So we’ve named our team for Monday. It’s a line-up which, based on recent experience, could well be tweaked ahead of the 2pm throw-in at Croke Park the day after tomorrow.
While two changes are – on past form – likely shortly ahead of throw-in on Monday, I reckon there’s a decent chance that the team named last night could actually be the one that lines out. If so, this could be as much about player fitness and availability as it is about strategic intent.
Lee Keegan to midfield? Well, it worked the last day and could do so again on Monday, though if Roscommon decide to locate Enda Smith somewhere other than around the middle, he’ll need to be picked up by someone who’s able to do a number on him the way Lee does so often with who he’s paired with.
Lee could, of course, tag along with Smith wherever he goes. But what if Lee is being deployed at midfield because Tom Parsons is unable to start as he’s still suffering hamstring trouble?
It’s almost certain that this is the case. Hamstring problems don’t, unlike the common cold, clear up quickly and Tom did look less than fully fit when introduced the last day.
If Tom is only good for twenty minutes or so and Seamus O’Shea – a player struggling with both fitness and form this summer – can only be expected to make it to around the 50-minute mark, then a fresh injection of talent in this sector definitely makes sense. Not least given that if Tom does comes on, it’ll be the Breaffy man he’ll be replacing.
But is Lee okay to play? The Connaught Telegraph, in a report yesterday evening (here) confirmed rumours that had been circulating over the last few days about something being up with Lee. The report went on to state, however, that the problem related to “a blister on the sole of one of his feet” that required treatment but that Lee would be fine to line out on Monday.
That’s a relief because it’s obvious that we’re suffering a bit of wear and tear at the minute. Monday’s All-Ireland quarter-final replay will be the team’s fifth outing in six weeks so it’s no surprise that a few cracks are beginning to show.
Aside from Tom and Sheamie, neither Diarmuid O’Connor nor Aidan O’Shea have looked fully fit this summer. A lack of fitness hasn’t stopped Aidan having a storming championship campaign to date – in particular against Clare and Cork – but it does mean we can’t rely on him to go full-tilt for the whole seventy minutes in every game.
Diarmuid has had a fitful summer so far but he has also provided moments of pure brilliance, for example the goal against Clare and that booming extra-time point against Cork. He’s been taken off in a number of games and didn’t start against Derry.
Sheamie, Diarmuid and Aidan have all been named to start on Monday, as has Lee, and I’d expect the lot of them to line out then. I doubt if more than two of this quartet will, though, still be on the field at the finish.
How effective they are when they’re on and what impact their replacements have on events at Croke Park will go a long way towards determining whether or not ongoing wear and tear in this year’s championship is still a problem for Stephen Rochford and his selectors come Monday evening. I think it will be but it’s sure to be a proposition that Roscommon will test severely beforehand.