Roscommon footballers will enjoy the benefit of home advantage when they take on neighbours Leitrim this Sunday in the Connacht semi-final. The prize on offer is a date with either Sligo or Galway in the Connacht final. That semi-final will take place in Pearse Stadium on Sunday week, the same day as Westmeath are in action against Louth.
While Leitrim will not be lacking in motivation or passion when they take the field, it is nonetheless a glorious opportunity for Fergal O’Donnell’s men to reach the decider.
While Roscommon were less than impressive for long periods against London they still managed to win with eight points to spare. A broken leg has ruled Mark O’Carroll out for the season. He is an undoubted loss but on the positive side David O’Gara and Brian Higgins are expected to be available while Enda Kenny and Fintan Cregg are also coming close to full fitness.
Leitrim will be without the services of Emelyn Mulligan and Colin Regan while the tragic death of Philly McGuiness leaves another huge void in attack. However Mickey Moran can count on the services of the influential Declan Maxwell, who missed their league campaign through injury.
Roscommon will enter the game as favourites, which may not rest easy with them. Yet I expect them to prevail with four or five points to spare.
Westmeath continue preparations for Leinster semi-final
Pat Flanagan and his backroom team have been busy preparing their charges for battle on Sunday week. Louth will be no pushovers and while Westmeath performed very well for long periods against Wicklow in Tullamore an even greater effort will be needed in Croke Park if we are to see off challenge from the men from the Wee County. Like ourselves they don’t reach too many Leinster finals so they will leave no stone unturned.
Westmeath have enjoyed mixed fortunes in the past week as regards team news. Firstly came the good news that Derek Heavin has made a return to the panel. While the Castledaly clubman is unlikely at this stage to start, especially given the way our six backs played the last day, he is a great man to be able to call on when the going gets tough.
Then came the unwelcome news that Fergal Wilson has again been hit with injury. The unlucky Tubberclare man suffered a cruciate ligament injury in a club game last weekend against Tang.
Having been plagued with a groin injury for much of the past year Fergal suffered a badly broken finger in Pat Flanagan’s first game in charge, against Clare. While he didn’t feature against Wicklow it was expected the talented citeog would be available for selection against Louth. It now looks likely that he will miss the remainder of the year.
For Fergal personally it must be a difficult pill to swallow, having put so much hard work into getting himself right over the past twelve months or more. From a team point of view it’s also a blow as he could always be counted on to fire over a handful of points from play and from frees. It is up to others on the panel now to fill the void he leaves.
Flanagan now has a good blend of youth and experience at his disposal. Competition for places is now fierce which is what you need to be successful. Westmeath played Longford on Tuesday night in Pearse Park and while Longford were comfortable winners, Flanagan used the game to run his eye over a number of recently returned players as well as a number of fringe players. Glen Ryan’s men were reportedly moving very well. Westmeath are due to play Limerick in their final challenge game this Saturday.
I think we have a genuine chance of winning a Leinster title this year. The overall standard in Leinster is poor and, if we hit form, we are as good as what’s out there. Louth, Laois, Meath, or Dublin are all that stands between us and the Delaney Cup.
Six weeks ago we couldn’t have hoped to be thinking this way but for the time being at least we can dare to dream. Sometimes dreams do become a reality you know.