It’s come to that stage of the season where getting on the Roscommon Herald Team of the Week means that you’re doing the business in important championship games, so the prestige has never been higher!
The stakes were raised considerably last weekend as eight teams fought it out for a place in a championship final, while four more went into battle trying to avoid the drop.
There were shootouts, blowouts, dogfights and arm wrestles, and when the dust settled, this is the Roscommon Herald’s 15 players that earned their slot on Team of the Week.
Goalkeeper: Paul Whelan (Pádraig Pearses)
The split second of hesitation that he showed before coming out to contest the high ball that Donie Shine touched to the net proved costly, but it was still a good overall outing for the Pearses custodian, who was solid under the high ball, accurate in most of his restarts and produced the save of the weekend to deny Feargal Lennon a goal just before half time.
Right Corner-Back: David Murray (Pádraig Pearses)
Ciarán Lennon had been in the form of his life this summer, taking on extra responsibility in the absence of Donie Shine, but he met his match in Murray, who did everything right — with the exception of his black card offence before half time.
Full-Back: Peter Domican (St. Brigid’s)
It’s easy to get swept away with the romance of St. Brigid’s team of young talent, but there are a few seasoned players also producing the goods and by dominating that all-important territory in front of his own goal, frustrating Cian McKeon in the process, Domican did his club a huge service last Sunday.
Another crucial clash with Hubert Darcy awaits.
Left Corner-Back: Stephen Flynn (Clann na nGael)
Flynn’s first start of the year was little short of flawless, as he completely shut down Hubert Darcy. The Pearses attacker shot just one free all afternoon, as Flynn calmly and quietly focused on the task of making sure he was in the right position to spoil the play every time Pat Flanagan’s men looked to bring Darcy into the game.
Right Half-Back: Eoin McCormack (St. Dominic’s)
It was Brendan O’Meara who actually lined out here for St. Dominic’s in their win over St. Faithleach’s and if we had named O’Meara here, that would have been fair enough as he — as well as fellow wing back Jack Lohan — were very impressive.
However Eoin McCormack put in one of the best individual displays of the weekend, serving as the anchor of a very effective defensive unit, and he had to get the nod.
Centre-Back: Ronan Daly (Pádraig Pearses)
Ronan Daly couldn’t have done any more for his club on Sunday. He shut down Cathal Callinan, he got forward to kick two vital scores, he picked up breaking ball and he checked runners coming through.
It was little short of exemplary centre-back play.
Left Half-Back: Paul McGrath (St. Brigid’s)
He mightn’t be as flashy as some of his colleagues, but McGrath has made a serious contribution to St. Brigid’s this year and chipped in with several key plays last weekend, most of them in the first half when the game was in the balance.
His diagonal ball in the lead-up to Rúaidhrí Fallon’s goal, his exquisitely timed tackle to dispossess Seán Purcell as the Boyle man went through on goal, his clearance off the line when Kieran Cox had lobbed the ball over James Martin — all superb, all crucial.
Midfield: Niall Daly (Pádraig Pearses)
Kerry midfielder Dara Ó’Sé used to refer to the tactic of “hammer the hammer”, or making sure to take out the main pillar of the opposition.
Cathal Shine was that pillar for Clann against Western Gaels but he got no traction here as Niall Daly spoiled him in the air and covered far more ground when the ball was on the deck.
It was exactly what Pearses needed to get a solid foothold in the middle third.
Midfield: Ciarán Lawless (Oran)
The secret to Oran’s success on Saturday afternoon was their ability to keep moving the ball forward, working space and not giving St. Aidan’s time to get their defence set.
Their transition from defence to attack worked perfectly, with Lawless pivotal to that as he added pace and impetus every time he took possession.
Right Half-Forward: Ciaráin Murtagh (St. Faithleach’s)
Once his brother Diarmuid was sidelined with an injury before the first water break, it soon became clear that St. Faithleach’s were going to have to lean heavily on Ciaráin to pull them out of the first half hole that they dug for themselves.
He did everything he could, even in the face of double marking, but with little or no scoring support, it wasn’t enough.
Centre-Forward: Conor Devaney (Kilbride)
An intermediate relegation final may lack the glamour of a big championship semi-final in Dr. Hyde Park but for a club like Kilbride to make the drop to junior would have been seen as catastrophic, and Devaney made sure that it didn’t happen.
A goal off each foot and five points from play that included some highlight reel scores put the game beyond the reach of St. Barry’s.
Left Half-Forward: Rúaidhrí Fallon (St. Brigid’s)
Fallon’s star continues to rise at a remarkable trajectory, after yet another tour de force against Boyle on Sunday.
His goal was a piece of simple opportunism but in terms of general play, he was utterly outstanding, doing everything bar putting a ribbon on the ball for Ben O’Carroll’s green flag in the second half.
The upcoming battle for his time and commitment between Roscommon GAA and Connacht Rugby is likely to be very hard-fought.
Right Corner-Forward: Paul Kenny (Oran)
Jack Earley’s fitness (or lack thereof) to take part in the final will only be confirmed late next week but even if he does make it, Paul Kenny’s superb performance off the bench as his replacement has left Oran manager Billy Donnellan with plenty to think about as he looks to select his team.
Three excellent points from play and a key role in the match-killing second goal against St. Aidan’s was everything that could have been asked of him, and more.
Full-Forward: Thomas O’Rourke (Tulsk)
The stakes were as high as they could possibly be in Strokestown on Saturday evening and on a day when scores were very hard to come by and conditions were poor, Thomas O’Rourke led from the front for the club with five points, three frees, most of them in real pressure situations.
Left Corner-Forward: Ciarán Sugrue (St. Brigid’s)
In a forward line that has seen Brian Derwin and Ben O’Carroll catch most of the headlines, Sugrue was the most potent threat on Sunday in Dr. Hyde Park.
He seemed to be able to beat Killian Cox every time he took him on, firing four points from play in total.