Allianz National Football League Division One (South): Roscommon v Dublin at Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday at 1.45 pm
When we left Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday, November 8th after a disappointing defeat to Mayo in the Connacht semi-final, little did we know what lay ahead: six months of lockdown in the depths of winter with no GAA to sustain us or help us cope with the grinding boredom and 24-hour diet of doom and gloom.
Thankfully, the games are back, and while the supporters are still not allowed to attend, at least there is something for GAA folk to talk about again!
Roscommon’s NFL campaign starts this Sunday at Dr. Hyde Park against the six-in-a-row All-Ireland champions Dublin and under normal circumstances this game would have generated huge interest. However, while it won’t be the same without supporters, this promises to be a fascinating opener.
Roscommon have flip-flopped between Divisions One and Two in recent seasons, but a prolonged stay in the top tier and regular matches against the best teams would aid the development of the team…and that’s exactly what we have at the Hyde this Sunday.
Normally Dublin are slow league starters, but with a shorter campaign and a knockout championship to follow, the champions will come to Roscommon looking to put down a marker. A defeat would put them under pressure with Kerry next up in the fixtures.
It’s also an important game for Roscommon. Anthony Cunningham has shaken up his backroom team and it will be interesting to see what effect the arrival of coach Stephen Poacher will have on Roscommon’s style of play.
Predicting the line-ups is probably a futile exercise given the lack of match practice for both sides, but Roscommon did manage to play two challenge games at the weekend against Cavan and Sligo (winning both), and that would have given the management a better idea of their starting fifteen for Sunday. Remember too that there are seven subs allowed in the league this year, which will give players more of a chance of some game time.
I predict Colm Lavin will start in goal and that David Murray, Niall Daly, Sean Mullooly, Niall Daly, Brian Stack, and David Neary will all see action in defence. At midfield, Tadhg O’Rourke, Eddie Nolan, and Cathal Compton will be in contention while up front, Conor Cox, Ciaráin and Diarmuid Murtagh, Cathal Cregg, Enda and Donie Smith, and Niall Kilroy will all be involved at some stage.
I expect Dublin to field a strong team including household names like Stephen Cluxton, Jonny Cooper, Philly McMahon, James McCarthy, Brian Fenton, Dean Rock, Con O’Callaghan, Eoin Murchan, and Ciarán Kilkenny.
It will be interesting to see how the rule changes affect the game, with warnings from many observers that the ‘advantage rule’ is set to be controversial.
At the start of every season, teams and supporters are full of hope and expectation, and I feel that Roscommon are set to have a good year given the strength of their panel and their strong management team. To win the Connacht championship is definitely a very achievable goal but the season starts here, and the challenge could not be more difficult.
It’s hard to call anything other than a Dublin win, but I am hopeful that the home side will make it uncomfortable for them.
Note: In the other game in Division One (South) on Saturday, Kerry play Galway in Tralee at 3 pm.