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Tuesday 6 December 2016

A long way from 'the top' for Evans

CAVAN v ROSCOMMON

(Kingspan Breffni Pk, Today 5.0, live RTÉ 2)

THE first weekend in July, and it's hard to equate John Evans' ambitious April boast with where Roscommon now find themselves - scrambling for championship survival in Cavan.

In the immediate wake of Roscommon's Division Two final victory over Down, their manager outlined a road map that would take Ros "to the top" over the next few years, challenging for an All-Ireland title. Then along came Sligo to shatter this summer's (pipe)dream of a serious tilt at Mayo's Connacht crown.

There was nothing freakish or fortunate about that Markievicz Park ambush, and it has obviously kickstarted some critical post-mortems in Roscommon.

Given his recent penchant for infuriating managers from the western province (London's Paul Coggins being the other) it was perhaps typical that Shane Curran should stick his head above the parapet.

"In John's case, there's no doubt he's confident at talking himself up but is he a good coach, a good manager? I would say that he's not," the retired Roscommon 'keeper claimed.

That seems overly harsh on a manager who has achieved back-to-back promotions, but that doesn't mean there isn't pressure on Evans. He needs a result to disprove the notion that too much energy was expended on the league at the expense of championship progress.

This evening's televised clash with familiar rivals looks tricky on paper. Cavan came close to toppling Monaghan in May and then eased into the qualifiers with a London cruise in June. We'd be amazed if a carbon-copy repeat of last summer's qualifier materialises - then, also on Breffni turf, Cavan succumbed by 0-16 to 0-5.

"Probably in our four years that we've been there, it was one of the days that we just didn't perform," lamented assistant-boss Anthony Forde.

They want revenge this evening; Ros want post-Sligo redemption. Fasten your helmets.

ODDS: Cavan evens Draw 13/2 Ros 6/5

VERDICT: Cavan

CLARE v LONGFORD

(Ennis, Today 5.0)

IT has been a strange summer, thus far, for Longford wh o have seen off two Division Four rivals either side of a 27-point pasting by Dublin.

Th eir ten-point defeat of Carlow went some way to rinsing that calamity from the system. If Longford could complete the process tonight in Ennis, their championship would be in real credit.

Home advantage for Clare translates into a big ask for Jack Sheedy's men but, if Mickey Quinn can wrestle the midfield initiative from Banner skipper Gary Brennan, they might just sneak it.

ODDS: Clare 4/6 Draw 15/2 Long 13/8

VERDICT: Longford

FERMANAGH v ANTRIM

(Enniskillen, Tomorrow 3.0)

CAN 'back door' lightning strike twice for Antrim after their shock comeback in Laois?

Maybe not: we're sticking with Fermanagh, at home, to reprise their earlier Ulster victory.

ODDS: Ferm 3/10 Draw 8/1 Antrim 7/2

VERDICT: Fermanagh

COMPILED BY FRANK ROCHE

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