AIB Connacht Club SFC Semi-Final: Pádraig Pearses v Mountbellew/Moylough on Sunday at Dr. Hyde Park at 1.30 pm
Followers of the GAA club scene will be gearing up for a derby of sorts this Sunday when the Galway champions come to Dr. Hyde Park to face Pádraig Pearses in this provincial semi-final.
While Pearses didn’t make progress in Connacht two years ago following their first ever Fahey Cup win, things are different this time around. The Roscommon champions look a very solid side with plenty of experience and they will want to put their stamp on the provincial championship this year.
Having pushed Corofin all the way on a number of occasions in recent years, Mountbellew/Moylough 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 last Sunday to qualify for this semi-final with a storming second half.
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 be at least able to get a share of the spoils in this vital area.
Pearses have been very solid this 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 while Paul Carey, Emmet Kelly and Conor Payne will be hoping to continue their best form from the Roscommon campaign.
There will not be much between these teams. Mountbellew/Moylough got a searching test last Sunday and that will stand to them. But this Pearses team look settled, experienced and ideally placed to make a serious assault on this championship after a month’s break. Prediction: Pádraig Pearses