It has been a summer like no other in living memory, but Roscommon GAA club action will begin this coming weekend as six of the seven clubs involved in the competition play in the opening round of the Kepak SHC.
The circumstances may be different from anything we have seen in our lifetimes, but some things never change. Four Roads are still the team to beat after their impressive displays in last year’s championship. The Tisrara men are always the standard bearers in this competition – and this year is no different.
Joe Mannion’s men still have an impressive array of talent including David Dowd, Cormac Coyle, Johnny Moran, Micheal Kelly, Shane Curley, Conor Coyle and Cathal Dolan. Johnny Coyne and Brendan Mulry are just some of the familiar names that we have become used to. The champions look especially strong up front.
Athleague will be hoping to improve on last year’s effort, but with Fuerty playing in the SFC, there will be pressure on their dual players. New manager Padraig Mannion (from Ballygar) will have to juggle his resources with the footballers with the Bannons, Ben McGahon, Cian Murray, Robbie Fallon and the Lyons brothers (if fit) cases in point. Experienced players like Eamon Flanagan, Alan Moore, Gary Fallon, Niall Connolly, Pat Nolan and Robbie Fallon will have vital roles to play.
Pearses are always an enigma in this competition. At their best they can compete with any of the rest, and they will be very keen to improve on last year when they were well beaten by Four Roads in the semi-final. Shane Sweeney takes the reins this year. The prolific Daniel Glynn is back from his travels but there are question marks over this fitness. Men like Cathal Kelly, Shane Naughton, Padraig Dolan and Eoghan Costello and a number of impressive youngsters will keep their challenge strong.
The Rockfield club face the same problem as Athleague with their footballers also very strong and looking to win that elusive intermediate title. Cathal Kenny and Mark Gunning are back from abroad, but it’s likely that Thomas Fetherston will play just football this year. If Mike Fallon could get his best players on the field then Oran have plenty of talent to assist county player Hugh Rooney, but at the moment they look a little below the likes of Four Roads and Pearses.
The half-parish side welcome Seamus Qualter as manager and he will be relishing this challenge. The fitness of Niall Kilroy could be an issue. He would be a huge loss if unavailable. Peter and Mike Kellehan are top class players and Tremane always have a great spirit. They should win their opening game this weekend, against Roscommon Gaels.
The Knockcroghery men have been improving in recent seasons and they could well be a dark horse under new manager Noel Moran. They need a couple of wins to kick-start their challenge but they open with a very difficult match against the champions this weekend. However, with the likes of Mickey Joe Egan and Naos Connaughton up front, they look strong in that department. Jack and Keith Doyle are also good performers with Micheal Beirne and Conall Kennelly on the county panel this year.
The town team haven’t really made progress over the past number of years but under new manager Pat Clancy they will be hoping for an improvement this year. They will be looking to Paul Lennon, Kenny Doolan and Luke Clogher and a host of young players for inspiration, but it is hard to see them emerging this year.
* The commencement of action will be a welcome relief after months of inactivity. No dressing rooms can be used this weekend (prior to July 20th) and no cash will be taken on the turnstiles (as reported elsewhere in this sports section).
This weekend’s fixtures are as follows: Tremane v Roscommon Gaels on Saturday in Tremane at 7 pm; Padraig Pearses v Oran on Sunday in Athleague at 1.30 pm; Four Roads v St. Dominic’s on Sunday in Ballyforan at 5 pm. Athleague have a bye this weekend.