Croke Park’s open spaces may prove rewarding for nimble Down
Clash of styles will make for interesting viewing as Rossies seek to outmuscle rivals
Down’s Kevin McKernan is likely to play a sweeping role to provide cover for the defence given the quality of the opposition attack. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
This has been the most topsy-turvy division in the league with just two points separating the top four and the county that led in the early stages, Westmeath, ending up relegated. Down in fairness have been top since then but without driving home their superiority.
Roscommon’s late dash got them promotion as well and after the disappointment of the under-21s’ unexpected defeat, football in the county has the chance to head into the summer on a positive note.
It should make interesting viewing, as both teams play with contrasting styles. Roscommon are physically stronger and have some excellent forwards, Senan Kilbride, Cathal Cregg and Diarmuid Murtagh to feed whereas Down are smaller, faster and more adept at quick-transfer counter attacks.
The Ulster side’s manager Jim McCorry is now able, though, to call on Caolan Mooney to add some ball winning potential up front or in needed around centrefield.
In February, John Evans’s side went to Newry and returned with two points. That was the bones of the narrative but there were sub-plots that suggest Down can improve. They played most of the second half down to 14 men after Luke Howard’s second yellow card and were missing two other players, especially Kevin McKernan because of black cards.
(Coincidentally Roscommon’s DCU Sigerson winner Enda Smith was yesterday cleared of the black card offence for which he was punished against Westmeath.)
McKernan is likely to play a sweeping role to provide cover for the defence given the quality of the opposition attack. The influential Burren player is walking a thin line however, as one more black card would earn him a suspension.
Roscommon will hope to dominate the middle eight where their physical advantage is most pronounced but if you were a fast, counter-attacking team trying to elude bigger opponents Croke Park isn’t the worst venue for such an attempt.
DOWN: Stephen Kane; Gerard Collins, Luke Howard, Damien Turley; Darren O’Hagan, Brendan McArdle, Conall McGovern; Peter Turley, Paul Devlin; Conor Maginn, Kevin McKernan, Mark Poland; Conor Laverty, Caolan Mooney, Donal O’Hare.
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).