A fellow attendee was telling me last Saturday afternoon, at a wedding in the Ardilaun Hotel in Galway, that Niall Carew's Sligo team were available at 7/1 in some bookies. He looked me in the eye and asked, "What do you think, Silke? Are they worth a punt?" I told him that they were astonishing odds, however, that on all known recent form, including two successive promotions, Roscommon would be expected to win. However he should check out the handicap, as I didn't think there would be that much between them.
I did also mention that beating Sligo at home is not an easy task and that in our day they almost beat us regularly up there. We drew with them in 1995. And in 1999 when we were All-Ireland champions, they drew with us again in Markievicz Park on a score-line of Galway 1-13, Sligo 3-7, with Padraig Joyce saving our bacon with a late late free. You never took them for granted, because if you did you were in trouble. Were some of the Roscommon players and supporters already thinking about a possible Connacht final with Mayo?
Last Saturday was the Yeat's county's first win in Connacht in three years and they will face hot favourites Mayo in the Connacht final, as they did back in 2012 under Kevin Walsh. They lost that final in Hyde Park on a score-line of 0-12 to 0-10, and it might have been a different result if their impressive forward Pat Hughes had not been ruled out through injury. Adrian Marren was their key scorer last weekend, notching 1-07, however in David Kelly and Pat Hughes they have a very accomplished full-forward line which did a lot of damage on John Evan's side.
Defenders like Ross Donovan, Keelan Cawley, and Brendan Egan, who won an All-Ireland club title with St Vincent's, are fine players and they are very experienced having played in the 2010 Connacht final, which they lost by a point to Roscommon 0-14 to 0-13 with Donie Shine kicking the winner in the last minute. Team captain Mark Breheny has been around a long time too, and he was centre-forward in 2007 on the team that beat Galway in the Connacht final by a single point.
Egan, Marren, Donovan, and Kelly all saw action that day as well, so there is a real backbone of experienced players on the team. Sligo looked very organised last Saturday and, under the new management of Niall Carew, they seem to be full of belief. Their victory was no fluke and they led by 1-7 to 0-5 at the break. That meant that if Roscommon were good enough they had plenty of time to salvage the situation, however, they did not have the capacity to do so.
With Marren hitting two early scores at the start of the second half, Roscommon never looked likely to close the gap. Roscommon manager John Evan's has taken a fair bit of stick over the past few days since the surprise defeat, especially from Shane Curran, and he will need his team to bounce back against Cavan in the qualifiers or the voices for him to join Tomás Ó Flatharta on "the stepping out of inter-county management" will grow a good bit louder. Based on their display last weekend, it is difficult to see Roscommon having the firepower and strength in depth to trouble too many Division One sides next spring. And it is also unlikely that Sligo will have the wherewithal to stop Mayo's "Drive for Five" either.