An attractive and intriguing Connacht club semi-final takes place on Sunday at Pearse Stadium (2.30pm ) when Salthill/Knocknacarra take on the current provincial club champions St Brigid’s (Roscommon ).
It has the makings of a terrific game and there should be a good crowd in attendance to see the kingpins of Roscommon club football, St Brigid's, taking on a club with a 100 per cent record in the Connacht club championship, having previously won the titles in 1990 and 2005.
Not alone is St Brigid's the best club side in Roscommon, it has been the best club in Connacht over the past seven or eight years. The club is aiming to win a hat-trick of provincial titles this year which would really confirm their status as the best club in Connacht.
To add a bit of extra spice to Sunday, St Brigid’s have defeated Galway opposition in their last two Connacht final conquests.
In 2010 they came to Tuam Stadium and were fortunate to draw with Killererin in normal time, before going on to win easily in extra-time. And last year they beat Corofin by a point after a very controversial game in Kiltoom that made the headlines for the wrong reasons.
Under the new management team of former Mayo All-Star and RTÉ Sunday Game pundit Kevin McStay and former Mayo and Clare selector Liam McHale, they are back gunning for a possible All-Ireland title again this year.
And they showed real ambition when they registered an impressive win over Melvin Gaels (2-19 to 0-10 ) on the last weekend in October.
They started sluggishly, but once they clicked into gear, St Brigid’s looked tremendous.
They were powerful in the tackle, accurate with their passing, their movement was difficult to contain, and they were clinical in front of goal where Frankie Dolan and Senan Kilbride were to the fore as usual.
Salthill team manager Gerry Hughes, who attended that game, was impressed with the Roscommon champions.
"Once they got going, they looked a very serious outfit. They are a very experienced team and they are a very big, strong and skilful team. They have won the last two Connacht championships and have been a bit unfortunate not to have won the Andy Merrigan too. We know we will have to be at our very best and produce a top-class performance to get a win. But it is a challenge we are relishing."
St Brigid's boast considerable talent in their ranks and they can look to leaders on the pitch like Karol Mannion, Peter Domican, Gearoid Cunniffe, Ian Kilbride, Eoin Sheehy and Darragh Donnelly to show the way.
Injury concerns for Galway champions
Salthill's task is not made easier by two injury concerns to Gary Cox and Ruaidhrí McTiernan.
Former Roscommon county star Cox has been troubled by a back injury over the past few months which has restricted his training enormously and he would be a big loss if he cannot line out.
McTiernan is a tenacious defender, but he injured his foot in a recent league game and is also doubtful.
Both players are undergoing intensive treatment and Hughes is hopeful.
"Both the lads are quality players. Anyone on the panel is a loss if injured. We will have to assess them later in the week, but we are hopeful they can play some role at the weekend."
Salthill are also likely to be without regular midfielder who missed the county final too as he was away in Chad with the UN.
Hughes, while wary of the challenge St Brigid's pose, is upbeat about their chances.
"We approach every game on its own merits, and Sunday is no different. We had some very good displays in the county final from Cormac Connolly in goal up to Seamie Crowe at full-forward. And we will need lots of big performances on Sunday too if we are going to get to a Connacht final.
"St Brigid's is a quality side. We know that. Hopefully we will have a big Salthill/Knocknacarra support there on Sunday and any Galway neutrals who are around will come in and shout us on. We are representing Galway now, and all the lads will be going out to do their very best and hopefully they will produce a performance that we can all be proud of."
Ray Silke's Verdict:
To win Salthill will need really big performances from the likes of Cian Begley, Gearoid Canavan, Seán Armstrong, David Tierney, Alan Kerins, Conor Healy and especially team captain Finian Hanley in the full-back line. Brigid's two inside men, Dolan and Kilbride, have to be stopped.
Seamie Crowe will need to have packed his scoring boots too.
St Brigid's are 8/11 favourites, with the home side at 11/8, and it is easy to see why that is how the bookies see it turning out. Salthill will have to produce a powerful display - a far better one than they produced against Tuam.