SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP GROUP A
Elphin vs Strokestown, 7 p.m. in Kilmore
There are more high-profile games going on this weekend, but not too many which are likely to be as consequential for the clubs involved. It’s true to say that Elphin beat St. Brigid’s last year, and that Strokestown went further into the championship than either of the two South Roscommon clubs in the group. Yet, realistically, given the head to head rule, the loser of this one will be long odds on to finish bottom of the group.
With Cathal Compton, Kevin Finn and a few others back in their ranks, Strokestown look like they have that bit more quality and they will expect to prevail.
St. Brigid’s vs Clann na nGael, 7 p.m. in Dr. Hyde Park
All the reasons that Clann na nGael are likely to win this game are the same reasons why it’s the ideal fixture for Benny O’Brien and St. Brigid’s first time out. Clann may have a young team but most of their younger players have been blooded at the senior ranks, and harrowing as games like their defeat to Boyle may have been, that’s a rite of passage that a very young St. Brigid’s group have yet to experience.
There’s plenty of talent in Kiltoom but they need to find their feet. This game will help them in the long run, and possibly even in 2020 – but that’s not the same as saying they’re likely to win it.
VERDICT: CLANN NA NGAEL
SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP GROUP B
Roscommon Gaels vs Western Gaels, 5 p.m. in Lisnamult
Not unlike the big southern derby taking place just down the road, this will be an interesting range-finder for Western Gaels, and an ideal game from which Fergal O’Donnell will be able to calibrate and adjust his team for future challenges.
If O’Donnell just plays it safe and sends out Western Gaels with much the same team and positions as last year, they’ll be competitive – but he’ll know that in order to make meaningful progress this year, he’ll have to shake things up a bit. What they were doing simply wasn’t getting them to where they wanted to go, and a manager of O’Donnell’s calibre hasn’t gone to Frenchpark just to get to a quarter-final. But, for that very reason, they’re another club that badly needed a league.
Roscommon Gaels didn’t, not to nearly the same extend. Liam McNeill knows what he has in his panel and he knows that they’re not far off where they need to get to. These two clubs are in very different places right now, and that’s likely to tell on Saturday.
VERDICT: ROSCOMMON GAELS
St. Croan’s vs Fuerty, 7 p.m. in Enfield
These two clubs met at the same stage of last season’s championship and it was a non-event, with Fuerty moving 1-7 to 0-1 ahead after 25 minutes before Croan’s finally stopped the bleeding. It’s hard to imagine that things will work out that way this time. Eamon Towey will know Fuerty inside out and he’ll certainly have St. Croan’s briefed as to how to take on this challenge, while the absence through injury of Niall Kilroy and Aengus Lyons completely transforms Fuerty’s prospects.
Add in home advantage and there are a few reasons why this looks like the obvious choice for an upset win over the course of the weekend.
VERDICT: ST. CROAN’S
SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP GROUP C
Michael Glaveys vs Tulsk Lord Edwards, 4 p.m. in Ballinlough
It’s hard not to sympathise with Tulsk to a certain degree. They’ve finally made the breakthrough up to senior football but didn’t get the chance to find their feet in the league, and now they’ve to hit the ground running in what is probably their only realistic chance for a win in the group stages of competition.
In the opposite corner is a Michael Glaveys side that should, in theory at least, be better equipped than most to handle the lockdown. A significant cohort of their players would have kept up high levels of fitness throughout the closed period on account of their membership of the county panel, their age profile is that of a group that could really throw themselves into personal development, and notwithstanding some under par performances in recent years, Glaveys have earned their place in the middle tier of the Roscommon senior championship. Battles with relegation should, based on their ability, be a thing of the past.
Tulsk have a lot to prove before they could claim anything like the same.
VERDICT: MICHAEL GLAVEYS
INTERMEDIATE CHAMPIONSHIP GROUP B
St. Faithleach’s vs St. Aidan’s, 3 p.m. in Dr. Hyde Park
These two clubs have lived in different worlds in recent years, with St. Faithleach’s playing some good games in the senior championship while St. Aidan’s have diced with death in the shape of relegation to junior football.
When St. Faithleach’s got relegated, many people looked at their forward line and suggested that 2020 might even represent a good chance to win silverware: not just in Roscommon, but in Connacht. Things don’t always work out that simple and 2020 has proven that in a lot of ways, but even if they aren’t where they need to be in Ballyleague, they’ll still almost certainly pick up three wins from three starts in this group.
VERDICT: ST. FAITHLEACH’S
Kilbride vs Creggs, 4.30 p.m. in Oran
Some clubs will be hugely inconvenienced by having a comparatively short lead in time, but for a club like Creggs, where several key players are late back to gaelic football because of their rugby commitments, this is nothing new. If anything, Creggs should be well-suited by the current state of affairs. Managers tend to need to time to implement strong defensive structures, and if we end up with a lot more traditional “man on man” football in this competition, players like Ronan Dowd, Shane Dowd and Noel Gately can thrive.
It might be hard for people who’ve watched Roscommon club football for decades to accept, but right now, Kilbride simply don’t have the same level of talent as Creggs. Even allowing for their injury concerns last year, they still came incredibly close to losing out to Kilglass Gaels and finding themselves in a relegation battle. They might not be so lucky in 2020.
INTERMEDIATE CHAMPIONSHIP GROUP C
St. Barry’s vs St. Dominic’s, Saturday at 7 p.m. in Ballyleague
Until 2019, there was always the sense with St. Dominic’s that football was a burden on everyone involved in their Intermediate panel. The club knew they were capable of more, but it wasn’t quite happening and so the cycle of underachievement went on. Last year flipped that on its head, as Tomás Gilleran’s side played good, open football, reaching a championship semi-final and perhaps almost as important, winning a Tansey Cup. That might not be the most sought-after trophy in Roscommon, but when you’re out of the habit of winning, any silverware is very welcome.
Add in some very promising underage sides that will make a real contribution to the adult set up in the next four or five years, and you get the sense that St. Dominic’s will be a senior club in ten years’ time, and probably a quite competitive one at that.
It’s impossible to have a similarly positive outlook on things for St. Barry’s. Avoiding relegation last year was a serious achievement, and while the draw has been very kind, they’ll be looking at the other two fixtures to pick up wins – not this one.
VERDICT: ST. DOMINIC’S