Sights set on final!

TG4 All-Ireland Ladies IFC Semi-Final: Roscommon v Westmeath on Sunday at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park at 1 pm


Roscommon Ladies footballers face a very tough examination when they take the field at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park in Longford in the TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate semi-final on Sunday, as their Westmeath opposition are just down from senior ranks and have targeted a quick return to the top table after this year’s championship.

In this year’s revamped competition, both sides have been impressive in attack, but the Lake County girls will be the bookies’ favourites to advance to the final where the winners will face Clare or Meath, who play on Saturday.

For Roscommon, the preparations have gone well for manager Michael Finneran and his backroom team. The extended break due to Covid-19 has given a lot of the injured players a chance to reach full fitness and the squad has been boosted by the arrival of excellent performers this year like Caroline Conway (who has returned to the fold), Lisa O’Rourke and Elaine Murren, to name just three. The addition of a number of last year’s minor team has also been a big factor this year. It’s the strongest Roscommon ladies team we have seen in a number of seasons.

However, it has to be said that Roscommon will have to perform better than we have seen to date if they are to secure a final place in Croke Park. The role of the more senior players in the Roscommon squad will never have been more important.

Players like Helena Cummins, Sinead Kenny, Niamh Watson, Jenny Higgins, Laura Fleming, Caroline Conway, Joanne Cregg, Natalie McHugh and Sinead Glennon will all have to lead by example if Roscommon are to get over the line.

In the game against Offaly, the defence leaked four goals, and that will be a worry, especially against very sharp Westmeath attackers like Ciara Blundell and Karen Hegarty (both in their full-forward line). Both are excellent players with an eye for goal. Hegarty in particular has an excellent goal-scoring record. Westmeath scored nine goals in their first game against Longford and three in their second game against Louth.

Roscommon themselves have scored a very impressive 6-25 in their two games to date – which is a superb return – and Aimee O’Connor, Sinead Glennon, Aoife Gavin, Laura Fleming and Joanne Cregg have all been excellent thus far up front. The back-up provided by the likes of Rachel Fitzmaurice, Caroline Conway and Jenny Higgins around the middle of the park will be vital to that Roscommon attack.

The defence will have to ensure that they keep the ‘back door’ closed and Sinead Kenny, Honor Ennis, Elaine Murren, Roisin Wynne, Niamh Watson and Ellen Irwin will have to be really on their game on Sunday.

Westmeath also have a very impressive half-back line where Vicky Carr, captain Fiona Claffey and Angela Roche are superb players with the licence to attack.

As usual, the midfield battle will be crucial, where Roscommon’s Caroline Conway and Jenny Higgins will probably face off against Joanna Maher and Tracey Dillon.

The odds may favour Westmeath, but if Roscommon can stay in the game until the final quarter then it will be very interesting indeed. With the likes of Lisa O’Rourke, Kate Nolan, Sarah McVeigh and Louise Brady in reserve, Roscommon have strength off the bench that could be so important in those final few minutes.

In a year where we have seen several major shocks in the GAA championships, Roscommon go into this semi-final with every chance. If they play to the standard that we saw at times against Offaly and Wexford for the entire game, Michael Finneran’s team could bring a smile to the faces of every Roscommon GAA fan in what has been a miserable year off the field.

The popular Roscommon manager has done a super job in his four-year term at the helm and he will bow out after Roscommon’s interest in the championship comes to an end. It would be a dream come true if his final game in charge was to be an All-Ireland final in Croke Park. Stranger things have happened.

Prediction: Roscommon.