Not surprisingly Roscommon will be firmly in the underdogs corner when they contest their first u21 All-Ireland decider in 30 years against a star studded Dublin side this Sunday in Tullamore. Then again this is familiar territory for Nigel Dineen’s men who have defied the odds to make it this far.
Underdogs against Mayo in the Connacht semi-final and again in the All-Ireland semi-final against Cavan, they ran out comfortable and worthy winners on both occasions. A one-point win will suffice this time around. It will however take a mammoth performance to stop the metropolitans who have dismissed all opposition thus far with consummate ease.
Dublin have been registering huge tallies in their outings to date including 3-11 against Cork, 1-16 in the Leinster decider against Louth, and of course 4-15 against Westmeath. Needless to say the Roscommon defence cannot afford to leak goals if they are to have any hope.
Roscommon’s defence has been impressive so far conceding fewer than nine points on average and just two goals (both against Cavan ) in their three outings. Full-back Cathal Duignan will have his hands full trying to contain Ciaran Kilkenny who is fast becoming a household name. Duignan, a former Athlone Community College student and currently studying in AIT is something of a slow burner. Solid but not exceptional at schools level he has developed into a commanding full back and is a great example of the importance of commitment and determination in any young footballer’s arsenal. He has a big job to do on Sunday but he is likely to rise to the challenge.
Wing backs Conor Daly and Ronan Stack were outstanding in the semi-final and they will have to repeat that level of performance if the supply lines to the Dublin full-forward line are to be closed off.
Cathal Shine and Niall Daly form a formidable mid-field partnership for the Rossies and will surely at least break even.
One area of concern up front is the heavy reliance on Donal Smith for scores. Smith has kicked 2-14 in the three outings to date and Dublin are bound to have their homework done. The likes of Colin Compton and Cian Connolly will have to keep the scoreboard ticking if they want to write their names in the history books as All-Ireland winners.
Outside the camp itself the level of expectation is low with most neutrals expecting nothing but a Dublin win. The same was the case back in 1999 when Westmeath faced Kerry in the decider but we refused to read the script. All that matters is what the players themselves believe. Remember they have beaten the Ulster champions with a bit to spare which has to count for something.
We all know that Dublin teams don’t travel well. If the hype gets to the Dublin players they could be vulnerable. Roscommon have to be ready to take advantage and must be ready to play the game of their lives. If they can keep it tight in the opening half and turn it into a battle then I expect them to win the battle. It has all the ingredients of a cracker and if the Connacht champions do manage to upset the odds it could be a very long weekend indeed.