The 2018 Roscommon Senior Football Championship begins this weekend and Seamus Duke runs the rule over the opening round of fixtures from Groups A and B...
Group A: St. Brigid’s, Clann na nGael, Strokestown, Boyle, Roscommon Gaels, Western Gaels.
Game Of The Weekend
Roscommon Gaels v Western Gaels
on Sunday in Enfield at 4.30 pm
Finalists last year, Roscommon Gaels will be hoping to go one better in 2018 and they have made a good start to the league season while training hard. But they will have to be sharper up front when it comes to the crucial championship games. John McManus is out with a hamstring problem and John Nolan is doubtful. Cian Connolly and Mark Healy will be crucial to the Gaels’ challenge once again and Kieran Kilcline will have to fulfil his undoubted potential if the town side are to prosper.
There’s no doubt about Western Gaels’ pedigree and their army of talented players. Seanie McDermott, the Cregg brothers, Ciaran Cafferky and Kevin Higgins will lead the charge once again. It is time that the Frenchpark based outfit delivered a championship but they will have their work cut out again.
When the sides met in the league a few weeks ago the town Gaels won the match but that game will have absolutely no bearing on what happens here. Roscommon Gaels have another tough game against Clann next week so Liam McNeill will want to get at least one win out of those games. I am finding it hard to separate them and I will sit on the fence this time.
Clann na nGael v St. Brigid’s
on Saturday at Pairc an Piarsaigh at 5 pm
Despite not being the side they were a few years ago, defending champions Brigid’s will still be the team to beat in the 2018 championship. With Frankie Dolan still at the helm they have won their opening two league games and have been busy playing challenge games. Some of the old guard remain and Senan and Ian Kilbride, Niall McInerney, Garvan Dolan and Darren Dolan have been joined by a host of young up and coming players like Brian Stack, Eddie Nolan and Brian Derwin.
The return to full fitness of Ultan Harney is a huge boost for Clann and with the Lennon brothers, Jack Connaughton and Donie Shine on board they will be a match for most sides. The opener against Brigid’s will be a good indicator of where they are.
This game will be a lot closer than people are predicting. Clann know that a win would give them the perfect start to their campaign. Brigid’s have been slow starters in recent years but I am giving them a hesitant nod to edge it.
Prediction: St. Brigid’s
Strokestown v Boyle
on Sunday in Strokestown at 3.45 pm
Strokestown will be hoping that their undoubted potential will finally come to fruition under Nigel Dineen. But despite some good early season form, the jury is still out on whether this can be their breakthrough year. The absence of Sean Mullooly will be severe and they will be hoping the likes of Thomas Corcoran, the Compton brothers, Kevin Finn, Daniel Rogers, Diarmuid McGann, Davy Neary and Cian Corcoran can step up to the plate. They have so many good players but the $64,000 question is can they do it on the big day?
Semi-finalists from last year and under the new management of Basil Mannion and Gerry Emmett, Boyle are a side who have loads of punch up front and any team that can count on Donie Smith, Enda Smith, and Cian McKeon in attack must be respected. It will be interesting to see how new recruit Seamus Kane does in his first championship game. Seanie Purcell is a doubt and that would be a blow for Boyle.
There could be plenty of scores in this match and the outcome could well depend on who comes out on top at midfield. It’s likely that Cathal Compton and Thomas Corcoran will be the Strokestown pairing there against Roch Hanmore and Kieran Cox. The Boyle attack looks to have more in hand and I fancy them to win.
Group B: Pádraig Pearses, Castlerea St. Kevin’s, St. Faithleach’s, Michael Glavey’s, St. Croan’s, Elphin.
Pádraig Pearses v Castlerea St. Kevin’s
on Saturday at Pairc an Piarsaigh at 6.45 pm
The prize for the unluckiest club over the past decade in the SFC goes to Pádraig Pearses, who have lost out narrowly on a number of occasions.
This year they have recruited a wily and experienced manager in Pat Flanagan who might well be the missing link that they needed. The Daly brothers Niall, Conor and Ronan, Davy Murray, Hubert Darcy and Shane Carty are proven performers and Pearses have a number of talented youngsters to add to their line-up.
That Castlerea St. Kevin’s survived in the senior ranks by the skin of their teeth in 2017 was largely down to the likes of Ger Heneghan, Darren McDermott and Fintan Kelly. Now Ger Heneghan is gone and his loss will be huge. He has been a marvellous servant for them over the past decade. It could be a long hard season for Castlerea.
This is the perfect way for Pearses to get going in the championship. It would be a shocker if they do not prevail here and they should with a bit to spare but there will be bigger tests ahead.
Prediction: Pádraig Pearses
St. Faithleach’s v Michael Glavey’s
on Sunday in Strokestown at 2 pm
St. Faithleach’s lost out to Boyle last weekend after being well ahead at one stage but when you have Diarmuid and Ciaráin Murtagh to call on there is always a chance of winning. Add in Brian Murtagh, Dave Rooney, Aidan Dooney and Dara Hussey and Faithleach’s have a potent attack. But it’s further back that they may be in trouble.
Michael Glavey’s have had a momentous year and it will be interesting to see how they have come out of their All-Ireland final appearance.
Darren O’Malley, Caoileann Fitzmaurice, Gary Patterson, Conor Hussey, Cathal Heneghan and Andy Glennon were superb in their run to Croker but it is very difficult to keep it going for such a long period of time. At their best Glavey’s will be a match for most teams in the senior championship.
This will certainly be one of the most interesting games of the weekend. Glavey’s will be very keen not only to maintain their senior status but to challenge for one of the two quarter-final spots. Faithleach’s were really unlucky last year losing a number of games by very small margins. They look to have the firepower to withstand a strong Glavey’s challenge.
Prediction: St. Faithleach’s
St. Croan’s v Elphin
on Sunday at Enfield at 6.15 pm
Elphin have been treading water in Section B over the past few years. Paddy O’Connor Shane Killoran, and the Creggs will once again fly the flag for the town side.
St. Croan’s have been struggling in recent weeks but they will be much stronger for this championship test. Ross Timothy, Maurice Connaughton, Cathal Connelly, Mike Holland and the Smyth brothers will all be prominent again for the home side.
The outcome here will depend on how strong either side can field. One thing is for certain there won’t be much in it. I have a fancy that Elphin might have the superior scoring power to edge it by a few points.