Pearses can have final say!

AIB Connacht Club SFC Semi-Final:

Pádraig Pearses v Mountbellew/Moylough on Saturday at Dr. Hyde Park at 1.30 pm

 A two-week hold-up because of Covid has meant that this eagerly awaited Connacht semi-final will now probably be played in far worse weather conditions than would have been the case when the fixture was due to have gone ahead. Nevertheless for both sides the prize is a big one, a place in the provincial decider against Knockmore in early January.

With the worst of the winter weather coming over the past week or so, the chances are that this will be a low-scoring and hard-fought match that will go right to the wire so don’t be surprised if it takes extra-time to produce a winner.

Having won the first senior title in their history just two years ago, it was probably understandable that Pearses didn’t make progress in Connacht given that to win the Fahey Cup in 2019 was their primary objective. But this time around the situation is different. Pearses look a very solid side with plenty of experience, and under the wily Pat Flanagan they will want to put their stamp on the provincial championship this year.

Pearses have been very solid all year and with Anthony Butler, Ronan Daly and Davy Murray outstanding in defence, the Galway champions will have to be at their best to cause problems up front, although Pearses would be well advised to minimise the amount of scoreable frees they give away as Barry McHugh is a top-class operator from the placed ball.

Hubert Darcy will have a huge role to play at full forward and his ball winning ability will be another vital component for Pearses. Paul Carey, Emmet Kelly and Conor Payne will be hoping to continue their best form from the Roscommon campaign.

Mountbellew/Moylough will provide very stern opposition. Having pushed Corofin all the way on a number of occasions in recent years, they finally saw them off in the Galway final three weeks ago to win their first senior title since 1986. Not only that, but they recovered from being seven points down against Leitrim champions Ballinamore to qualify for this semi-final with a storming second half. The longer break after the Ballinamore match could be a help to them, although one does not know the extent of the Covid problem that caused this game to be re-fixed in the first instance.

Under the guidance of former star Val Daly, the Galway champions have several very talented players, not least John and Michael Daly (sons of the manager), Barry McHugh, Eoin Finnerty, Colin Murray and Paul Donnellan. Their midfield combination of Michael Daly and Matthew Barrett looks especially strong, and Pearses will have to be ready to compete fiercely in this sector. But with Conor and Niall Daly there, I expect that Pat Flanagan’s men will at least able to get a share of the spoils in this vital area.

There will not be much between these teams. The conditions alone will determine that. Mountbellew/Moylough got a searching test from Ballinamore and that will stand to them. But this Pearses team look settled, experienced and ideally placed to make a serious assault on the provincial championship after a six-week break since they won the Roscommon title. I expect them to win here by a couple of points and get to the final against Knockmore in early 2022, but it will be close.

Prediction: Pádraig Pearses