Tuesday, October 25, 2022

A remarkable 2022 Hodson Bay Hotel Senior Football Championship is all over (unless you own a pub in Strokestown, in which case it is very much ongoing) and one of the most open Fahey Cup races that has been played for generations has ended with Strokestown pipping Boyle by the narrowest of margins on Sunday afternoon in Dr. Hyde Park.

Tomorrow night we will find out who will be the new Roscommon senior football manager, and whoever it is, here’s the Roscommon Herald’s lending a helping hand – it’s the 2022 SFC Team of the Year!

Goalkeeper: Robert Kearney (Boyle)

It was a great year for goalkeeping in the county, with all four SFC semi-finalists fielding very reliable, talented custodians that could easily have been selected here. Niall Curley adding the ability to strike long frees certainly did his cause no harm, but in terms of looking after the basics – good positioning, solid under a high ball, accurate restarts and capable of making a big save when needed, Robert Kearney gets the nod here.

Right Corner-Back: Luke Glennon (Boyle)

For all the plaudits that their inside forward line gets, this year’s Boyle full-back line was packed with unsung heroes. We debated long and hard about which to include, and Daniel Casey certainly did his cause no harm at all with another good display on a talented opponent in Shane McGinley at the weekend, but it’s impossible to ignore Luke Glennon keeping Diarmuid McGann scoreless, following on from very good performances on opponents like Ciarán Sugrue, Cathal Cregg and Ciarán Murtagh. As a six-footer, he has the physical size to hold his own as well, so will surely be examined as a possible springer to the county panel over the winter.

Full-Back: Kieran Kilcline (Roscommon Gaels)

Without doubt, this was the toughest 50/50 call of the lot – Kilcline, or Seán Mullooly. The Strokestown man really came into his own in the knockout stages and his trademark forward runs were crucial to the cause – not least for the decisive score at the very end of Sunday’s final. This is surely the one that will draw some ire, but by the narrowest of margins, Kilcline gets it after putting in a remarkable year in a position that historically, wouldn’t be a natural home for him.

Left Corner-Back: David Neary (Strokestown)

After playing incredibly consistently all year long, Neary really stepped it up with a huge performance in the county semi-final against Roscommon Gaels, and consequently this jersey was his to lose going into the final. He was never going to lose it – another rock solid display means he walks into this team.

Right Half-Back: Paul McGrath (St. Brigid’s)

The St. Brigid’s U-20 team of a couple of seasons ago was supposed to make up the backbone of a side that would dominate the local football scene for the best part of a decade. A lot of those players have stalled in their development, but McGrath absolutely hasn’t, and once he put early-season injury issues behind him, he was outstanding in every game – defensively, and as an attacking threat.

Centre-Back: Colm Neary (Strokestown)

Seán Purcell didn’t do a whole lot wrong all year, but Colm Neary made it impossible for us to look any other direction with a stellar display on Sunday. His physicality, intensity, pace, use of the ball, everything is right out of the top drawer. For an 18-year-old, it’s truly remarkable how quickly he has adjusted to competing in a pivotal position for the club.

Left Half-Back: Ciarán Regan (Strokestown)  

The entire championship turned decisively on his stunning goal against Oran, and while he injured himself in scoring that goal and so missed the semi-final win over Roscommon Gaels, yet another excellent performance on Sunday – punctuated by a wonderful score in the first quarter – means he becomes the third member of the Strokestown back line to get included here.

Midfield: Mark Purcell (Roscommon Gaels)

Purcell spent a lot of his teenage years focusing on rugby, but every Roscommon Gaels supporter will hope that he can find a way to staying centrally involved with the Gaels for the next decade. Should he choose to completely throw his weight behind gaelic football, he has the world of potential, even at county level. Some of his choices on the ball are still a little raw, but in terms of talent, attitude, physical size and conditioning, he has all the raw material needed to go to the very top.

Midfield: Cathal Compton (Strokestown)

The younger Compton brother had to play a few different roles this year, and on Sunday he was more defensive than he had been in any game so far – and still thrived, coming up with two crucial blocks in the second half. Against Roscommon Gaels he was imperious as an orthodox midfielder, while he chipped in on the scoring front in the three previous matches. This year confirmed what we all suspected for the last ten years – that when fit, Cathal Compton is an elite all-round player.

Right Half-Forward: Kevin Finn (Strokestown)

There was no one game where Finn was exceptional, but every time he togged out, he was tenacious off the ball, invariably right up near the top of the tackle count, and more than well-able to take a score. Strokestown survived without him on Sunday but he’s an integral part of what they do and if it’s possible, getting him back for a Connacht semi-final will be high on John Rogers’ wish list.

Centre-Forward: Cian McKeon (Boyle)

There are four inside forwards that absolutely have to be included on this team, and given the amount of time that Cian McKeon came outfield to fill in this area while the notional centre forward (Seán Purcell) dropped back to be a second number six, he gets picked in this berth. As the season went on and the pressure grew, he got better and better, and there’s no doubt that his injury on Sunday was a huge turning point.

Left Half-Forward: Richard Hughes (Roscommon Gaels)

Another very close call as James Fitzpatrick also had a very good season once he came back from his charity work in Africa and he did drop out to the half forward line for Oran on a few occasions, but on the basis that we try to stick with an orthodox 15 that would function as a team, then Hughes gets the nod. He can take scores, break tackles, link the play and do all the grunt work that is central to this position, so he becomes the third Gaels man to get selected.

Right Corner-Forward: Ben O’Carroll (St. Brigid’s)  

Very little needs to be said about our three inside forwards, as all were automatic selections, without a moment’s thought. Whether O’Carroll’s lack of height will hold him back from being a truly elite intercounty forward remains to be seen, but at club level, he is nigh on unstoppable, capable of some real moments of magic.

Full-Forward: Donie Smith (Boyle)

As is now customary, the Roscommon captain brought so much more than his lethal scoring instinct to the table for Boyle on Sunday. He leads by example on and off the ball, and looks for those pressure moments where he can take responsibility and make things happen. If things had gone differently, then his pressure free from 55 metres out to level the game on Sunday could be talked about for generations in Boyle.

He’s been doing that all year.

Left Corner-Forward: Diarmuid McGann (Strokestown)

Didn’t have his best day in the final, but still came up with plenty of key contributions to help his club over the line. The mental strength he showed to bounce back from missing a simple 20 metre free early in the second half was also worthy of note.

All year long however, he was simply unstoppable, able to create scores out of nothing, and forged a wonderful partnership with Shane McGinley. So while Tony Lavin made a late, compelling case for inclusion, McGann gets the shout to round off this team!


*Compiled by Kevin Egan

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