The last time a Mayo side claimed the Connacht Club Senior Football Championship it was Ballina Stephenites on a wet and wild day in James Stephens Park in 2007 and St Brigid’s were the opposition. In the past four years the Roscommon men have gone on to claim the last two titles and are looking to make it three in a row and their fourth over all, this Sunday in McHale Park, and in the process, draw Roscommon level on 13 titles each with Mayo in the overall roll of honour. However standing in their way are a Ballaghaderreen side who are looking to claim their first provincial title and Mayo’s 14th drawing them level with Galway on the number of titles won on the roll of honour.
The Roscommon champions will go into Sunday’s game as justified favourites on the back of their success in the last two provincial finals and their emphatic victory over Galway champions Salthill-Knocknacarra by seven points on a scoreline of 0-15 to 0-8 in the semi-final. They were even more clinical in the their provincial quarter final win over Leitrim champions Melvin Gaels, seeing them off by 2-19 to 0-10. St Brigid’s quality is known throughout the country having gone very close against Crossmaglen on St Patrick’s Day in the All Ireland final last year, and this year losing out to near neighbours and Lenister champions Garrycastle in the All Ireland semi-final after a replay.
Lots of quality will be on display from both sides
The men from Kiltoom’s line will be full of familiar faces such Frankie Dolan, Senan Kilbride, Karol Mannion, Peter Domican, and Ian Kilbride who are all household names in their own rights, for their exploits with Brigid’s and Roscommon over the past number of years. To add even more local interest to the game on Sunday, St Brigid’s are managed by former Mayo and Ballina star Kevin McStay and also on his coaching ticket is his former club and county team-mate Liam McHale. Trying to unpick the St Brigid’s game plan on Sunday on the Ballaghaderreen sideline will be manager Mark Dowd who himself is a Roscommon man, hailing from Strokestown. But then some would say that all the Ballaghaderreen men are Roscommon natives with the Mayo GAA enclave resting a handful of miles inside Roscommon, and while that quirk will take up a lot of the pre-match discussion, the reality is they are the Mayo champions and representing the green and red on Sunday.
Since the start of championship earlier this summer, Ballaghaderreen had marked themselves out as a serious outfit and deservedly claimed the Mayo title. Curry put it up to them in the semi-final for long periods, but when they were needed their players stood up and were counted. On Sunday the same will be required, and Dowd will be looking to the likes of Stephen Drake to manage the full back line and keep tabs on the Brigid’s danger men, while Keith Rodgers and David Drake will be expected to drive on from the half-back line as well as coping with their defensive duties. In the middle of the park James Kilcullen and Barry Kelly are as impressive a pairing as you are likely to find, with Kilcullen in particular having a fine year. In attack Andy Hanley and David Kilcullen will be looked to do a lot of hard work, while Barry Regan has been the marksman extraordinaire so far this year for Ballah scoring 3-40 this year in championship football and will be expected to deliver from his full forward position again for his side.
It is going to be a tough task for Ballaghaderreen, with Brigid’s having lots of experience at this level and the carrot of a historic three in a row in front of them, but Ballaghaderreen have not got here by luck, they have earned their spot on merit and their first provincial title should be more than enough motivation for them. The game throws in at 2pm in McHale Park. mm