Saints primed to Cross semi-final hurdle

All-Ireland club semi-final St Brigid’s v Crossmaglen (Cusack Park, Mullingar, Saturday, 2pm)

Darragh Daly and John Heslmariain out-jump Longford’s Michael Brady during last weekend’s league fixture. Photo:

Darragh Daly and John Heslmariain out-jump Longford’s Michael Brady during last weekend’s league fixture. Photo:

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try and try again. The footballers of St Brigid’s have enjoyed quite a bit of success over the past decade. Yet the holy grail of winning a club All-Ireland has thus far eluded them.

Twice in the last six years Crossmaglen have ended their dream while last year it was the turn of neighbours Garrycastle to spoil the party at the semi-final stage. Yet the Saints have not thrown in the towel and are back knocking at the door again. Confidence is high in south Roscommon that this is going to be the year that they finally reach the top of the ladder.

So is this confidence misguided or are they genuine contenders? There is certainly plenty of evidence to suggest that Kevin McStay’s men are primed to make little of their underdogs tag when they take the field against the greatest club team of all time in Mullingar on Saturday.

One thing for sure is that the won’t fear the men from Crossmaglen. A goal was all that separated the sides in the All-Ireland decider in 2011 and Brigid’s have learned a thing or two since then.

The new management team have added a freshness to the set-up this year and bring a wealth of experience to the sideline. The return of Shane Curran between the sticks does likewise as does the likely inclusion of Mark O’Carroll who returns from a long-term injury. Throw in young talent like Ronan Stack, John Murray, and Darren Dolan along with the experienced Karol Mannion, Peter Domican, Senan Kilbride, and Frankie Dolan and it is clear that the sense of optimism is well founded.

Naturally it will take a heroic performance to stop Cross from fulfilling their mission of completing three in a row of All-Ireland club titles. Yet all good teams eventually get beaten and I have a feeling that Cross’s time will come on Saturday.

For Brigid’s to win they must keep a clean sheet. Shane Curran is returning from injury and he has a big role to play in ensuring his defence is watertight. If they manage to curtail Jamie Clarke then they must be in with a great chance.

It has all the ingredients of a cracker and with the relatively short spin to Mullingar the green and red army are sure to be out in force. Chances like this don’t come around too often and it could well be a while before the Roscommon kingpins are back in this sphere again. Provided they perform to their maximum it might just prove to be third time lucky against Crossmaglen. I wish them well in their endeavours.


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