Under-presssure Roscommon must overcome understrength Monaghan

Allianz Football League Division One, round five: Roscommon v Monaghan (Dr Hyde Park, Sunday, 1.45pm)

Monaghan's Ryan Wylie wins the ball as Roscommon's Daire Cregg looks on. Picture by Glenn Murphy
Monaghan's Ryan Wylie wins the ball as Roscommon's Daire Cregg looks on. Picture by Glenn Murphy Monaghan's Ryan Wylie wins the ball as Roscommon's Daire Cregg looks on. Picture by Glenn Murphy

Roscommon’s flying start to last season meant this wasn’t a ‘must-win’ match for them. This time it’s different - which will be a worry for Monaghan.

Home advantage at the Hyde, compared to last year’s setting of Clones, is another factor in the favour of Davy Burke’s men, even if it’s not a particularly long journey.

A year ago, Monaghan’s need was much greater, even though they’d picked up their first points in their previous outing by comfortably beating troubled Donegal. How times change.

Monaghan are on two points again, but Roscommon are now only on one, having won their first three rounds in a brilliant beginning to 2023. So far this year they’ve only drawn with Galway, losing in Tyrone and then to Dublin, albeit having a ‘goal’ erroneously disallowed.

While the Rossies’ boss’s complaint after that match about never having his full panel together despite having - count ‘em – 65 training sessions raised quite a few eyebrows, it probably raised a rueful smile or even a laugh from Monaghan manager Vinny Corey.

The Clontibret clubman has been experienced ‘difficult second season syndrome’ largely due to the absence of a raft of experienced players.

Monaghan made light of that when they caught the Dubs cold in the opener, a brilliant ‘bonus’ two points which could prove crucial come the end of this campaign. Younger talent is undoubtedly coming through, or establishing themselves after being around the senior scene for several seasons, such as Stephen O’Hanlon, David Garland, and Micheal Bannigan.

Yet Monaghan were second best against Kerry and even further off Derry. Roscommon are more their level, obviously, but getting game-time to the likes of Darren Hughes and Karl O’Connell could be vital in the Hyde.

As good as Kerry and Derry are – and they are – it’s still a major concern for Monaghan that they conceded three goals against both of them.

The much-changed defence is one aspect of that, of course, but Monaghan must become meaner, stopping (or at least slowing down) runners at source, and getting blocks in on prospective kick-passes. Otherwise, attackers of the quality of Enda Smith, Daire Cregg, Diarmuid Murtagh, and Conor Cox could reap rewards for Roscommon.

With trips to Mayo and Derry either side of a visit from Kerry, Roscommon face a daunting schedule after this weekend.

This is a last trip out of Ulster in the League for Monaghan, with home games to come against the two other Connacht teams, Galway and Mayo, either side of the visit to their northern neighbours Tyrone.

That still offers them scope for survival - whereas anything other than a win would leave Roscommon deep in danger.