Odds ‘stacked’ in favour of St Brigid’s – but no room for complacency!

AIB Connacht Club SFC quarter-final: St Brigid’s v Coolera-Strandhill (Sligo) on Sunday in Dr Hyde Park at 2 pm

St. Brigid’s joint captain Paul McGrath has been a pivotal player for his team in this year’s championship and will be hoping they can overcome the challenge of Coolera-Strandhill on Sunday. Pic: Bernie O’Farrell

Having had more than a little difficulty dealing with the challenge of Boyle in the recent county senior final, St Brigid’s can now set their sights on a run in the Connacht Club Championship and they begin that campaign with a game against the recently crowned Sligo champions Coolera-Strandhill this Sunday.

St Brigid’s will go into the game as strong favourites to advance to a semi-final against the Leitrim champions Mohill, with the form book suggesting that Jerome Stack’s men should be able to negotiate this hurdle, particularly on home ground.

However, the fright that they were given by Boyle in the recent county final should be a warning to the Roscommon standard-bearers that they will have to perform well if they are to advance to the semi-final. Indeed if St Brigid’s were to be successful in this championship all their Connacht games would be played in Hyde Park, but that’s for another day. One step at a time, and a victory on Sunday must be attained first.

Coolera-Strandhill recently won their first Sligo county title since 2005, defeating St Molaise Gaels by 0-11 to 0-8 in the final. (2023 was the first time in eight years that Tourlestrane were defeated in the Sligo senior championship; they were going for their 8th title on the trot).

Coolera-Strandhill have a number of well-known players such as Luke Bree, Keelan Cawley, Peter Laffey and Ross Doherty, but their highest profile and most talented player is full-forward Niall Murphy, a class act who would get on any club or county team in the country. St Brigid’s will have to watch him very closely on Sunday, because he is a match-winner who is equally proficient off either foot, being deadly accurate from play and frees.

As for St Brigid’s, it looks like Brian Stack will be given the job of marking Niall Murphy, a clash which would  have a major bearing on the outcome.

Cormac Sheehy has been excellent all season in goal. His kick-outs have been a major reason for the success enjoyed by St Brigid’s. Ronan Stack, Ruaidhri Fallon and Alan Daly have also been very effective in the half-back line.

Shane Cunnane and Eddie Nolan will be hoping to win the midfield battle, while up front Ben O’Carroll will lead the Brigid’s attack. Paul McGrath, Conor Hand, Ciaran Sugrue and Bobby Nugent will all be key players. With the likes of Brian Derwin and Mark Daly waiting in the wings, it’s clearly a very strong Brigid’s panel.

Football at this time of the year tends to be low-scoring and weather conditions are always a factor. However, the Dr Hyde Park pitch is an excellent surface and it should suit St Brigid’s. If they can play to their strengths up front they should have enough to advance to the Connacht semi-final.

Prediction: St Brigid’s.