Hodson Bay Hotel Roscommon SFC Semi-Finals at Dr Hyde Park on Sunday
Roscommon Gaels v Boyle at 2 pm
Roscommon Gaels: Hard to read the form from Gaels’ point of view. They dealt fairly comfortably with all comers (including Boyle) until they ran into St. Brigid’s in their final group game. In mitigation, they were already through to the semi-finals and took to the field three or four regulars short that day, but it remains to be seen what effect a 25-point defeat will have on their challenge. Many feel that was a freak result and will not have any effect at all. We will know on Sunday.
More importantly, the Gaels will have to overcome a brittle mentality that they have shown in recent years when it comes to knock-out football and it is hard to believe that they have not even been in a final since they last won in 2003. But there are signs that there is a more of a cutting edge to the town team this year and they will need that to win on Sunday. If the St. Brigid’s result was just an aberration then the form looks fairly good. The Gaels will have to ensure that Cian Connolly is not expected to do all the heavy lifting in the scoring department.
Boyle: This is the second year in a row that Boyle have reached the semi-finals and they seem to be coming to the boil at just the right time. An ability to close out tight games is a very admirable trait and they have done that in recent games against St. Faithleach’s and Strokestown.
Boyle will be looking at this game as a real chance to get to a county senior final and they will point to the fact that when they were beaten by the Gaels earlier in the competition they were short a number of players. They are battle hardened after a number of tight finishes and they have a very impressive attack. But the fear would be that if Seanie Purcell is ruled out they could be in trouble at the back. They will need all their players to step up to the mark on Sunday and not leave it to Enda and Donie Smith and Cian McKeon.
A very tight call with good arguments on both sides as to who will win through. The availability or otherwise of Seanie Purcell is crucial to Boyle’s chances. Not only is he a superb defender but he is a leader as well and if he is missing Boyle could be in trouble. I know that the likes of Evan McGrath and Tadgh McKenna are good players but Purcell is the key man in defence. There are no question marks about Boyle’s ability in attack. Enda and Donie Smith are class acts and Cian McKeon is emerging as one of the players of the championship but we need to see more from the other Boyle attackers.
The Gaels looked good until they met St. Brigid’s, but they will be very keen to totally dismiss that result. They have very strong players throughout their team but in recent years they have flattered to deceive when it comes to the business end of the championship. However, I detect that this year may be different. There is more of an edge to them with the likes of Liam McNeela, John McManus, Paul Gleeson, David O’Gara, James McDermott, Ciaran Kilcline, Mark Nally and Cian Connolly all experienced players. The addition of Mark Healy and Scott Oates has strengthened their hand this summer, with Healy particularly effective.
If the Gaels can erase the memory of the Brigid’s debacle and can get an even break at midfield they can edge out Boyle in what should be a very close and competitive game. The Gaels have to get the monkey off their back some year and this could be their day, but there won’t be a lot in it.
Prediction: Roscommon Gaels
St. Brigid’s v Western Gaels at 3.45 pm
St. Brigid’s: Just like a good racehorse, Brigid’s are coming into form at just the right time. They muddled through the early rounds of the championship but in fairness they were short a lot of their established players. Since those players have returned Brigid’s have been improving with every game and are now the team to beat in the championship. Against Western Gaels in the group stages they lost by two points in a thrilling game but they will point to the fact that they missed a penalty with ten minutes to go that day and some of their returning players were only back a couple of days. They unleashed their considerable array of attacking talent against Roscommon Gaels and they remain the championship trailblazers. Brigid’s have so many players throughout their team with vast experience and a bagful of county medals in their back pockets it will be extremely hard to dislodge them, even if they are not the team of old that were good enough to win an All-Ireland title.
Western Gaels: A bit like Roscommon Gaels, they were going along nicely until they ran into St. Faithleach’s in their final group game and that defeat cost them a place in the semi-finals. But they got the dirty petrol out of the system with a superb display against Clann na nGael and they will be coming into this match with very high hopes given that they beat Brigid’s by two points earlier in the championship. Western Gaels have had a tendency to push the self-destruct button in big games in recent years. They have wonderful players throughout the field and in the two Creggs, Cathal and Finbar, a massive attacking threat. But they will know that unless they perform to a standard that they have not reached this year they will get nothing from an experienced and crafty Brigid’s side which has been around the block so many times.
This could be a high scoring game with excellent attacking players on both sides. But Brigid’s have experience and class in almost every line. Shane Mannion, Niall McInerney, Peter Domican, the Sheehys, Ian Kilbride, Garvan and Darren Dolan, Cathal McHugh, Ronan Stack, Senan Kilbride and the outstanding Brian Stack are all top class performers and those are only a few of the names they can call on.
Western Gaels will have to ensure that Cathal and Finbar Cregg are supported up front and there will be crucial roles for Ciaran Cafferky, Seanie McDermott and Kevin Higgins who will have to produce it on the day if they are going to have a chance. Derek Moran will be a loss for his free-taking prowess.
I am expecting a cracking game, but despite the fact that Western Gaels are capable of putting up a big score, it is hard to look beyond Brigid’s when it comes to experience, championship know how and getting the job done. Once again Senan Kilbride will be crucial and Brigid’s look the better bet to me.
Prediction: St. Brigid’s