Pride on the line as Kingdom come to town
Allianz National Football League Division One South (Round 3):
Roscommon v Kerry at Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday at 3.45 pm
The excitement of the return to the top table of league football has lessened considerably for Roscommon after the first two rounds of games, and now we know that ahead of Sunday’s clash with Kerry Anthony Cunningham’s men are facing a relegation play-off in two weeks’ time regardless of the result of the clash against The Kingdom.
This final game is something of a ‘free hit’ for Roscommon and the management team can try out new combinations, new systems, and new players. But experimenting against a juggernaut like Kerry is probably not advisable given their current form.
Roscommon have been very disappointing so far. The industry and effort shown against Dublin was encouraging but last Sunday’s poor display against a mediocre Galway team was a wake-up call. Much work needs to be done to turn the situation around ahead of that relegation play-off and more importantly, the Connacht semi-final against Galway in five weeks’ time.
In fairness to the management they are looking at as many players as they can, and the presumption is that there will be more changes this weekend. But the team needs a boost from somewhere and another substantial defeat will certainly help no one with bigger tests on the horizon.
Kerry are a different team since this season started. They were obviously stung by the torrent of criticism that they faced following their defeat by Cork in the championship last year and are determined to put things right in 2021.
They are a team on a mission and have scored a whopping five goals and 39 points in just two league games so far. Needless to say, the outrageously talented David Clifford has been their main man, and it will be interesting to see how the Roscommon defence set out to deal with the Fossa genius on Sunday. If he is on top form then he is simply unmarkable.
A chink of light would be Kerry’s concession of four goals against Dublin last Sunday and there are still doubts about their defence. So perhaps Roscommon’s best chance of a win this Sunday is to get the ball into the attack as often as possible.
Roscommon have a number of problems that need to be addressed, namely the kick-out strategy, a settled midfield partnership, and a more direct style in attack. Last Sunday against Galway too much of Roscommon’s play was lateral and backwards and there were a number of occasions when there was only one attacker available for a pass.
Make no mistake; this is another very difficult assignment. While the result makes no difference, the last thing that this team needs is a heavy defeat. At the top level in sport winning becomes a habit but unfortunately losing does too.
Anthony Cunningham and his selectors will want to set a platform for the forthcoming relegation play-off and the Connacht semi-final against Galway. The supporters, meanwhile, will want to see a chink of light and grounds for optimism. The Roscommon attack has much promise but has been too dependent on Ciaráin Murtagh and Donie Smith thus far.
The defence faces its toughest test to date, especially the defender who draws the short straw of trying to shadow David Clifford, but I presume Roscommon will have a plan in place to try to stop the ball getting to the Kerry ace.
But to concentrate on one Kerry forward would be a fatal mistake. The likes of Paudie Clifford, Paul Geaney, Tommy Walsh and the returning Stephen O’Brien all carry huge threats also.
A Roscommon win is too much to expect on Sunday but supporters will be looking for a few signs that we can be competitive in the play-off and that we can go into the Galway match in a really competitive mind-set.
Note: Galway play Dublin in the other game on Sunday at Tuam Stadium at 3.45 pm.