Round 1 of the All-Ireland Qualifiers
Roscommon vs Armagh at Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday at 2.30 pm
The Roscommon senior footballers will re-commence their championship season when they play host to Ulster counterparts Armagh in Dr. Hyde Park this Sunday afternoon in the opening round of the All-Ireland qualifiers.
Owing to last month’s abysmal performance against Galway and the fact that Armagh were playing their trade in Div. 1 of the National League this year, Des Newton’s side will be rank outsiders going into the game.
Its very difficult to envisage Roscommon been able to compete with the Ulster men, especially when its also taken into account how close they pushed Tyrone in the Ulster quarter-final last month.
However the show must go on and on Sunday Roscommon have been given the opportunity to restore some of the pride in the jersey once again in order to quell the ghosts which continue to haunt them since the Galway debacle.
Victory is almost inconceivable from a Roscommon perspective but what is achievable is a dignified performance characterised by heart and determination – just two over-riding attributes which were
sorely missing against the Tribesmen the last time out.
Roscommon will have to up their game considerably in every aspect of their performance if they are to compete with their more illustrious rivals. They were way off the pace against Galway and greater urgency, determination and composure is required if the Rossies have any hope of causing the upset of the championship season thus far.
One positive going into this game is that the weight of expectation has been lifted and the Roscommon players should revel in a low-key build up. They have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain so with this in mind, the players should concentrate on playing with greater freedom on Sunday.
Since the Galway game, preparations have been hampered by a number of players who have left the panel for one reason or another and with David O’Gara, David Keenan, Paddy Brogan, Conor Devanney and Kevin Higgins now unavailable, there may well be a considerable difference in the personel involved at the weekend.
One of the major criticisms of the Roscommon management against Galway was the fact that they didn’t utilise enough of their highly regarded U-21 team but one would anticipate that some of the more prominent members of that team will be handed their chance during proceedings on Sunday.
Other preparations during the interim have been by and largely of a positive nature and the team have competed well in a number of challenge matches recording wins over Offaly, Donegal, Leitrim and Laois, although the significance of these outings remains to be seen.
Many new players, particularly the U-21s, have been used during these games so it will be interesting to see how many changes that Des Newton will make on Sunday but its anticipated that the team will have a familiar look to it.
Geoffrey Claffey will line-out in goals while the full-back line berths are expected to be filled by Sean Purcell, Seanie McDermott, Niall Carty and Neil Collins. Cathal Dineen has been ruled out through injury so Niall Daly should fill in, joining Peter Domnican and Ian Kilbride in an otherwise unchagned half-back line.
Fitness doubts remain over Michael Finneran and if he is unavailable either Enda Kenny or Cathal Shine will deputise with Karol Mannion retaining his position.
Up front is where most changes in personel are predicted but Cathal Cregg should operate at centre-forward with John Rogers, Niall Kilroy, Brian Murtagh and Niall Daly – if not deployed in the half back line - expected to fill the other two remaining positions in the half-forward line.
Senan Kilbride and Donie Shine should retain their places in the full-forward line while Darren McDermott and U-21 stars Donie Smith and Colin Compton remain in contention to make the starting team.
Armagh, as per many a year, look a formidable force. Although they are not operating at the same level that they were ten years ago when they captured their first All-Ireland title, their panel remains laced with quality and experience.
As previously alluded to, they gave a very good account of themselves in the Ulster quarter-final against Tyrone and were unlucky on that occasion with three points in the final three minutes sealing their fate.
Backboned by the Crossmaglen Rangers team who recently won successive All-Ireland titles, their team is one which is physically strong throughout and although this remains their greatest attribute, they still possess class and quality all over the field.
The Armagh team is expected to line out with Paul McEvoy as goalkeeper with Andy Mallon, Brendan Donaghy and Declan McKenna forming the full-back line. Their half-back line has a very familiar look to it with Fintan Moriarty and the highly influential Ciaran McKeever and Aaron Kernan - the two latter players whom have a wealth of experience behind them.
Their midfield partnership comes in the form of the formidable duo of Kieran Toner and Malacky Macklin while their half-forward line should consist of Aidan Forker, Kevin Dyas and Anto Duffy.
Their full-forward line is laced with potency and the talismanic duo of Jamie Clarke and Brian Mallon - while ably assisted by Ciaran Rafferty - are capable of tearing opposition defences nationwide to shreds if given the opportunity.
There have been some minor criticisms of the team that they are over-reliant on Clarke in particular, especially taking into consideration the retirement of former star player Steven McDonnell. This may be an issue going forward but one wouldn’t expect this to be the case on Sunday against a Roscommon side who conceded 3-15 against Galway.
Armagh are more than capable of putting together a good run in the qualifier series and owing to the gulf in class which exists between the sides going into the game, its difficult not to concede that the first stepping stone on their road to recovery will be with a win over the Rossies.
Roscommon can atone for a portion of the Galway catastrophe with a spirited and gutsy performance which they will hope would keep them in contention for long periods of proceedings. However anything other than an Armagh win this weekend would be a major shock and the Northerners should prevail comfortably. Prediction: Armagh by between 5-8 points.
Issue dated: 29 June 2012
© Roscommon People