St. Barry’s and Creggs an attractive pairing in junior final

County junior football championship final: St. Barry’s v Creggs. Sunday, 4 th of November at Tulsk. 2.30 pm.  A football match that promises to entertain a very large crowd of football enthusiasts at Tulsk next Sunday evening takes place when St. Barry’s and Creggs compete in the final of the County Junior Football Championship. The two teams will contest feverishly for a cherished trophy and for promotion to next year’s Intermediate Championship. Marty Parker of St. Faithleach’s has the pleasure of refereeing the game. St. Barry’s and Creggs have been predominant at this grade for the past number of years. St. Barry’s lost North-Board finals in 2004 and 2005 before losing last year’s county final; Creggs lost the 2005 county final to Tulsk and lost last year’s Mid-South final to Fuerty. St. Barry’s and Creggs both believe that they should have advanced to Intermediate grade football earlier this decade; the two clubs rue having ‘thrown it away’ over the course of the last three years. St. Barry’s prepare for this game as favourites, and the wise old heads of Roscommon GAA expect that the Tarmonbarry club will depart from Tulsk with the championship on Sunday evening. Barry’s were unexpectedly beaten in last year’s final by Fuerty, and their steely determination to avoid making the same mistake has been apparent to the team’s patrons throughout 2007. Gearoid Faye’s team eased its way to the final of the North Championship and proceeded to beat Kilglass Gaels by seven points after a replay. Creggs thirsts for success at this grade too. The club’s players and supporters were bitterly disappointed last year by its defeat to neighbours and rivals Fuerty in the Mid-South Championship final. Treading the backwaters of championship football is scarcely tolerable for this hugely talented football team, and every effort will be made by every Creggs player in this final. The absence of the talismanic Ronan Mitchell is a major loss for St. Barry’s. Mitchell sustained an injury in the prelude to the North-Board final and his team struggled for long periods in the drawn final without him. The deployment of Martin Guilford at midfield settled the team in the replay, however, and it is expected that Guilford will line out at centrefield on Sunday. Daragh Connelly’s suspension is regrettable for Creggs, but the Mid-South champions boast a fine repertoire of talented scoring forwards to fill the void. Ronan Kelly, Kenneth Hegarty, and Gerry Keegan are proven attackers at this level, and St. Barry’s corner-backs Ciaran Wallace and James Bennett will be busy on Sunday.  The deployment of David Keenan at centre-forward was central to the success of St. Barry’s in last month’s North-board final. Keenan has sustained his 2006 All-Ireland winning form and he performed well on a number of occasions for the county senior team during the last 12 months.    The battle between the DCU student and Creggs centre-back James McKeague will intrigue spectators in Tulsk. McKeague was a revelation for Roscommon’s minor team at number 6 this year and he has oozed class as the nucleus of Creggs’ defence this year. The battle between these two gifted young players will be seminal on Sunday. Midfield will be another major battleground. Jarleth Hughes and Colin Canny have partnered each other at midfield for Creggs for most of the last three years and Tommy Gately may elect to position the duo in the middle on Sunday. Hughes’s great attributes are clean fielding and incisive running; the physically imposing Canny exudes composure and provides his inside forwards with excellently accurate passes. Tom Fleming also generally features around the middle for Creggs where he uses his athleticism and physical strength to great effect. These three young men will nevertheless be challenged stiffly by St. Barry’s, for whom Guilford is enjoying excellent form for presently. Free-taking will inevitably be a significant determinant too, even if we are enjoying exceptionally dry weather for this time of year. On a good day Kenneth Hegarty rarely misses dead-balls for Creggs. The hugely-talented John Murtagh of St. Barry’s is also an expert. McKeague, Joel McPhilbin, and Michael O’Roarke comprise a Creggs half-back line that has overpowered all opposition in 2007. McKeague is rapidly emerging as the best young centre-back in Roscommon; O’Roarke and McPhilbin are able lieutenants who complement solid defensive skills with aptitudes for attacking forcefully. Aged just 21, the diminutive McPhilbin is nevertheless an old-hand in the art of wing-back play: he has sported the number five jersey for Creggs and St. Ciaran’s teams for most of the last five years. O’Roarke is enjoying his football at wing-back after a couple of years of playing in attack. Tony Fallon and Finbar McGowan will make life difficult for the two marauding wing-backs, however, and O’Roarke and McPhilbin may not be able to attack with the abandon that characterised their play in the mid-south championship. The contest between Conor Connelly at centre-forward for Creggs and Mick Regan at centre half-back for St. Barry’s will be a microcosm. Connelly’s form has been surprisingly indifferent this year and Regan has played excellently for St. Barry’s. The Creggs number 11 nonetheless was one of the best half-forwards in the country in the early years of this decade and if he finds form the St. Barry’s defence will struggle. It is almost impossible to anticipate the result of this game. Hunger and determination will not be factors; both sides possess these in abundance. The individual contests between McKeague and Keenan and Regan and Connelly will bear significantly on the flow of the game, and if Connelly finds his rhythm the Creggs supporters will be smiling.   Prediction: Creggs.