Monday 24 July 2017

Can Roscommon change the western order?

Roscommon's Sean Purcell, left, and Mayo's Kevin McLoughlin ahead of their Allianz Football League game on Sunday. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Roscommon's Sean Purcell, left, and Mayo's Kevin McLoughlin ahead of their Allianz Football League game on Sunday. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Time flies. Next Sunday's Roscommon v Mayo clash in Dr Hyde Park will be the first League meeting between the counties since the 2001 Division 1 semi-final.

Mayo won before beating Galway in the final. It was all-Connacht in the semi-finals as Sligo also reached the last four and, later in the season, Galway won the All-Ireland title, making it a memorable year for the west.

However, despite nine attempts in finals (All-Ireland and League) by Mayo (7) and Galway (2), no national senior inter-county title has crossed the Shannon since then.

Roscommon plunged to the fourth division in 2011 but have since climbed back to the top flight, where they could play a significant part in ejecting Mayo from Division 1 for the first time since the 1990s.

If Mayo lose on Sunday and Cork and Monaghan draw or win, then green-and-red flags will be seen at Division 2 venues next season. A Roscommon draw or win would guarantee a semi-final place, quite an achievement for a team that started the campaign as favourites with Down for relegation.

Down did nothing to alter that assessment, losing all five games so far, whereas Roscommon have won four and lost just one.

The contrasting fortunes experienced by Mayo and Roscommon this year greatly increases interest in Sunday's game and, in the longer term, the Connacht championship which is seen as much less of a foregone conclusion than in recent years.

Galway have put themselves in a position where wins in their last two games, against Fermanagh and Cavan, would clinch promotion to Division 1.

They have been there before and didn't see it through but if they are promoted next month, it will further sweeten the Connacht championship pot.

Irish Independent

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