Four clubs, two final places up for grabs in the SFC

Hodson Bay Hotel Roscommon SFC semi-final:
Roscommon Gaels v St Brigid’s at Dr Hyde Park on Saturday at 3 pm

Rory Carthy has been one of Roscommon Gaels’ stand-out performers this season and will aim to put in another big performance against St. Brigid’s on Sunday. Pic: Bernie O’Farrell

It was written in the stars that Frankie Dolan would eventually come up against the club with whom he enjoyed some of the greatest moments of a stellar playing career, and that’s what will happen on Saturday when Roscommon Gaels meet St Brigid’s for a place in the 2023 county senior football final.

These clubs’ respective paths to the last four couldn’t have been much different. St Brigid’s are unbeaten and have been very impressive. They’ve justified their favourite’s tag (for the title) with a string of impressive displays, not least in the demolition of North Roscommon in the quarter-final.

By contrast, it would be fair to say that Roscommon Gaels have rode their luck in recent games. Having said that, they started with an explosive performance against Boyle, but in their last two games – against St Faithleach’s and Oran – they have had luck on their side. To their credit, they have shown great resilience to emerge from those tight encounters.

Ruaidhrí Fallon will be hoping to put in a big performance for St. Brigid’s on Sunday in the SFC semi-final. Pic: Michelle Hughes Walsh

The key to this semi-final will be whether or not the Gaels can contain what is a very sharp Brigid’s attack. Brian Derwin, Ben O’Carroll, Bobby Nugent, Ciaran Sugrue and Paul McGrath are all excellent young players who have been very effective in this campaign.

Shane Cunnane and Eddie Nolan will form a formidable midfield pairing for St Brigid’s. Further back, All-Star nominee Brian Stack will lead the Brigid’s defence, where they will face threats such as Peter Gillooly, Cian Connolly, Mark Purcell and Rory Carthy (if fit).

At least one sweeper will probably be deployed by Frankie Dolan and his selectors, and we could see a very cagey game, especially in the early stages. If the Gaels can stay in contention into the last 15 minutes or so, it will get very interesting.

The Gaels have many excellent performers, including John McManus, Senan Lambe, Scott Oates, James Fetherstone, Cian Connolly and Mark Purcell, backed up by some top class young players such as Ethan O’Reilly, Ryan Conlon and Rory Carthy.

This game could be a lot closer than many people think, but it’s impossible to look beyond hot favourites St Brigid’s, whom I expect to advance by three or four points.

Prediction: St Brigid’s.

Hodson Bay Hotel Roscommon SFC semi-final:
Padraig Pearses v Boyle on Sunday at Dr Hyde Park at 4 pm

All-Star nominee Enda Smith will be key to Boyle’s chances of success in Sunday’s SFC semi-final against Padraig Pearses. Pic: Bernie O’Farrell

Boyle will attempt to get to their second successive senior final on Sunday. Standing in their way is arguably the most experienced team in Roscommon club football in the current era, as Padraig Pearses have over the past four years won two Roscommon SFC titles and a Connacht crown.

A strong argument can be made for the claims of both sides in this fascinating duel. It’s the flair and scoring power of Boyle against the experience and know-how of Pearses.

While Pearses have been very steady on their way to this semi-final, they have yet to show their very best form. They will need it on Sunday if they are to overcome Boyle. Pearses are a great championship team and will be very tough to beat.

Boyle have made a great recovery since their opening game disaster against Roscommon Gaels. Having seen their last two outings, I’ve been really impressed with them going forward.

David Murray has been a dominant figure in the Padraig Pearses team this season. Pic: Michelle Hughes Walsh

All-Star nominee Enda Smith and fellow match-winners Cathal Feeley, Cian McKeon and Donie Smith have been explosive for Boyle. It will take a huge effort from Pearses to keep them in check.

Pearses have a number of really experienced performers in their ranks too. Davy Murray, Niall Carty, Ronan, Lorcan, Conor and Niall Daly, Hubert Darcy and Paul Carey are all proven performers, and this year they are joined by young guns Eoin Colleran, Jack Tumulty and Caelim Keogh.

After a narrow loss to St Brigid’s in the opening round, Pearses have come through all subsequent tests, although they were given an almighty scare by St Dominic’s in the final group game.

That Boyle have a lethal attack is not in question. However, there are lingering question marks over their defence.

Pearses look to have a better overall balance and on that basis I am edging towards a narrow win for the 2021 champions. It promises to be a cracker. Don’t rule out extra-time.

Prediction: Padraig Pearses.