The quarter-final action in the senior and intermediate football championships continues later today with a number of potentially cracking games down for decision. KEVIN EGAN tucks into some of the tasty dishes on offer…
HODSON BAY HOTEL SENIOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP QUARTER-FINALS
At Dr. Hyde Park: Boyle v Pádraig Pearses, 1.30 p.m.
This was the best possible draw for Pearses, because now that they’ve got a bit of form back, they just need to rediscover the ferocity and jagged edge that sets them apart from other teams. Who better to bring that out in them than Boyle, who had some club members (not players) express severe disquiet at the manner of Pearses’ win in the semi-final two years ago.
Boyle’s players may have kept their counsel in the autumn of 2019 but they were like caged lions released onto the field when they played Pearses in Woodmount last year, and those two memories will ensure that Pat Flanagan’s side are fully tuned in this week.
It’s not that Cian Smith doesn’t have more than enough talent at his disposal. A good panel in 2020 has been boosted by the addition of Daire Cregg, so ability won’t be a problem. Balancing the scales between displaying that ability while fighting Pearses’ fire with fire of their own might be.
This one could easily go to overtime, but if there’s a winner, it’s more likely to be Pearses.
VERDICT: Pádraig Pearses
At Dr. Hyde Park: Oran v Roscommon Gaels, 4 p.m.
Probably the most impressive thing about Oran so far this year is that there have been times when they could easily have been sucked into the trap of playing an occasion rather than playing football, but it never happened.
Games against St. Croan’s and Tulsk were local derbies, where it would have been easy to let a dogfight develop. Instead, Billy Donnellan’s side kept the tempo up, kept doing what they do best, and they won with plenty to spare.
This week they’ll hear plenty about how the Gaels will improve now that they’re in the knockout stages, and that the town lads will find a way to knock the upstarts from down the N60 off their stride.
It shouldn’t happen, and it will be a huge black mark on this Oran group if it does. Oran 2021 against Roscommon Gaels 2020 would have been a very tough game to call, but the 2021 Gaels team has been stripped of far too much firepower to be able to live with Oran based on what we’ve seen so far.
SFC RELEGATION PLAY-OFF
At O’Rourke Park: Western Gaels v St. Croan’s, 2 p.m.
There is no logical, evidential reason why St. Croan’s should be able to win this game. For all Western Gaels’ problems this year, and there are plenty when we consider that they’ve now lost five games since their last competitive win, there is still far too much quality in their side for a heavily depleted St. Croan’s team to be able to compete with them. In theory.
The ghost that will haunt Western Gaels in the run-up to this game is that spectre which can’t quite be fully explained or understood, but still patently exists — St. Croan’s incredible ability to find a way to completely overperform for one game each year, when that one game will preserve their senior status.
Since this reporter is the son of a maths teacher, it would be a betrayal of my upbringing to ignore cold-hearted logic, so the prediction is a Western Gaels victory. However, they need to go ahead early, and keep piling on the scores.
If this one is in the balance by the three-quarter mark, St. Croan’s will smell blood, and piranhas would do well to match the Enfield-based club for ruthlessness when there’s blood in the water.
VERDICT: Western Gaels
MULRYAN CONSTRUCTION INTERMEDIATE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP QUARTER-FINALS
At Athleague: Clann na nGael v Creggs, 2 p.m.
Creggs will have been happy to have avoided St. Dominic’s in the draw, and of all the games taking place this weekend, this is arguably the toughest to call.
Ger Dowd’s side have shown flashes of potential but struggled to put it together over a full game. Yet there’s so much scoring power in the side. Darren Gately, Noel Gately, Shane Dowd, Kevin Gavin, Enda Conneran — all of these players are capable of scoring two or three from play at least.
Clann don’t have that, but they do have incredible mobility and energy in the middle third. Séa Henry, Kieran Connaughton, Ronan Gavin, David Connaughton — expect these guys to just get the ball and run, and that won’t suit Creggs.
VERDICT: Clann na nGael
At Strokestown: Fuerty v St. Faithleach’s, 3 p.m.
Not for the first time, we’ll express a concern for St. Faithleach’s regarding whether or not they’ve mentally adjusted to being an intermediate team.
Even though Fuerty have the most recent experience of senior football, they’ve adapted to the requirements of intermediate football — those being to keep the pressure on, don’t give a slightly weaker opponent an even break, and execute the simple skills well.
St. Faithleach’s have been very good at times, and not so good at others. Diarmuid Murtagh hitting a rich vein of form is hugely significant, but there are a lot of players in the team who aren’t performing to their full potential. At their best, St. Faithleach’s would hold their own in senior football easily, but they need to be judged on their overall performances, not just their highlights reel.
Fuerty were unlucky to be relegated in 2020, and now have Aengus Lyons back in and flying. Provided their hurling exertions with Athleague and Tremane didn’t take too big a toll, they might be the smarter bet.
At Kiltoom: St. Dominic’s v Kilbride, 4 p.m.
Given the way his team play, Tomás Gilleran would have preferred the Hyde for this game, as Kilbride might not have enjoyed the extra few yards of space. He also will have a bit of work to do this week to get his dual players back into a positive frame of mind, given the manner of their defeat to Tremane on Sunday.
Outside of those straws for Kilbride supporters to grasp, it’s hard to come up with any good reason why this game should yield an upset. Trevor Howard has done well to turn around a long run of defeats, but he doesn’t have nearly the same amount of talent to work with, even allowing for a couple of significant injuries around the St. John’s parish.
St. Dominic’s half-back line should excel in this game, and that will be the platform for a comfortable victory.
VERDICT: St. Dominic’s