field and are a well-balanced outfit. They are determined to get back into their second All Ireland final in a row and with a number of notable scalps under their belts already they will be travelling to Longford in a confident mood on Saturday.
Killian Clarke was named at midfield on the Cavan team in the Ulster final but does most of his good work in the full back line and he had a super game against Tyrone. Michael Brady was the most prominent of the half back line and takes every opportunity to get forward.
Up front Joe Dillon, Neven O Donnell, Chris Conroy, and especially Kevin Tierney are players to watch out for. Tierney is a towering presence at full forward and is deadly accurate from frees.
Watch out also for Jack Brady who played well against Tyrone chipping in with three points.
Make no mistake Cavan will provide very tough opposition and Roscommon will have to play better than they have done against Mayo or Sligo if they want to win this game.
I am predicting a close hard fought game. If Roscommon can sort out their midfield problems and get the ball into Cian Connolly, Colin Compton and Donie Smith in the full forward line then an All Ireland final place beckons.
Match Odds Cavan 4/7 Roscommon 7/4 Draw 15/2
Prediction: Roscommon narrowly
Issue dated: 20 April 2012
© Roscommon People