If Roscommon do, it can be a ‘super’ start
There is a level of nervous excitement running through the entire county this week as the senior footballers prepare to take part in the first ever Super 8 All-Ireland series. It is fantastic to be part of it and regardless of how it goes for Kevin McStay’s side it will add enormously to the reserves of experience being built up by the team.
Last weekend’s thrilling win against Armagh will give the players a huge confidence boost as they prepare for the three big games on the way, but as good as that win was on so many levels, they must park that now and prepare for what will be a totally different challenge offered by Tyrone.
Mickey Harte’s men will come with a tried and tested gameplan that has not changed in the past six or seven years. They will sit back and defend in numbers but they will counter attack with devastating speed using their talented players to notch match-winning scores.
Even though the Red Hand turned in a ruthless display against Cork last Saturday, it as probably the worst Cork team I have seen in my time covering matches. For more reliable evidence of their form it might be better to look a little further back as they edged out Cavan in a competitive game in the qualifiers in Enniskillen. They were professional and ruthless in equal measure that day.
The way they play is not easy on the eye but it is very effective. They simply choke the life out of teams before putting them to the sword. They choke up the middle of the field and deny the opposition any space at all. They are not afraid to engage in the dark arts either, ask any player who has faced them over the years in big championship games. They are a very hard side to play against and even harder to beat.
They have some fantastic players and I will especially pick out their half-back line of Tiernan McCann, Frank Burns and Peter Harte who are all lethal going forward. Then, when you add in Colm Cavanagh, Mattie Donnelly, Niall Sludden and Conor McAliskey, it is a Tyrone team that has match winners in every line.
It is a wonder that the multi-talented Ronan O’Neill is only a sub for Tyrone. He would get on to any team in the country but evidently he does not fit into ‘the system’. He is a deadly accurate forward though and will certainly see some game time on Saturday.
Roscommon will need to review and rejig this week in preparation for the Tyrone challenge. I hope Cathal Compton is fit to start. We need him around the middle. We also have to tighten up in defence. We were under severe pressure there last weekend and you can be sure that Mickey Harte will have told the likes of Mattie Donnelly, Tiernan McCann and Peter Harte to run directly at the Roscommon defence.
It is easy to predict what way Tyrone will play, and to win Roscommon will have to trust their attackers to shoot from distance. Ciaráin Murtagh, Diarmuid Murtagh, Cathal Cregg and Donie Smith are all capable of scoring from range and Roscommon will have to do that on Saturday.
Colm Lavin’s kickouts will have to be flawless as Tyrone will be pushing up and tackling hard. Roscommon will not get the space that they had against Armagh. In the intense heat Roscommon will have to let the ball do the work when they can. We also need Enda Smith to perform the way he is capable. He took the game by the scruff of the neck in O’Moore Park and he remains a really special talent when he is on his game.
Maybe I am getting carried away or have been out in the sun too long, but I am of the firm opinion that this is a very winnable game. Tyrone are a good side but are not near the quality of their teams of latters year in terms of quality forwards.
The Roscommon attack holds the key to the outcome of this match. It is possible to go over the blanket defence as Dublin proved last year and as Monaghan proved in the Ulster championship only a few months ago.
It’s very exciting that Roscommon are now part of this brand new series. I think they can make the rest of the country sit up and take notice by winning this game and set up a massive clash against Donegal in Dr. Hyde park the following week. It may not be pretty to watch but just imagine what a win would do. It’s entirely possible. Go on lads, believe in yourselves, you can do it!