Brigids can claim a historic three-in-a-row after close battle

Ruby Oil Roscommon SFC Final: St. Brigids (holders) v St. Faithleachs (on Sunday at Hyde Park at 3.30 pm). Referee: Seamus Regan. Form: St. Brigids beat St. Aidans and Clann na Gael in the group stages before a late Karol Mannion goal gave them a two-point win over Strokestown in the quarter-final. Brigids beat Roscommon Gaels in a one-sided semi-final, although there was only four points in it at the end of the game.   St. Faithleachs beat Castlerea but lost to Kilmore in the group stages. Faithleachs then beat Castlerea in a play-off. The Ballyleague men then beat Elphin in a well-contested quarter-final before producing a very impressive display against Padraig Pearses in the semi-final. The Managers – St. Brigids: Anthony Cunningham; St. Faithleachs: Wally Burke. The Odds: St. Brigids 4/11 v St. Faithleachs 5/2; Draw 13/2. Top Scorers – St. Brigids: Karol Mannion (2-4); Senan Kilbride (1-7); David O’Connor (0-10). St. Faithleachs: Enda Kenny (1-13); Aidan Dooney (1-10). Key Players – St. Brigids: Karol Mannion, Peter Domican, Mark O’Carroll, Cathal McHugh, Frankie Dolan, Senan Kilbride. St. Faithleachs: Derek Thompson, Ray Cox, Gary Cox, Stephen Ormsby, Aidan Dooney, Darragh Hussey, Martin Reynolds, Senan O’Grady. The Call: It is unquestionably the case that the two most consistent and best footballing club  sides in the county have once again reached the county senior final. Last year when the teams met we were treated to a very competitive contest where Brigids were just that little bit ahead of the Ballyleague men and naturally Wally Burke’s men will be hoping to bridge that gap on Sunday next. However the big question is: Can they do it?    There is no doubt that both sides have improved since last year. Both clubs have talented young players who have matured greatly this season and who are now making much more of a contribution.   For Brigids, players like Peter Domican and Cathal McHugh are cases in point. Domican is now a well established wing half-back on Anthony Cunningham’s team while Cathal McHugh is now one of the chief dangermen in the Brigids team.    Faithleachs have a number of very good young players too. Stephen Ormsby has been excellent in the half-back line while up front Aidan Dooney is maturing into a top class attacker and the two midfielders Senan O’Grady and Martin Reynolds  are playing very well this season for Faithleachs.   There is loads of experience on view too next Sunday. Derek Thompson has been turning back the clock with some excellent displays between the Faithleachs’ posts. Gary and Ray Cox are playing as well as ever and Tom Ryan brings almost two decades of experience to the Faithleachs  team around the centre of the field.    Enda and Henry Kenny are also top class players who have been around the block a few times in the Faithleachs jersey.   Brigids are not short of big time experience either. The Kilbrides, Frankie Dolan, Mark O’Carroll, Karol Mannion, Jimmy ‘Nail’ O’Connor and the Kilcommons brothers have all been great servants to Brigids over the years.   I have been most impressed by Faithleach’s  this year. They are not just relying on the Coxs and the Kennys anymore to win games. Their threat comes from all over the field. They have  a maturing and very strong midfield  partnership of Martin Reynolds and Senan O’Grady and a potent-looking attack where Aidan Dooney, Enda Kenny and Darragh Hussey have all been playing well to compliment the skills of Gary Cox while Brendan Reynolds offers a massive physical presence in the full-forward line.   Brigids have been progressing nicely too. They were under pressure against Strokestown in defence in the quarter-final but they carried out repairs and they look stronger there now. Peter Domican is maturing into a very effective wing-back and he and Donal O’Connor carry a significant threat going forward.   Brigids’ midfield of Karol Mannion and Mark O Carroll have been excellent this summer and Mannion in particular seems to have recaptured his best form.   Up front Frankie Dolan seems to be revelling in his new role as a creator of scores, rather than executioner. However ‘Jimmy Nail’,  Senan Kilbride and the excellent Cathal McHugh all carry a significant scoring threat inside.   St. Brigids began this championship as if they would run away with it – until they met Strokestown in the quarter-finals. It was a game they were lucky to win but they put the train firmly back on the tracks with a very good display against Roscommon Gaels in the semi-final. Faithleachs have also been impressive, and save for a poor display against Kilmore, they have reached the final fairly easily.   The key clash in this game could be at midfield where Senan O’Grady and Martin Reynolds will have to cope with the considerable threat of Karol Mannion and Mark O’Carroll. However the Faithleachs pair have been improving in every game and if they play to their best form they could edge the tie in favour of their side and provide their attack with the ball they need to get the match-winning scores.   Brigids have not set the world alight so far this year but they have got out of a number of sticky situations and look to be a stronger side than last year, with Frankie Dolan pulling the strings at centre half-forward.    For St. Brigids history beckons as they go for three senior titles in a row, a feat which has never been achieved by the club. They know that if they achieve it they will go down as one of the great club football teams of the modern era in Roscommon. Having won the Connacht club championship in such style last autumn it is clear that they have the players to win this county final but if they play poorly or have a lapse like they did againt Strokestown or against Roscommon Gaels (in the last ten minutes) then St. Faithleachs have the players to take full advantage.   Every single time that I have tipped against St. Faithleach’s this summer they have won and the one time I tipped them to win (against Kilmore) they were beaten! So all concerned with the club will be delighted to hear that I am expressing  a slight preference for Brigids to take the titlle for the third year in succession.    I expect Faithleachs to give it a real go but Brigids may have just too much firepower and might shade it by a point or two. I’m expecting a good game. Prediction: St. Brigids.