Saturday, July 04, 2020

Regardless of what way this year’s Roscommon senior football championship plays out, one thing is for sure. When the county final rolls around and the game ticks into the last ten minutes, once one club starts to look like the likely winners, some smug character in the crowd will talk about how they backed them at the start of the season at a big price.

Today, the Roscommon Herald is going to help you along the road to becoming that smug character. Here’s our rundown of the 12 teams in the race, based on their odds.

Pádraig Pearses – average price 5/2, best odds 11/4

There’s an innate thing in Irish people to rail against playing the role of favourite, or backing the favourite. Yet if logic is to be applied, Pearses should be far better suited to winning the 2020 championship than they were last year. As a mature group with largely the same panel returning, they didn’t need a league campaign to bed in new players. The psychological value of having finally shaken the monkey off their back in 2019 means that you can trust them in a tight finish in a way that you mightn’t have before last year, and whatever about ordinary club players losing their way during lockdown, county men will have kept their fitness up. At even money we’d think twice, but at this price, you either have to back them, or cover your stake.

Clann na nGael – average price 10/3, best odds 4/1

One would expect something of a bounce from any club team that brings in a high-profile manager like Liam Kearns, and yet it’s unclear how much benefit the Johnstown men will accrue from his arrival, given the short lead in to the championship. A lot of young players were introduced in 2019 and they endured some tough days in their first season at senior, but they will have learned from that. A league campaign would have been more beneficial than most – so while they’re very definitely in the list of potential winners, not at these prices.

How much can Liam Kearns do in a very short pre-season?

Roscommon Gaels – average price 7/2, best odds 4/1

Take Cian Connolly and Scott Oates out of last year’s team and you definitely have a weaker outfit, even allowing for the fact that they have a handful of younger players who are well-poised to step up and make an even more significant contribution this year. County finalists they may have been, but they got there by virtue of a series of wins over teams that weren’t front-runners for the Fahey Cup, and the final margin in that county final flattered them. They’ve far more to find than short odds like this might suggest.

Boyle – average price 7/1, best odds 8/1

In a generic championship preview, clubs like Clann, Roscommon Gaels and Boyle would be given a similar prognosis, as they all have realistic aspirations of winning the big prize, while having a bit to find. Yet for some reason, Boyle is double the price of the other two – which doesn’t make sense. Basil Mannion knows his players well, none of their key men are at the stage in their careers where they are obvious candidates for a decline in sharpness, and in a season where not many managers will be able to put in place elaborate tactical systems, there might be a lot more man-on-man football. Are there defenders in Roscommon who can contain Boyle’s star men in such a structure? Not too many.

Western Gaels – average price 7/1, best odds 8/1

It’s not that Fergal O’Donnell and his management team needed to learn a lot about the main men in Frenchpark, but this is a group that needs to find a little extra, and they need that with not a lot by way of young talent coming up and not a lot of preparation time to shape existing players into new roles. They’ll get out of their group and winning a quarter-final is eminently realistic, but it’s hard to see them doing much more.

St. Brigid’s – average price 15/2, best odds 8/1

You’ve to go back to the last millennium to find the last time that the men from Kiltoom were only contenders rather than either favourites or as near to that as made no difference in the Roscommon SFC. Yet when you look at the list of players that they’ve lost in recent seasons, the rawness of their new recruits who will be asked to make the step up from U-20 to senior football this year with no league preparation, and the general standard all across the county, and it’s not unreasonable to say that if Benny O’Brien pulls off a championship crown this year, it’ll be an achievement that can stand comparison with anything the club has done outside of their All-Ireland win seven years ago. 8/1 is far too short.

Strokestown – average price 10/1, best odds 12/1

A lot of things had to fall Strokestown’s way for them to reach a semi-final last year. They salvaged a result in Ballinlough against Michael Glaveys when it looked like all was lost, there’s a strong case for the argument that the key to their win over Fuerty in the quarter-final was Aengus Lyons’ injury, and when they did get to the business end of proceedings against Roscommon Gaels, they were way off the pace. On the flip side, Cathal Compton’s return is a huge boost to the side and it will be fascinating to see how they fare without losing three or four players to summer emigration, as has been the norm in the club. If you like a bet at this kind of price, you could do worse, though you possibly could do better as well.

Back in action, and bringing Strokestown into the conversation

Michael Glaveys – average price 20/1, best odds 25/1

The 2018 championship rolled up far too quickly after their run to Croke Park, and in 2019 they showed glimpses of their potential. If Cathal Heneghan is fit to play any kind of meaningful role and to take some of the scoring pressure away from Andy Glennon in the process, they could very well turn out to be the selection that gives good value to a small stakes punter late in the championship.

Fuerty – average price 20/1, best odds 25/1

It remains to be seen if Niall Kilroy’s injury is something that will keep him out for key championship games or simply impact on his preparation, but either way, sustaining the form they showed in 2019 won’t be easy. Dual clubs will have things very tough this Autumn and when you consider that Michael Glaveys are the same price, it’s impossible to justify a bet on Fuerty.

Elphin – average price 28/1, best odds 33/1

They aren’t consistent, but they are dangerous – and with games coming thick and fast, they’re the type of club that could hit a hot streak and the right time and cause a few upsets. That said, they probably need to get some momentum up and that won’t be easy in a group with St. Brigid’s and Clann. They’ll win a big game somewhere I suspect, but not a championship.

Elphin senior football manager Peter Carney congratulates Fintan Cregg following his side’s victory against St. Brigid’s last year.

St. Croan’s – average price 33/1, best odds 40/1

Their 2019 form was farcically up and down. Three abysmal performances (against Fuerty, St. Brigid’s and the Clann replay) were all followed by three very impressive showings (against Elphin, Clann and St. Faithleach’s) so how can you assess that? What you can say is that they’ve a lot of players who are moving into the latter stages of their career, they need a strong defensive structure to compensate for their lack of free-scoring forwards, and they won’t have found it easy to keep themselves going during the lockdown. We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it again – they’ll find a way to survive at senior by pulling a big performance out of the bag somewhere, but by the same token, winning the championship is out of the question.

Tulsk Lord Edwards – average price 33/1, best odds 50/1

More than any club in this championship, they needed a league to get ready for the championship. You simply can’t go from intermediate football to playing Boyle and Michael Glaveys, never mind Pearses, so it’s hard to see them winning a group game, never mind any knockout fixtures, so 50/1 might as well be 500/1 for all the difference it makes.

Overall recommendations:

Pearses to win @ 11/4, 50% of your stake

Boyle to win @ 8/1, 30% of your stake

Michael Glaveys to win @ 25/1, 10% of your stake each way.

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