Hodson Bay Hotel Roscommon SFC Semi-Finals
Pádraig Pearses v Western Gaels on Sunday in Elphin at 2 pm
The Form: Western Gaels came though Group B without much fuss although a slip against Elphin is on their CV. They have been putting up big scores, and their performance against Roscommon Gaels in the quarter-final was very impressive. They have class players throughout the pitch and they are a side that have always threatened to make a major breakthrough. However, there have been occasions in recent years that the Gaels have not performed on the big day and they will surely have to do that this time.
Pearses have been very solid in the championship this year and once again they have a great chance of breaking their duck this year. They finished top of the table in Group A, with a loss to Clann and a draw against Roscommon Gaels, the games where they dropped points. Overall, Pearses have not been as prolific in attack as Western Gaels but the standard of opposition was much stronger in Group A.
The Key Players: Western Gaels will welcome back Donal Ward and he will be a huge addition to them. Barry Creighton had an excellent game against Roscommon Gaels and he, Ciaran Cafferky and Seanie McDermott form a very formidable looking half-back line. The Gaels will need big performances from Niall Murray at midfield, and up front Kevin Higgins, Finbar Cregg, Cathal Cregg and James McDonnell will hope to get the vital scores. Donal Ward will be a valuable option anywhere in the middle third of the field.
Ronan Daly will be back for Pearses and he will join brothers Conor (who played well after coming on against Roscommon Gaels) and Niall in a strong looking Pearses outfit. Niall Carty, David Murray, Emmett Kelly, Hubert Darcy and Aaron Fehily are all seasoned and talented players although the loss through suspension of veteran attacker Seanie Fahy will be a big one for Pearses.
Team Managers: Pádraig Pearses: Shane Curran Western Gaels: Gerard Nolan
The Verdict: There are two schools of thought here. Last year the teams who played quarter-finals were battle-hardened while the teams who got straight into the semi-finals were at a disadvantage but I am not so sure that will matter here.
Pearses will be desperate to break their championship duck again this year and although they were stretched to the limit by Roscommon Gaels, they look a very solid team with the return of the Daly brothers vital. If Niall Carty is fit then they could have the edge at midfield. On the other hand, Western Gaels have superb players on every line but they must produce it on the day if they want to get to the final.
I am not ruling out a draw here as I think it will be very close but Pearses look the better bet and they could get there by a point or two. Prediction: Pádraig Pearses
St. Brigid’s v Boyle on Sunday in Strokestown at 4.30 pm
The Form: After a very poor display in their opening game in Group A against Pádraig Pearses, St. Brigid’s bounced back to put up a score of 5-13 against Sunday’s opponents Boyle. They subsequently lost to Clann before securing their place in the semi-finals by thrashing Castlerea in their final group game. They have most of the familiar names that have brought such success to the club in recent years. They are certainly not the team of 2012 or 2013, but they are still a formidable outfit.
Boyle are the form team in the county and in their last three games against Roscommon Gaels (3-11), Clann na nGael (4-13) and St. Faithleach’s (3-15) they have scored an incredible 10 goals and 39 points. They have plenty of strong players and Roch Hanmore and Kieran Cox have been ever so impressive in midfield. If they can turn it on again this weekend then Brigid’s will be in trouble, although Frankie Dolan and his players will be ready for a stiff challenge from Mick Jordan’s men.
Key Players: St. Brigid’s will feature a lot of household names that have been there and done it over the years. Niall McInerney, Robbie Kelly, Ronan Stack, Darragh Donnelly and Niall Grehan will all feature in their defence. Garvan Dolan is having a great year at midfield along with Ian Kilbride.
Up front, Boyle will know all about Senan Kilbride who was on fire when the sides met earlier in the year, and when you add in Karol Mannion, Cathal McHugh, Darren Dolan and Brian Stack, it is a very strong Brigid’s side. Even Frankie Dolan himself will be there if needed.
Boyle have been a joy to watch this year. Donie Smith will be back from suspension and he will be a huge asset. Tadgh Lowe in goal, Tadgh McKenna, Michael Hanmore, Seanie Purcell and Dylan East have all been playing really well in defence.
A huge area will be midfield and Roch Hanmore and Kieran Cox will have to win that battle if Boyle are to have a chance. Up front, Enda and Donie Smith, young Cian McKeon and the very impressive Darren O’Connor will be hoping to get those vital scores.
Team Managers: St. Brigid’s: Frankie Dolan Boyle: Mick Jordan
The Verdict: Brigid’s have blown hot and cold this year but when they get to this stage of the championship they knuckle down. They have the players with the know how to deal with sticky situations and in Senan Kilbride they have a match winner.
Boyle have been the team of the year in this championship so far but they will know that they will not be putting up a huge total in this game. It will be more about digging in and winning the ball as much as getting the scores.
It is no disrespect to Brigid’s, but most neutrals would love to see Boyle winning here to see a new name in the final but reality must kick in. Even though they have slipped back in the past year or two as a footballing force, I expect Brigid’s to prevail by a few points. Prediction: St. Brigid’s