Is it now advantage Pearses?

Roscommon SHC Final replay: Athleague v Padraig Pearses in Athleague on Sunday: 3 pm. Extra-time if necessary.  The Form: Both sides only played in fits and starts in last Sunday’s drawn game. Pearses were idle for a month before last Sunday and there is no doubt that they will come on well from that game. However they were sluggish in the scoring department and were dependent on that bizarre goal to get them back into the match.    Pearses shot some bad wides from play and frees and that will not get them over the line on Sunday next. On the plus side, Pearses played well in defence and especially in the half-back line.   Athleague showed their battling qualities when they were under pressure on Sunday last but they were still very dependent on Mervyn Connaughton. Woe betide them if Mervyn ever has an off-day!    Like Pearses, Athleague played well in defence but will have to improve up front. So there’s not much between them in terms of form. The Managers – Athleague: David Kelly. Padraig Pearses: John Donoghue. Key Players – Athleague: Mervyn Connaughton, Niall Connolly, Colm Moran, Alan Cunniffe, Tom Reddington, Gary Fallon, Declan McGeeney. Pearses – David Loughnane, John  Mulvey, Shane Sweeney, Alan Sweeney, Cathal Kelly, Dara Mulvey. The Odds: Athleague 5/6 v Padraig Pearses 6/5; Draw 7/1. The Call: Now that we’ve seen the drawn game, this call is even harder to make this week!   Athleague looked like winning it early in the second half when they went three points up but that soft goal let Pearses back into it and then John Donoghue’s side looked like winning it late on – only to  fluff their lines a couple of times when they were in front of goal.    There is a valid argument being made in some quarters that Pearses needed the game badly after being out of action for four weeks prior to last Sunday.    It is also being argued though that Athleague played very poorly on the day and that they may not be as bad again.   Both defences were on top last Sunday and I was particularly impressed with David Loughnane and John Mulvey for Pearses. However Pearses will have to step up on their attacking performance last Sunday. They were poor from play and from frees and if they can get their act together in that department then they have every chance of taking this title.    I also thought that Pearses were much stronger when Dara Mulvey and Cathal Kelly came into that attack last Sunday.   Athleague will also have to improve if they want to win their second title in a row. They were far too dependent on the brilliant Mervyn Connaughton and it’s very tough to expect him be so influential for the team all the time.    Athleague did play well in defence last weekend too and Colm Moran and Niall Connolly are both great leaders in that sector.   Up front Tommy Reddington and Gary Fallon will have to get into the game far more if Athleague are to win the title, as will Shane McGeeney and Joe Fallon.   I believe that this replay could be an open, attacking and free-flowing game and that the match will again be very, very tight.    Pearses have not won a title since 1987 and it’s far too long a gap for a club of their stature. However Athleague are gunning for glory too. They have not won two in a row since 1937 and they would love to be able to bridge that gap.    Above any game this year, I find it almost impossible to call this one. However I am going to give the slightest of slight edges to Pearses to win the Mickey Cunniffe  Cup for the first time and collect their first title  since 1987 – and it might even take extra-time to decide it! Prediction: Padraig Pearses.