Old rivals meet under Saturday night lights

Allianz National Football League Division One – Mayo v Roscommon at Elvery’s MacHale Park, Castlebar on Saturday at 7 pm: 

It’s a clash of the old rivals under the lights in Castlebar on Saturday night as Roscommon go in search of their first league points of the season against a Mayo side who were poor in their opening match against Monaghan but who came good in the second half to beat Kerry in Tralee in round two.

Mayo are now such an experienced and battle hardened team that they could put that bad display against Monaghan behind them in round one to recover in the game against Kerry. In contrast, an inexperienced Roscommon team missed three goal chances against Tyrone, which handed them the initiative, and against Donegal in round two they should have got at least a draw.

However, the fact is that Roscommon have been competitive in both their opening games, which is encouraging. But they will have to put points on the board if they want to have any chance of avoiding the drop down to Division Two. That’s the reality.

The Roscommon defence played well against Donegal and I presume that Thomas Fetherston and Sean Mullooly will man the central positions. Niall McInerney, Seanie McDermott, Ronan Stack and John McManus are also likely starters in defence. Hopefully Davy Murray will be back in contention after his concussion against Tyrone.

At midfield, Thomas Corcoran and the available again Cathal Compton will put pressure on Tadgh O’Rourke and Kevin Higgins. Up front: Conor Devaney, Fintan Cregg, Cian Connolly, Ciaráin Murtagh, Shane Killoran, Enda and Donie Smith will all be in contention. Diarmuid Murtagh is also a welcome addition to the panel this week after recovering from his recent injury.

Mayo will welcome back Brendan Harrison and Colm Loftus to their panel but there is uncertainty as to whether Lee Keegan, who won an All-Ireland club medal with Westport last Sunday, will be available for duty. Despite the fact that Mayo will be short a number of players including the O’Shea brothers, Tom Parsons and Barry Moran, they will still be able to field a very strong team. Household names like David Clarke, Keith Higgins, Colm Boyle, Paddy Durcan, Donal Vaughan, Kevin McLoughlin, Cillian O’Connor, Jason Doherty and Andy Moran are all likely to start and this will be a huge mountain to climb for Roscommon and an indication of Mayo’s strength in depth.

Roscommon desperately need league points and a win here would be a marvellous way for them to open their league account. Mayo, on the other hand, have the cushion of those two valuable points gained in Tralee and they will be looking at this game as another chance to copper fasten their Division One status for another season.

However, the beauty of sport is it’s unpredictability and we have seen in both the football and hurling leagues, very surprising results even at this early stage. Roscommon will probably have to catch Mayo on an off day for them to win, but the fact that they have been competitive in both their games so far gives them a great chance on Saturday. Most of the pundits will be going for a comfortable Mayo win and the bookies give Roscommon no chance at all. It is probably too much to expect Roscommon to go to Castlebar and win. But we all live in hope!

Match odds – Mayo: 1/6 Roscommon: 9/2 Draw: 12/1.

Prediction: Mayo