Hodson Bay Hotel Roscommon SFC Final
St. Brigid’s v Clann na nGael on Sunday at Dr. Hyde Park at 4 pm
To most Roscommon GAA fans the most startling statistic about this final is that the teams have not met in a senior final in 21 years. Given the rivalry that exists between the two clubs and the fact that both have been so prominent in Roscommon club football over the years it is amazing that their paths have not crossed in a final in all that time.
In fact the recent history of both these clubs can be traced back to that last final meeting between the two in 1997. Between 1976 and 1997 Clann were the undisputed kingpins of Roscommon (and Connacht) club football. In that 21-year period they had won an astonishing 16 titles.
In 1997 Brigid’s were attempting to prevent Clann winning another three in a row and they had not won a senior title since 1969. Brigid’s enlisted the help of John O’Mahony to guide their team that year and it paid off. Since that day in 1997 Brigid’s have won a hugely impressive 11 Roscommon titles and of course added the All-Ireland club title in 2013.
This year Clann will attempt to deny Brigid’s win another three titles in a row and they will hope to add to the title they won back in 2015 which was their first title in 19 years.
But enough of the history and the stats. Who is best equipped to win the Fahey Cup in 2018? St. Brigid’s started the year poorly but were missing a lot of players. When the championship resumed in mid-August they had a lot of their players back and were far more solid.
Even the most committed Brigid’s follower will admit that the team has not been brilliant in this championship but they are getting the job done in every game which is a product of the vast experience that they have throughout their team. Panic is not in their vocabulary and they are improving with every game.
Niall McInerney, the Sheehy brothers, Peter Domican and Ian Kilbride have all been outstanding in defence at one stage or other.
In the engine room Garvan Dolan and Eddie Nolan have done well and Garvan Dolan is now one of the main free-takers on the team which is something new. Up front Senan Kilbride is still the main man and when on form is almost unmarkable. Clann will have to figure out a way of preventing him getting the ball which is no easy task. Brian Stack is also playing well and always a threat and Mark Daly and the youthful Brian Derwin are also threats up front.
Clann’s form is also very patchy. They began superbly with two good wins but against Strokestown they were poor, and against Western Gaels they were lucky to come out with a one-point win. The Johnstown men were excellent against Boyle and that put them in the last four. By all accounts they were lucky to come through the semi-final against Roscommon Gaels.
I have been really impressed by Stephen Flynn and Dara Pettit in the Clann full-back line. Pettit is improving with every game and he popped up to score the winning goal in the semi-final.
I expect to see Ultan Harney and Graham Pettit at midfield. Harney is a match winner on his day and will have a vital role to play. His presence this year has been a huge boost to the Johnstown men.
Donie Shine is the undoubted talisman, and apart from his free-taking skills, he is the leader and inspiration for his team. But he will need help especially from the very talented Ciarán Lennon and the likes of Cathal Callinan and Cian McManus. Matt Scally is ruled out and he will be a loss as he had been playing well in this championship. David Flynn and Fergal Lennon could be in contention for starting places for Clann after recovering from injuries and that would be a big boost to them.
The early season form marked Clann down as probably the favourites for the title but they have stuttered a little since. If they can rediscover the form that saw them defeat Brigid’s and Roscommon Gaels early in the championship, then they will be in with a huge chance.
Brigid’s championship know-how and big day experience is an asset that is invaluable, especially at club level. They have not turned in a good 60-minute display in any match this season but in recent weeks there have been signs that the old swagger is back, and if that’s the case then it could be bad news for Clann.
I am not expecting an open attacking game. It will be cagey and hard-fought with not much between them. It’s a hard game to call but the experience and the improving form of the defending champions looks like a match winning combination to me. Brigid’s look to have too many aces up their sleeves and I am going for them to edge home by a point or two.
Prediction: St. Brigid’s