Strokestown have mountain to climb in ‘John & Don’ derby

AIB Connacht SFC semi-final:
Moycullen v Strokestown on Sunday in Tuam Stadium at 1.30pm

John Rogers and Don Connellan, two old adversaries at club level and now rival managers, will lock horns in this intriguing Connacht semi-final in Tuam on Sunday when Strokestown travel to face Galway champions Moycullen.

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that Strokestown have a mountain to climb. Moycullen played their first ever game in the Connacht Club Senior Championship last Sunday against Westport (there was no Connacht Club Championship in 2020 when they won their first ever Galway crown) and, in front of a national TV audience, they handed a football lesson to the Mayo champions, putting up a score of 3-18 in the process.

Strokestown have been basking in the glow of a memorable Roscommon club championship triumph, one that will be savoured for many years. This is a different challenge, and John Rogers and his men will have to play better than they have done in any game thus far if they are to cause an upset.

Moycullen were most impressive up front last Sunday, with Dessie Conneely outstanding. He scored 0-10, with five from play. Not far behind him on the day were Niall Walsh, Sean Kelly and Owen Gallagher.

Niall Mulcahy, David Wynne, Eoghan Kelly, Tom Clarke and Sean Kelly were also superb, and Don Connellan could call on the likes of Conor Bohan, Mark Lydon and Aidan Claffey from the bench. They look a very solid and well coached outfit.

The Strokestown defence have been great all year but they will have to be at their very best to repel Moycullen. Sean Mullooly, Davy Neary, Keith Murphy, Timmy Gibbons and ‘player of the year’ Colm Neary will all have to be on top of their game on Sunday.

In attack, Colin Compton will lead the line, while Diarmuid McGann, Shane McGinley, Cathal Brogan and colleagues will need to be at their best.

Strokestown will aim to still be in the game entering the final quarter. Then it would be ‘game on’. However, this looks a bridge too far for John Rogers’ men. Moycullen are the deserved hot favourites and should prevail by four or five points.

Prediction: Moycullen.