“A Connacht Championship is very realistic for this Roscommon team”
– Dermot Early
Roscommon will take on Mayo this Sunday in Hyde Park, and it is a perfect chance for the impressive Rossies to lay down another marker.
The encounter will mark the first league meeting between the counties since the 2001 Division 1 semi-final. Much has changed for Roscommon since then, and they have dropped as far as Division 4 in the intervening period.
This year, however, Roscommon have been the form team in the county, and have taken Division 1 by storm, winning four out of five games.
Victories over Kerry, Cork and Donegal have the country on alert, and the men in blue and yellow look set to mount an assault on Mayo’s Connacht dominance.
A few weeks ago, Kevin McStay’s side scored an incredible 4-25 in Pairc Ui Rinn to claim an 18 point victory over Cork.
The appointment of McStay has proved to be a masterstroke, and with the help of Fergus O’ Donnell, the man who was so successful with St. Brigid’s has elevated the county side to another level.
Donegal star Ryan McHugh was stunned by the fitness levels of the Rossies, according to the Irish Times.
Pundit and former Dublin footballer Ciaran Whelan also praised Roscommon after their victory in Donegal, saying that they;
“are extremely fit, well organised, have a good forward unit, strong midfield.”
Roscommon have fielded strong underage teams in recent years, particularly at u-21 level, and their squad has come of age in style. The future appears bright, and the current u-21 side recently beat Sligo comprehensively to qualify for the Connacht final.
If they beat Mayo in the final, it will be their third Connacht title in a row, and they have won four of the last seven.
Defensively, the Rossies are a solid unit, and the senior side looks more dangerous in attack than it has in years, with Cathal Cregg, Ciaran Murtagh and Senan Kilbride all performing well in recent weeks.
Despite Roscommon’s surging form, it is important not to get carried away, or to peak too early for that matter. Former Roscommon forward Nigel Dineen spoke to the Irish Independent, and stressed that nothing has been decided yet;
“Teams aren’t judged on a two-month window, it’s championship where they are judged and on that form Mayo are the undisputed kings of Connacht having won the last five.”
The Championship is still some time away, and it would be July before the two sides could potentially meet again in a Connacht final. That said, winning a Connacht title should be the number one priority for Kevin McStay’s in-form team.
Only time will tell whether Roscommon can unseat Mayo, but Sunday might be an early indicator of how close they are to accomplishing that goal.
A draw or win for Roscommon would guarantee a semi-final place, whilst a defeat for Mayo could put them on the brink of relegation.
The Rossies have made one change from the team which beat Donegal so impressively, with Enda Smith coming in at midfield for Ronan Stack.
Roscommon take on Mayo at 3.30pm in Hyde Park on Sunday
by David Smith