All eyes on the last four in the SFC!

SEAMUS DUKE previews this weekend’s Hodson Bay Hotel SFC quarter-finals

Padraig Pearses v West Roscommon on Saturday in Ballyforan at 3.30 pm

The experiment of playing regional teams, while well intentioned, doesn’t appear to have been a success. We will find out more on that front on Saturday.

Their prospects this weekend will depend on the ‘buy in’ from the clubs involved, and especially those who are still left in the junior and intermediate championships. The fear of players getting injured ahead of the IFC and JFC semi-finals has to be a factor.

We may see the likes of Fintan Cregg, Conor Cox, Liam Creaton, Brian Greene, Adam McDermott and Ross Timothy performing for ‘the West’, but anything other than a Padraig Pearses win would be a major surprise.

Prediction: Padraig Pearses.


St Brigid’s v North Roscommon on Saturday in Strokestown at 6 pm

With St Michael’s, Kilglass Gaels and St Ronan’s all still involved in the championship, how will the North Roscommon players in question respond to the challenge of St Brigid’s, and to what extent can they be fully focussed on this challenge?

The Kiltoom-based side have long been the favourites to win the championship this year. Yet, while they are unbeaten thus far, they have not really sparkled. However, with Brian Stack, Eddie Nolan, Ben O’Carroll, Robbie Fallon, Ruardhri Fallon and many more talented players in their ranks, they should make it to the last four with a bit to spare.

Prediction: St Brigid’s.

Roscommon Gaels v Oran on Sunday in Kiltoom at 1 pm

There is nothing quite like a local derby to whet the appetite of supporters. Both sides come into the match in mixed form. Oran were excellent in defeating Tulsk and Strokestown, but they went down to Clann na nGael in their final game. In fairness, they were a few players short that day and knew they were already in the quarter-final.

Roscommon Gaels blitzed Boyle in their opening game before drawing with Western Gaels on a night of such atrocious weather that it would not be fair to rate any team. However, in their third game, against St Faithleach’s, the Gaels had Lady Luck on their side as they converted a late penalty to make it into the last eight – just when it looked like they were heading out of the championship.

The Gaels will hope that the likes of James Featherstone, Cathal Dineen, Senan Lambe, Scott Oates, John  McManus, Cian Connolly, Ciaran Kilcline and Peter Gillooly are on song. For Oran, Colin and Darragh Walsh, James Fitzpatrick, Ciaran Lawless, Shane Walsh and Charlie Carthy have been excellent, and they will hope that the experience of the likes of Cathal Kenny, Mike Dwyer and Tom Featherston will come into play.

It’s a tough one to call – but I feel that the Gaels will win by a point or two.

Prediction: Roscommon Gaels.


Boyle v Clann na nGael on Sunday in Enfield at 3.30 pm

Cian McKeon in action for Boyle during this season’s SFC. Pic: Bernie O’Farrell

Boyle have a really good recent record in the championship against the men from Johnstown, but that won’t necessarily count for anything on Sunday.

Cian Smith’s men looked a busted flush when they conceded six goals against Roscommon Gaels in round one, but they have recovered very well since then. I was mightily impressed by them against Western Gaels in the last round.

Clann are motoring along nicely under Pat Fallon this year. They have put up some big totals and remain unbeaten. A number of shrewd judges have told me they have been very impressed with Clann so far, but this will be their biggest test yet.

The deciding factor is likely to be how the Clann defence copes with Enda and Donie Smith, Cian McKeon, Tadhg McKenna and Cathal Feely in the Boyle attack. They reminded us against Western Gaels that they can put up big scores.

On the other hand, Boyle have been suspect in defence, not just in this championship but over the past few years. If that vulnerability shows again this weekend, the likes of Ferghus Lennon and Ciaran Lennon can take full advantage.

I have a fancy that Boyle might have a few points to spare. It promises to be a cracking game.

Prediction: Boyle.