It's been some journey for Roscommon club Padraig Pearses to this weekend's All-Ireland senior club semifinal.
Padraig Pearses won their first Roscommon senior football title only two years ago. Last October, they returned the Fahey Cup to Woodmount for the second time in the club's 60-year history. They beat their neighbours Clann na nGael at Dr Hyde Park in a fiercely contested final on a score line of 2-8 to 0-11. Niall Daly was the Man of the Match on the day, himself and his three younger brothers, Ronan, Conor and Lorcan, played a vital role in Pearses’ victory over Clann.
Weeks later, they went on to beat Galway Champions Mountbellew/Moylough
However, the South Roscommon boys have no intention of putting an end to their train of success anytime soon. They are looking forward to taking on the experienced Dublin and Leinster champions Kilmacud Crokes this Saturday evening in Breffni Park.
The parishes of Moore, Taughmaconnell and rural Creagh have been behind the lads for the whole journey and the success of the team has certainly boosted the spirits of the community over the past few months.
This is new territory for Padraig Pearses. In the Connacht final of 2019, Padraig Pearses found themselves level with three-time reigning All-Ireland club champions Corofin with ten minutes left in the match. Corofin pushed on and won another All-Ireland that year. This year, Padraig Pearses are hoping to become the second-ever Roscommon club to win club All-Ireland, the first being St. Brigids in 2013.
When joint captains David Murray and Emmet Kelly were asked what came to mind when they reminisced on that famous county final victory, their main thought was relief. Kelly said that at the final whistle ‘’it was relief that came to mind more than anything, it was amazing to see the crowds of people coming out on the pitch, tears of joy on people's faces, it really was an outpouring of emotion.’’
Murray echoed those sentiments.
"I think the county final was my highlight of the season so far, in order for us to get to where we want to go, to get to this level of football, a big step is to dominate in your county so I think there was a big sense of relief when we won that. This gave us belief in ourselves then going forward."
Pearses went into the Connacht semifinal as underdogs against Galway champions, Mountbellew/Moylough - who had vanquished Corofin in the Galway senior final - as they will against the Dublin Champions.
Murray says the underdogs tag is not something the players consider.
"We don’t think about ourselves as going in as underdogs, as players or as a team. We prepare for every game in a similar manner whether its underdogs or not, it’s irrelevant to us. We treat every game as it is.’’
This confidence will be crucial against the Leinster champions.
Connacht Final day will be remembered by all the players and supporters of Padraig Pearses for a very long time.
"Winning the County final was really special but after losing the Connacht Final in 2019 against Corofin, to go that extra step and to finally get over the line on the pitch. That was really special," Kelly said.
21-year-old Paul Carey - one of the county's most exciting young prospects - delivered a Man of the Match performance on the day, kicking an outstanding eight points from every area of the forwards line, five of which came from play.
When Paul was asked if this great performance gave him an extra boost of confidence going into the next round of the competition he responded ‘’Yes, I take some bit of confidence from our last game but in saying that, that game is in the past now and we face a very different outfit in Kilmacud so I think we have to forget about our last game and focus now on the next.’’
Pearses have accomplished so much over a short 3-year period, Kelly believes that this is down to the defeats they’ve endured in the past and the professional managemen
‘‘A lot of us have been here now almost 10 years, we’ve had to suffer a lot of defeats along the way to where we are now, we learned from these defeats, we’re learning how to get things right in the last few years, it really is a combination of that and the changes that the management have made since they came in 4 years ago, they brought a level of professionalism to us and it’s really standing out for us now.’’
Murray explains that there’s a good mood and a feeling of excitement at training ahead of the semi-final.
"It’s uncharted territory for all of us as we haven’t been at this stage before so there’s definitely a massive sense of excitement around that, we’re looking forward to playing the Dublin champions. Obviously, it’s a tough task but I think everyone' s really up to it. We’re definitely not used to playing this kind of championship football at this stage of the year, so it’s a great buzz to be going down training and looking forward to big proper games at this time of the year."