Never mind the UFC…the SFC is back and SEAMUS DUKE is back from New York with crystal ball in hand…
* The 2016 Hodson Bay Hotel Roscommon SFC race promises to be a thrilling one and one of the most open in years. Clann na nGael will be putting their title on the line after winning last year for the first time in almost two decades. But there are plenty of other teams with legitimate claims to being serious Fahey Cup contenders this year. Roscommon Gaels have been knocking on the door in recent years and will be anxious to win their first title since 2004.
St. Brigid’s, under Frankie Dolan, will be keen to get back on top of the pile after years of domination and others with chances are Padraig Pearses and Strokestown, with Boyle and Western Gaels possible dark horses.
Gaels and Clann to make history at Lisnamult
People Sport Game of the Weekend
Who’s in action? Roscommon Gaels v Clann na nGael (Group A).
Where and when? At Lisnamult on Saturday at 7 pm.
Who’s in charge? Liam McNeill (Roscommon Gaels); Paul Curran (Clann na nGael).
Players to watch: John McManus, James McDermott, Cian Connolly (now out through injury), Kieran Kilcline, Enda Lannon, Scottie Oates (Roscommon Gaels); Cathal Shine, Jack Connaughton, Fergal Lennon, Ultan Harney, Cathal Callinan, Donie Shine.
Key battleground: History will be made on Saturday as these two old rivals meet in the first ever championship game to be played at Roscommon Gaels’ new grounds at Lisnamult.
The Gaels have been impressive in the league and are currently top of the Division One table. However there are injury doubts concerning David O’Gara and Scottie Oates, while Mark Healy is out long-term. Then last weekend Cian Connolly suffered a facial injury in New York that will rule him out.
Clann have been very inconsistent and have mixed the good with the bad so far this year. However if they can field close to a full side they will be very keen to put down a marker in this game for the rest of the championship. It could be a cracking encounter. People Sport prediction: Clann na nGael, by two points.
Boyle attack to swing it?
Who’s in action? Boyle v Castlerea St. Kevin’s (Group A).
Where and when? At The Abbey Park, Boyle on Sunday at 2 pm.
Who’s in charge? Mick Jordan (Boyle); Nigel Dineen (Castlerea St. Kevin’s).
Players to watch: Neil Collins, Darren McDermott, Fintan Kelly, Ger Heneghan (Castlerea); Enda Smith, Donie Smith, Evan McGrath, Tadhg Lowe, Seanie Purcell (Boyle).
Key battleground: This looks an evenly-matched tie with both sides eager to start with a win. There are injury doubts about Darren McDermott for Castlerea and Seanie Purcell for Boyle. Mick Jordan’s side look a little stronger up front and with Donie Smith back to full fitness they look the better bet here. People Sport prediction: Boyle.
Great derby in prospect
Who’s in action? Padraig Pearses v St. Brigid’s (Group A).
Where and when? At Pairc an Piarsaigh on Sunday at 2 pm.
Who’s in charge? Shane Curran (Padraig Pearses); Frankie Dolan (St. Brigid’s).
Players to watch: Gearoid Cunniffe, Ronan Stack (if fit), Senan Kilbride, Cathal McHugh, Brian Stack, Niall McInerney (St. Brigid’s); Niall Carty, Conor Daly, Davy Murray, Niall Daly, Ronan Daly, Seanie Fahy, Hubert Darcy (Padraig Pearses).
Key battleground: There’s always huge local rivalry between these two and this will be a very interesting battle. Brigid’s will be hoping to get off to a winning start but will be without Ian Kilbride (and maybe Ronan Stack too). Pearses had a great run to the final last year and will be hoping to go one better. It doesn’t look like there will be much in this one. Maybe Brigid’s have a bit more up front – they might just edge it. People Sport prediction: St. Brigid’s.
St Croan’s can start with win
Who’s in action? St. Croan’s v Michael Glavey’s (Group B).
Where and when? At O’Rourke Park, Castlerea on Saturday at 7.15 pm.
Who’s in charge? John Donnellan (St. Croan’s); James Hussey (Michael Glavey’s).
Players to watch: Mike Holland, Ross Timothy, James Connaughton, Kevin Smyth, Shane Smyth (St Croan’s); Gary Patterson, Caoileann Fitzmaurice, Andrew Glennon (Michael Glavey’s).
Key battleground: Michael Glavey’s play their first senior championship game in a number of years and they will be hoping to years and they will be hoping to consolidate their place in the senior ranks with this young team. Croan’s will be targeting this as a must-win game and they should have enough quality to win by four or five points. People Sport prediction: St Croan’s.
Can this duo realise potential?
Who’s in action? Strokestown v Western Gaels (Group B).
Where and when? At The Orchard Park, Elphin on Saturday at 7.15 pm.
Who’s in charge? Damien Donlon (Strokestown); Donal Cassidy (Western Gaels).
Players to watch: Sean Mullooly, Thomas Corcoran, Cathal Compton, Diarmuid McGann, Colin Compton (Strokestown); Seanie McDermott, Cathal Cregg, Finbarr Cregg, Derek Moran (Western Gaels).
Key battleground: Both these teams have flattered to deceive in the championship in the past few years. They both have some super players, so this year they will be hoping to make an impact. This looks the closest of any of the games in this senior championship this weekend. I’m going to sit on the fence. People Sport prediction: A draw.
Elphin to keep Murtaghs at bay?
Who’s in action? St. Faithleach’s v Elphin.
Where and when? At Kilglass GAA Grounds on Sunday at 2 pm.
Who’s in charge? Gareth Johnson (St. Faithleach’s); Jimmy Donohoe (Elphin).
Players to watch: Diarmuid Murtagh, Ciaran Murtagh, Darragh Hussey, Kevin Farrell, Brian Murtagh (St. Faithleach’s); Shane Killoran, Fintan Cregg, Frankie Cregg, Paddy O’Connor (Elphin).
Key battleground: Another tight call here. St. Faithleach’s have great firepower up front with the Murtagh brothers, but Elphin look the stronger side overall and they might just shade it. People Sport prediction: Elphin.
What the bookies say…
The bookies think St. Brigid’s will regain the title, with the odds on the 2016 Roscommon SFC being as follows: St. Brigid’s 13/8, Roscommon Gaels 4/1, Clann na nGael 9/2, Padraig Pearses 9/2, Western Gaels 12/1, St. Faithleach’s 12/1, Castlerea St. Kevin’s 14/1, Boyle 14/1, Strokestown 20/1, St. Croan’s 33/1, Elphin 50/1, Michael Glavey’s 50/1.