The battle for the Fahey Cup intensifies this Sunday as the two semi-finals of the Shannonside FM Senior Football Championship take place at Dr. Hyde Park, with Kilbride taking on last yearís beaten finalists Elphin and Western Gaels facing reigning champions St. Brigidís.
Kilbride have perhaps been the romantic story of the championship so far as all of the other teams competing this Sunday would have expected to reach the last four at the very least once the draw was made. However they face an Elphin team who, without yet setting the world alight this season, have still proven to be a tough but to crack.
Kilbride did ever so well to emerge victorious from the last outing, against Kilmore, with a flurry of scores during the final five minutes of that game capping a memorable win for the Fourmilehouse team. However their over-reliance on the Lohan brothers, Gerry and Eddie, could prove to be their downfall this weekend. Quite simply, when the former county stars play well, Kilbride play well, so Elphin will know that if they can curb the influence of the dynamic duo then Kilbrideís scoring prowess will be severely compromised. If the Fourmilehouse team are to prove victorious this weekend then they will need to get a better return out of county star Conor Devanney, who has drifted in and out of games of late. On his day he is capable of turning defences inside out but he needs to play closer to goal and resist the temptation of roaming out the field when the ball isnít forthcoming.
Elphin have snuck in under the radar again this year, with a string of low-key performances setting them up for this eagerly-awaited tie. After last yearís exploits, Peter Carney will feel the team have enough experience to qualify for the final once more, however injuries have hampered their preparation and they may well be without a number of influential figures this Sunday. Both Colm Rock and Conor Beirne are struggling to be fit and, taking into account that these two players were instrumental in last yearís run to the final, they will be sorely missed this Sunday if they donít line out.
Elphinís greatest asset over the last twelve months or so has been their ability to concede very little throughout matches, meaning that they are always in contention during games. They need to get a better return out of their forward-line this Sunday but have the ammunition to do so with Frankie and Fintan Cregg in particular capable of delivering the scores when they turn on the style.
A low-scoring encounter is anticipated. One couldnít rule out a draw, however Elphin, who will feel they have a score to settle after last yearís county final defeat, should prevail Ė but only just.
The second semi-final on Sunday is a mouth-watering prospect and features Western Gaels and St. Brigids. The Gaelsí season exploded into life two weeks ago with a resounding nine-point win over arch-rivals Castlerea. They have some of the most influential individuals in Roscommon club football at the moment and this point could not have been illustratated more appropriately than through the performance of Cathal Cregg last time out. He was outstanding, almost single-handedly orchestrating the downfall of Castlerea.
Cregg and his team-mates will have to reproduce the same type of performance this weekend if they are to defeat what almost seems like an indestructable St. Brigidís team. They booked their place in the semi-finals of the championship by virtue of a routine win over Strokestown last Saturday evening and have showed no signs of player fatigue after a long, hard season of championship football. They ooze class and quality throughout the field and their main strength still remains their ability to provide Senan Kilbride, who kicked 2-4 last weekend, with inch-perfect ball.
The Gaels may well have to play a sweeper to counteract the influence of Kilbride this weekend. However, when one door closes another one opens and even if they manage to quell Kilbride Brigids have many others who can carry the mantle.
Regardless of the result, this game should be a great spectacle but one would imagine that St. Brigidís will prevail, which if they do so will mean a sixth county final appearance in ten years.