When Pearses’ historic year of 2019 ended with defeat to Corofin in the Connacht final last November, nobody leaving Tuam Stadium could have imagined that the next time the Roscommon champions would play a competitive match would be nine months later. So it has turned out, and there’s no room for easing back into things as it’s a re-match against last season’s rivals, Boyle. This will be a championship like no other, with lots of twists and turns.
Padraig Pearses: Pat Flanagan’s charges are in the box seat. They’ve a settled squad, a solid game plan and a team of winners who will go for broke for double delight. Their motto? Catch us if you can.
Clann na nGael: Will the real Clann please stand up? Champions in 2015 and 2018, in between they were either average or downright disappointing. They’ve work to do but have the capabilities to be in the race coming up to the closing furlong.
St Brigid’s: The team of the past decade with seven senior titles to their credit. Benny O’Brien’s side may lack experience but they have a crop of young exciting talented footballers and no one will fancy playing them in a knock-out contest.
Roscommon Gaels: It’s hard to believe its 2004 since the Gaels were senior champions. Perhaps the return of Leeds United to the top flight after 16 years out of the limelight could be an omen. Liam McNeill is in year six as manager but they lack an out and out forward to get them over the line.
Boyle: Two semi-finals in recent seasons suggest they are going in the right direction. If they are to reach the promise land they need to develop a cuter mindset, closing out big games against the cream of the crop.
Western Gaels: Of the twelve apostles operating in the senior championship, this disciple has yet to reach the round table and dine with the big boys. Witnessing Padraig Pearses eventually walking through the golden gates will inspire them to keep up the chase. Can Fergal O’Donnell deliver the Holy Grail? First, they must win a big knock-out championship game.
Michael Glaveys: They are beginning to resemble a proper senior championship team, with a mix of youth and experience, not to mention forwards who can score. No team will relish playing these boys in a one-off encounter and they’re capable of taking out one of the top six.
Fuerty: Can last year’s surprise packages come up with another hit single? The loss of Niall Kilroy and Aengus Lyons makes recording another album so much harder. They’ll struggle to reach last season’s heights.
Strokestown: The Black and Amber are a mystery. The county has been waiting for their flush of youth to finally come good, but it hasn’t happened. Their opening battle with Elphin will define their season.
Elphin: They’ve being playing senior football since 2003 and have lost county finals along the way. The club has some great players and is always capable of producing one big result each season. Solid and reliable, but lacking a cutting edge up front.
St. Croan’s: They’ve held their senior status since 2014 and like the late Paul Daniels, can always pull a rabbit from the hat. It may well come down to a last man standing battle with neighbours Tulsk.
Tulsk: The Intermediate graduates of 2019 enter life in the fast lane, and their first three assignments are laced with danger. On the plus side, they’ll be well-equipped for a potential relegation tussle. The only dish on the menu is safety.
ST. FAITHLEACH’S TO INTER THE WINNERS’ ENCLOSURE
St. Faithleach’s: The front runners, who will be expected to lead from pillar to post. It’s hard to see any defence holding the Murtagh brothers, who could do more damage to an opposition defence than coronavirus at a large indoor gathering.
Oran: Life doesn’t get any easier for Billy Donnellan’s troops, with three IFC finals defeats in the past four years. Now they find themselves in the group of death. If this championship was a Grand National, Oran would be the housewives’ favourite because of their recent heartbreaks.
St. Dominic’s: Keep a close eye on these boys, who could be one of the most entertaining sides to watch due to their youth, desire and hunger. The arrival of Darren Dolan will plug many holes as he can be a play-maker, man marker and target man.
Castlerea St Kevin’s: David Casey will now have a better handle of his team. His first mission will be to finish in the top two amid tricky and dangerous company in group A. Some good team in this group will be caught at the wrong end of the table.
Creggs: They let Oran wriggle of the hook in last year’s quarter-final and look set for another quarter-final slot this time round. They’ll be a tough nut to crack if their up-ward curve continues.
Kilmore: Two Boyle men go head to head in game one, as Cian Smith faces Castlerea’s David Casey on the opening night with so much at stake. One thing is certain – Kilmore will leave it all on the field of play.
Éire Óg: The Loughglynn men have gone from column inches to back page news with the arrival of Conor Cox. All of a sudden, they’re part of the conversation when we talk about who will win the Jamesie Murray Cup.
St. Barry’s: After avoiding some big hitters, St. Barry’s have being given a wonderful opportunity to reach the quarter-finals and avoid relegation nerves. They’ll target Shannon Gaels and Ballinameen.
Kilbride: Step by step, brick by brick, Kilbride are trying to put a firm foundation in place and will fancy – at worst – being involved at the knock-out stages of the championship.
Shannon Gaels: If they explode out of the traps, they could be a wild card. The Croghan men will relish the prospect of pulling an ambush on St. Barry’s and Ballinameen.
St. Aidan’s: The club were last Intermediate champions in 2012, but in the following years lost most of those established players and are currently in transition. With such fabulous facilities, it would be great to see results improve.
Ballinameen: If last season’s junior champions were in any other group, they would be yesterday’s fish and chips wrapping. But, group C makes them as slippy as an eel and hard to catch.