Bookies back Brigid’s as battle beckons!

Hodson Bay Hotel Roscommon SFC Club Final: Pádraig Pearses v St. Brigid’s in Kiltoom, Sunday 23rd October at 3.30pm

They say that the bookies seldom get it wrong and if that’s the case then this Roscommon SFC final on Sunday is a foregone conclusion. St. Brigid’s are 4/9 to win back the title while Pearses are 9/4 to finally win a first ever crown at this level. Although Brigid’s are favourites I have a feeling that this final will be a lot closer than those odds might reflect.

  Brigid’s, under their new management team of Frankie Dolan, Eddie Lohan and Ger Dowd, took a while to get going this year. In fact, I saw them being well beaten by Pearses in the opening round of games. But there is no doubt that they are coming to the boil at just the right time and the manner in which they dealt with Boyle in the semi-final was very impressive.  

  Pearses have been less impressive, but despite grinding out many of their results in this year’s championship they finished top of the pile in Group A, which meant that they didn’t have to play a quarter-final. They struggled to get through their semi-final against Western Gaels but with all their players available for this final they will come to Kiltoom with plenty of hope that they can finally break their duck in this competition.

   Talking to the St. Brigid’s players and management last week, it is evident that there is a renewed hunger in the club to regain the Fahey Cup this year. A number of young players like Brian Stack, Mark Daly and others have been introduced to the team this year and that means there is a fresh look about St. Brigid’s.

  Brigid’s will still be looking to their experienced players to lead the way: Darragh Donnelly, Ian Kilbride, Ronan Stack and Niall Grehan are all long-serving stars in defence and Ian Kilbride is playing great football this year at centre half-back. In midfield, Garvan Dolan and Mark Daly were both outstanding against Boyle.

  While up front, Senan Kilbrde is once again the key man and his huge influence was shown again to good effect in that semi-final win against Boyle. His ball winning ability and his awareness to bring his teammates into the play is always crucial to St. Brigid’s. Pearses will have to find a way to curb him if they are to have a chance.

  However, Brigid’s are not a one-man band up front: Cathal McHugh is playing his best football in some years and the experienced Karol Mannion, Darren Dolan, and young gun Brian Stack are all excellent attacking players capable of getting vital scores. Of course there is always the option of Frankie Dolan himself coming off the bench, but he has been used sparingly this year so far.

   Pearses will have everyone back for this final including veteran, Seanie Fahy, who missed the semi-final though suspension and his availability is a huge boost.

  Pearses have a very good defence and they will have to play well on Sunday; Davy Murray, Anthony Butler and Mark Richardson will have to tie down Senan Kilbride and company. Conor Daly was outstanding against Western Gaels, and Pearses will need another huge display from him from the half-back line with Niall Carty there as well hoping to stamp his authority on proceedings. Niall Daly and Tom Butler will have the job of trying to win the midfield battle. Niall Daly’s ability to get forward for scores is also crucial to Pearses.

  Up front, the onus will fall on youngsters Hubert Darcy, Conor Payne and Ronan Daly while the return of experienced Seanie Fahy is crucial due to the fact that he is so accurate from frees and play.

  Playing this final at Kiltoom will not bother Pearses, they like playing there. In 2012, when the sides last met in the final at this venue, the game was level going into extra-time. It took a late Frankie Dolan goal to win it, and in fact, Brigid’s went on to win the All-Ireland club title that year.

  Any objective analysis will point to a comfortable win for Brigid’s but I have a feeling that Pearses, who are appearing in their second final in succession, could upset the apple cart on Sunday. Brigid’s were hurt by losing to Clann na nGael in the semi-final last year and they want the Fahey Cup back in Kiltoom. Shane Curran would surely love to lead Pearses to a historic win despite it being against St. Brigid’s with whom he won so much. In fact, it is hard to believe that Pearses have never won this title given all the good teams that they have had over the years.

  Speaking to the Pearses people in the past week they are all united behind Shane Curran and the team and there is a great buzz about the club in the run up to this final.

  But all things considered, I have to slightly favour Brigid’s to regain the title. Senan Kilbride is once again the key man. If he is allowed to dictate the game, as he has done so often in the past, then Brigid’s will take the title. I give them a very hesitant vote. They might just have a little bit more firepower but I am expecting a tight match.

Prediction: St. Brigid’s.