Derry heading for final while relegating Roscommon

Allianz Football League Division One, round seven: Derry v Roscommon (Celtic Park, Sunday 1.45pm)

Derry Shane McGuigan with Brian Howard of Dublin
Derry Shane McGuigan with Brian Howard of Dublin during the National Football League match played at Celtic Park in Derry on Saturday 2nd of March 2024. Picture Margaret McLaughlin (Margaret McLaughlin Photography )

EVERYONE knows the serving suggestion for that dish labelled ‘revenge’ – and Mickey Harte is unlikely to alter the recipe.

Roscommon contributed significantly to denying Derry promotion to the top flight two years ago with a highly controversial draw in Hyde Park. Now the Oak Leafers can confirm the Rossies’ relegation, coldly dispatching them back down to Division Two.

Victory would also absolutely assure Derry’s place in the Division One Final, a first appearance on that stage for a decade, although that’s not really in any serious doubt.

Indeed there’s more likelihood of Roscommon staying up than Derry missing out on the divisional decider.

In truth, Harte won’t have been the slightest bit bothered about that game two years ago, given that he was a Tyrone man in the process of getting Louth promoted from Division Three.

The Derry players will remember it, of course, particularly star forward Shane McGuigan, who was very dubiously dismissed, his late absence a factor in the visitors’ failure to win that match.

However, given what Derry have achieved then, they probably won’t have worried too much about it.

Promotion secured the next year, back-to-back Ulster titles, Derry now have their sights set on a first Allianz crown since 2008.

Even if Derry were to lose there would need to be a cumulative scoring difference swing of more than 16 points for Kerry to overtake the Oak Leafers in that regard and reach the final – and that’s assuming the Kingdom beat Galway and Dublin defeat Tyrone.

A home defeat here would be quite the surprise anyway.

Derry demonstrated their determination to secure an extra competitive match before the Championship with their performance away to Mayo last time out.

While Derry have had managerial turnover since that last League encounter with Roscommon their team has been very settled. Evolution not revolution, after years of churn when they fell down through the divisions.

Harte may tweak his personnel again, giving more opportunities to fringe players, but the increasing squad depth is apparent.

What matters is the winning habit.

Aidan Clarke
Tyrone's Aidan Clarke and Roscommon's Conor Cox and Daire Cregg in action during the Allianz Football Division one Round one between Tyrone and Roscommon

Roscommon absolutely have to win to have any hope of staying up, combined with a defeat for neighbours Galway against Kerry. Then it would come down to scoring difference as the two Connacht teams drew when they met in round two.

Boss Davy Burke’s selection options have been gradually increasing, but too late – and attacker Cathal Heneghan seems set to be ruled out with a one-match ban for appearing to stand on the leg of Kerry’s Jason Foley last weekend. If Roscommon contest that proposed suspension then the Michael Glavey’s clubman might miss the Connacht semi-final instead.

Heneghan’s goal had helped Roscommon battle back to within three points going into added time but they ended up losing by double that – and a similar margin of defeat should be expected here.