All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers Round 4
Roscommon v Armagh at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise on Saturday at 3 pm
Even though caution must be the watchword, almost every Roscommon football supporter was hoping that their team would come out of the hat with the winners of the Armagh v Clare match, and so it transpired. It provides Roscommon with an excellent chance to get to the promised land of the Super 8s and a thrilling series of games against top class opposition.
Yes, Roscommon will have to go about their business with serious intent, but realistically this is a game that Kevin McStay’s men should win. I’ll put it this way, if Roscommon do not beat Armagh then they simply do not deserve to be in the final 8.
The three-week break since the Connacht Final loss has been an ideal amount of time for recovery. It afforded time for the players to lick their wounds and take stock before coming back with renewed enthusiasm. According to all reports, training has been going well. The team have played a couple of challenge games in the past week or so and they did well in both, so they should be ready for the challenge.
Looking back is pointless, but the management will be keen to address the slack second-half display in the Connacht final when the team seemed to lose concentration and focus. It is something that they will want to rule out of their play this weekend.
It is good to hear that Cathal Compton is back in training; we all know what happened when he went off against Galway. The return to full training of Niall Daly and Ultan Harney is also welcome. We need to stamp our authority on the middle sector on Saturday.
The Roscommon defence was outstanding against Galway and hopefully that will be the case on Saturday. We need our attack to fire for the 70 minutes and not 45 as happened in the Connacht final. The players are there, they have to go out and do it now because it’s down to this 70 minutes.
Armagh are not a typical ‘northern’ defensive team but they will certainly have a sweeper patrolling the half-back line on Saturday. Against Clare last week they were behind for most of the game before coming with a late scoring burst of 1-5 to win it.
They have a good record in the qualifier competition and under Kieran McGeeney they will be very well organised. In fact, if Armagh had a number of the players (including Jamie Clarke) available to them that are either away or injured then Roscommon would be facing a much more formidable side.
They rely on the strength of Brendan Donaghy and Arron McKay at numbers 3 and 6 respectively, with half-backs Mark Shields and Connaire Mackin pacy and attack-minded.
Armagh’s strongest sector is arguably their midfield pairing of the experienced Charlie Vernon and Stephen Sheridan. Niall Grimley leads the attack and is playing very well this year. Captain of the team, Rory Grugan, Andrew Murnin and Aidan Forker form a dangerous inside line.
Armagh ran away with Division 3 this year and are now on a roll after a few good qualifier wins. They will look at this game against Roscommon as a great chance for them to make the Super 8s and will travel with confidence.
But Roscommon have got the draw they wanted and this is a very winnable game. We are now down to knockout football and while Roscommon will have to play well, I sense a determination and drive among players and management that the Super 8s is where they want to be. It is so important to get there for the development of this team.
It might be closer than a lot of people think as Armagh will give it everything and there will be a huge crowd there on another scorching hot day. If Roscommon can box clever and get the ball into the Murtaghs, Smiths and the rest of the attack, the Primrose and Blue have the scoring power to win the match by four or five points. The Super 8s beckon!