Monday, September 21, 2020

It’s been a big week for county finals at all grades of football here in Roscommon, but aside from the success stories of St. Brigid’s, Oran, Kilbride and Éire Óg, there’s been plenty more to learn from taking in the action all across the county. As the dust settles on the end of a momentous weekend, what are the key takeaways from the action?

St. Brigid’s rising again on two fronts

Coming into today’s final, there was no doubting the raw ability of the St. Brigid’s players. The only doubt was if they could play to their potential in the face of the intense pressure that Pádraig Pearses would bring to a knockout championship match. That question was answered emphatically as nine players registered scores from play in a contest where St. Brigid’s held their own in a first-half arm wrestle before opening up in the second half.

There wasn’t the same spread of scorers when an even younger St. Brigid’s side picked up the LGFA intermediate title yesterday afternoon in Ballyforan, but all the same attributes were on display – a mastery of the simple skills of gaelic football, excellent decision making and a solid team ethic. Similar coaching philosophies yielding similar results in two different sports.

Football is still about how players perform

Managers and coaches love to talk about the last few inches, or that extra 1% – and it can be easy to forget that all those incremental scraps of improvement are rendered utterly insignificant when compared to the importance of the best players on a given team performing to something close to their potential. Look at all the reasons why people suspected Pearses might struggle today: a lack of depth on the bench, greater pace in the St. Brigid’s side, lack of scoring power. Nobody would have cited concerns over their county stars – yet Niall and Conor Daly came off second best at midfield, David Murray was quiet for most of the game and guilty of a couple of crucial second half errors, Ronan Daly flirted with disciplinary trouble before half time and Hubert Darcy probably would have had two goals to his name if he played to his 2019 form. Lorcán Daly, Anthony Butler, Paul Whelan and Shane Carty all had good moments but not enough to compensate for the struggles of their colleagues.

Kilbride as far ahead of the pack as ever

2019 suggested that this might be the year that a young Clann na nGael side would take the next step and usurp Kilbride from their throne, from where they rule over the ladies football scene in Roscommon. Yet the Johnstown women regressed in 2020, and that left Shannon Gaels as the most likely surprise package. A couple of key swing moments in the first half of yesterday’s final – most notably the shot from Aishling McDermott that crashed back into play off the Kilbride crossbar and the misfortunate (from a Shannon Gaels perspective) goal scored by Tara Taylor – didn’t help, but Kilbride were still clearly the better team.

Given their age profile and their U-16 success, St. Brigid’s may yet be their closest challengers in 2021.

Second teams dominating the junior championship

We’re only at the last four stage in the junior championship and already the four “first” teams in that championship are out of the running. Kilglass Gaels crashed out to a late point scored by Tom O’Carroll (pictured, alongside goalscorer Ian O’Rourke) of St. Brigid’s, St. Joseph’s lost out to Pearses after extra time while perhaps the surprise result of the weekend was Western Gaels beating St. Michael’s at the Abbey Park.

Tom O’Carroll and Ian O’Rourke. Picture courtesy of St. Brigid’s GAA twitter.

Arguably the side that looks strongest of all is Clann na nGael, who comfortably overcame Roscommon Gaels with a starting 15 where a dozen players had played senior championship in recent seasons.

In the junior B championship, it’s notable that Clann na nGael, Roscommon Gaels, St. Brigid’s, St. Dominic’s and Pádraig Pearses are all fielding third teams, suggesting that big clubs in the county are getting even better at keeping players involved in adult football.

Ballyforan becoming the streaming capital of Roscommon

With a high gantry that’s close to the action and a second-to-none playing surface, St. Aidan’s GAA club in Ballyforan has become the go-to venue for fixtures that require streaming. Already it played host to two senior championship quarter-finals and a host of other high profile games, including the camogie county final, while this weekend all three ladies football finals and the junior quarter-final between Clann na nGael and Roscommon Gaels drew healthy online audiences. It remains to be seen if the streaming revolution will continue beyond the time when crowds return to games, but for now, there’s no venue more popular in the county for games that are being broadcast online.

Cathal and Emmet Durney give their views on the junior quarter final between Clann na nGael and Roscommon Gaels. Picture courtesy of Clann na nGael twitter.

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