Niall Daly of Pádraig Pearses in action against Knockmore's James Ruddy during the AIB Connacht Club SFC final in Ballina earlier this month. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

‘It’s brilliant to be at this stage’

Pádraig Pearses keep on breaking new ground and, this Saturday, they have the chance to secure a place in the biggest stage of all in club football - the All-Ireland senior final.

The men from Moore/Taughmaconnell and surrounding areas, recently crowned Connacht champions for the first time, will face Leinster counterparts Kilmacud Crokes of Dublin in their eagerly awaited All-Ireland semi-final at Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan (throw-in 5pm).

At the outset of the 2021 campaign, key Pearses player Niall Daly said “the main goal” was to regain the Roscommon senior title the club first won in 2019.

“We’ve been in bonus territory since,” he said. “The last day against Knockmore, it was a really tough battle. We probably won the game a few times and let them back into it again.”

Looking ahead to the All-Ireland semi-final, the Roscommon inter-county star said: “Kilmacud have huge tradition and huge membership, and all these stories you hear. We’ll be up against it but we’ll turn up and see how we go.”

For so long Pearses were seen as the ‘nearly men’ of Roscommon football, but there has been a major transformation over the past few years.

“Since we won the first county title, there has been huge belief in the panel, not alone instilled by management but also by the players as well,” said Daly. “Conor Lohan was involved with the Roscommon U-20s that got to the All-Ireland final last year. Lads like that coming through has been huge in terms of competition for places. It’s a mixture of belief and competition for places that we have among the panel.”

With Niall one of four Daly brothers on the Pearses team, alongside Conor, Ronan and Lorcán, the club’s successful journey is particularly special for the extended family.

“Yeah, obviously it is special. We back each other up and there would be a bit of craic in the car on the way over to training,” said Niall.

“It’s special for mam and dad at home. I suppose it’s nerve racking to have one involved, never mind four, but no it’s brilliant,” he added with a smile.

While there had been speculation about Croke Park and other venues, Daly had no qualms with the choice of the Cavan venue to host the All-Ireland semi-final. “It’s brilliant to be at this stage,” he said simply.

A teacher in Moate Community School, Niall was part of the management of the team that won the Leinster Schools Senior ‘A’ ladies football final last week.

Daly described the Moate CS panel as “a really special group of girls” and “a brilliant group”. He praised their “never say die attitude” in what was a dramatic Leinster final victory. No doubt, Daly will be hoping that his own club can show similar spirit when the pressure is on next Saturday.

The other All-Ireland club semi-final is between Kilcoo of Down and St Finbarr’s of Cork, and it will take place in Portlaoise on Saturday at 3pm. Both semi-finals will be shown live on TG4.