Connacht SFC Quarter-Final: Roscommon v Leitrim on Sunday at Dr. Hyde Park at 3.30 pm
When the draw for the 2019 Connacht Senior Football Championship was made last October there were groans of disappointment in Leitrim at the prospect of facing Roscommon in the championship once again. Over the past few seasons the Rossies have handed out fairly big beatings to their neighbours, and at the time of the draw that looked very likely to happen again.
However, Terry Hyland came into Leitrim to manage the team, and now seven months later Leitrim are going to arrive in Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday with a spring in their step following their best league campaign in many years, which saw them promoted to Division Three.
Meanwhile, Roscommon have been plying their trade in Division One but were disappointed to have been relegated after making a good start. The feeling in Leitrim is that they have a sporting chance of coming to Roscommon and causing an upset on Sunday. I don’t see it that way.
The Roscommon management team of Anthony Cunningham, Iain Daly and Mark Dowd have been around the block and will not allow complacency to be an issue. While they had a poor ending to the league campaign, Roscommon have been boosted by the return to the panel of key players like Diarmuid Murtagh, John McManus, Brian Stack, Cian McKeon and Fintan Cregg. Suddenly Roscommon have options all over the field as they prepare to go into battle on Sunday.
There are also new additions to the squad like Cathal Heneghan and Andy Glennon, while players like Gary Patterson, Conor Hussey and Aengus Lyons have stepped up to the mark.
I presume that Conor and Ronan Daly will be in defence with Davy Murray and Sean Mullooly. Conor Hussey, Gary Patterson, Conor Devaney, John McManus and Brian Stack are all solid defensive options too. At midfield it looks like Tadhg O’Rourke and Niall Daly will be the starting combination with Shane Killoran and Enda Smith the other central options for the selectors.
Up front, Enda and Donie Smith, Conor Cox, Diarmuid Murtagh, Killoran, Cathal Cregg, Fintan Cregg, Niall Kilroy and Cian McKeon are all in with starting chances. A full-forward line of Cox, Enda Smith and Diarmuid Murtagh looks a very strong one to me.
Leitrim will come with confidence. Ryan O’Rourke is now their marquee attacker and is adept at scoring from play and frees. Emlyn Mulligan is not the player he was, but will still pose a threat. Michael McWeeney is an impressive defender and captain. Mark Plunkett, Raymond Mulvey and Dean McGovern are all fine players too, and make no mistake, Leitrim will have their tails up for this match.
But looking at the game realistically, there can only be one result. Leitrim will put it up to Roscommon and it will not be the boring one-sided match that we have seen between these teams in recent years. I expect that Leitrim may even be in the game after 50 minutes or so, but Roscommon’s superior football skill and panel depth will come to the fore and will decide it in the end.
I expect that this will be a competitive clash for two-thirds of the way before Roscommon pull away. Anything other than a five or six point win for the home side will be a surprise.