By James McMahon
Mayo v Roscommon, MacHale Park, Sunday 4pm
Roscommon finally enter the 2013 Championship fray and have the task of stopping Mayo’s march to another provincial decider.
John Evans’ side have had four weeks to assess the Green and Red’s easy dismissal of Galway by the seaside.
Evans will first of all want to ensure that his defence offers a solidity that the Tribesmen did not implement on 19 May. The latter were left badly exposed as Mayo ran riot, scoring four goals and winning by a whopping 17 points.
In the minds of some commentators that was the Connacht final done and dusted, leaving James Horan and his troops to aim towards the All-Ireland series in August.
Horan himself is not stupid enough to be derailed by such talk, knowing well that Roscommon have nothing to lose on Sunday under the guidance of a shrewd Kerryman.
An injury picked up in a recent club game sees Cillian O’Connor on the sidelines, and so the adaptable Richie Feeney comes into the Mayo attack at No 11. Otherwise the team is the same as that which started against Galway.
However, the likes of Andy Moran, Barry Moran and Alan Dillon are expected to feature at some point against the Rossies.
While anticipated, Donie Shine’s unavailability is a blow for the visitors, as he continues to shake off the effects of a hamstring injury.
Evans has given two players their Championship debuts, with Darren O’Malley starting between the posts, while Conor Daly comes in to join his brother Niall in the half-back line.
It’s vital that Roscommon start well on Sunday. This Championship has already seen some lop-sided affairs with Division 1 teams rampaging to victory.
However, there is a degree of confidence that the Rossies will be competitive.
The recent All-Ireland club success for St Brigid’s, allied with good underage structures, bodes well.
Senan Kilbride, David O’Gara and Cathal Cregg are natural score getters and collectively are capable of giving the Mayo defence some problems – something which Galway abysmally failed to do a month ago.
The 2011 Connacht final was the last time the counties met in the Championship. Mayo prevailed by two points at the Hyde on a day when the weather was at its most inclement.
Their graph has risen steadily since and they are in most pundits’ top three for All-Ireland honours this year.
That high ranking is justified, with both squad and management focused on keeping a lid on expectations.
What belief John Evans has instilled into Roscommon will find full expression on Sunday. If it’s good enough to give Mayo a rattle, then he knows that a few more outings this summer are likely through the qualifiers.
Mayo: David Clarke, Tom Cunniffe, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan, Donal Vaughan, Colm Boyle, Aidan O’Shea, Seamus O’Shea, Kevin McLoughlin, Richie Feeney, Cathal Carolan, Enda Varley, Alan Freeman, Alan Dillon
Roscommon: Darren O'Malley; Neil Collins, Niall Carty, Seánie McDermott; David Keenan, Niall Daly, Conor Daly; Kevin Higgins, Michael Finneran; Conor Devaney, Karol Mannion, Cathal Cregg; Donal Smith, Senan Kilbride, David O'Gara.
Live television coverage of Fermanagh v Cavan and Mayo v Roscommon from 13:30 on Sunday 16 June on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only).
Live radio coverage of all the day’s action featuring Mayo v Roscommon from 14:00 on RTÉ Radio 1, RTÉ RnaG and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide).
Highlights and analysis of all the weekend’s action on The Sunday Game from 22:00 on Sunday 16 June on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only).