Pearses’ famine is greatest, but Clann to end 19-year wait?
Hodson Bay Hotel Roscommon SFC Final: Clann na nGael -v- Padraig Pearses on Sunday in Dr Hyde Park at 4.30 pm
Few people would have predicted that these teams would have qualified for the county senior final this year, but, like two good racehorses, they are coming into form at just the right time and both have legitimate claims to take the Fahey Cup home on Sunday.
Those of us who are old enough to remember it will recall a time when Clann na nGael were lords of all they surveyed in Roscommon club football. (For example, Roscommon People columnist Tony McManus won a total of 14 county senior medals!).
But time has moved on, and it is 1997 since they were in a final. None of the players who will line out on Sunday have ever played in a county senior final, never mind win one. Even more remarkable is the fact that Padraig Pearses have never won a Roscommon senior football championship title.
It’s not as if the club have been in the doldrums over the years either. They went down to intermediate ranks for one year but bounced back immediately and for the past 40 years they have been at or near the top of the Roscommon club football scene and have contested many finals, without ever managing to get over the line.
In fact one recalls in 2012, the season in which St Bridid’s went on to win the All-Ireland title: Padraig Pearses almost caused the shock of the year, with Brigid’s scraping through by a single point in Kiltoom.
Both of Sunday’s finalists have been slow to get into form this year. Pearses appointed Shane Curran as manager at the start of the year and he imposed a more defensive-style game on his side, with a reliance on counter-attacking. It had limited success early on but it took a while to bed in.
However it all came together in the semi-final when they blew a fancied Roscommon Gaels away, playing some great football. A repeat of that performance on Sunday next could see Pearses end their famine.
Pearses have some super players, a lot of whom have county experience. Davy Murray has had a great year at corner-back and the Dalys, Niall, Conor and Ronan, will all have huge roles to play, with Conor and Niall probably starting at midfield, with Niall in a roving role. Niall Carty has been troubled by injury this year but he has made a huge contribution to the Pearses effort.
It’s a real team effort with Pearses. Anthony Butler, Enda Barrett, Paul Kelly and the joint team captain, Seanie Fahy, have loads of experience, while there are top class young players like Hubert Darcy, Emmet Kelly and Tom Butler.
Shane Curran needs one more big display from his charges on Sunday. They will need it too. Clann have been beaten three times in the championship this year but they have shown significant improvement in their last two games.
Paul Curran’s team is very young, with many players in the U-21 bracket. Against Castlerea and St Brigid’s they played some super football and the younger players are beginning to show the maturity that Paul Curran was hoping for all year.
Clann’s young guns, such as Fergal Lennon, Jack Connaughton, Jamie Fahy and Ultan Harney, are vital to the performance of the team. But lads like David Flynn, Graham Pettit, Ronan Gavin and Matt Scally have all been there for a while in the Clann jersey too.
But the key players on Sunday for Clann could well be their most experienced men, Donie Shine, Cathal Shine and team captain Johnny Dunning. Against St Brigid’s, Cathal and Donie dominated the midfield exchanges and they will have to do that on Sunday again.
Johnny Dunning has huge experience and his leadership role will be crucial. It is a very difficult game to call. Free-takers Donie Shine for Clann, and Emmet Kelly and Seanie Fahy for Pearses, will have crucial roles to play.
I am not ruling out a draw here and I know that many neutrals would love to see Pearses winning their first ever title. Some of the finest GAA people that I have met over the years have served Pearses and they surely deserve to win a senior football title.
But there is no sentiment in sport and Clann have a 20-year hunger to satisfy too. I am leaning towards Clann, by a point or two.
Match odds: Clann na nGael 4/6; Padraig Pearses 6/4; Draw 7/1.
People Sport Prediction: Clann na nGael.