Junior and Intermediate finals a highlight!
When I look back at 2019 last Sunday’s junior and intermediate football finals in Dr. Hyde Park will be among the highlights. The weather was fine, which is always a plus, but there were two great games and four outstanding teams on view.
In the first game, Ballinameen came with a plan to play all-action football. There was a man in red and white always available to take possession and they carried it out to perfection. St. Brigid’s’ young team played their part but they had no answer to Charlie Ward’s team, superbly led by Dessie Carlos.
It was also fantastic to see the people of Ballinameen out on the field after the game celebrating with their heroes. That’s the beauty of the GAA and the club game in particular. There is a chance for everyone to have their day in the sun.
Ballinameen’s captain Peter Keane was seriously ill just two months ago. Little did he know he would be lifting the cup alongside his teammates, neighbours and friends last Sunday. St. Brigid’s made a big contribution too and they have many talented young players who will surely feature at senior level in the future.
In the intermediate final, Oran played some brilliant football for 40 minutes but just couldn’t sustain it and Tulsk eventually found a way to reel them in. It was another mighty game.
There is probably more room for improvement in Tulsk ahead of the replay and they have to be the favourites to win at the second attempt. It would be so cruel if Oran were to lose another replay, but it promises to be another great match.
It’s no coincidence that the games we have seen over the past number of weeks in Dr. Hyde park have been very entertaining. The pitch is in fantastic condition and players love those conditions. It’s been a great couple of weeks for club football in the county.
Irish hype train derailed in Japan!
It was no real surprise that Ireland lost to the All Blacks last Saturday at the Rugby World Cup but the manner of defeat was a shock. Ireland were hammered, and they had no answer to the power and skill of New Zealand.
It was a very sad way for Joe Schmidt to end what was a very successful tenure for him as the Ireland head coach. But the facts of the matter are that Ireland regressed in the twelve months leading up to the World Cup. The signs were there and were largely ignored by many of the pundits and the Irish rugby media.
There is more hype surrounding the Irish rugby team than any other international team that we have. Even the likes of Newstalk who have very extensive sports coverage every day of the week was well populated by cheerleaders over the past few months who ignored the train that was coming down the tracks in terms of Ireland’s form going into the tournament.
Excuses were made for the terrible Six Nations performances against England and Wales and more excuses were trotted out when England humiliated Ireland in that World Cup warm-up at Twickenham. Even the loss to Japan was put down as a blip.
The facts are that we were not good enough and got what we deserved. There will be a month or two with not much comment and the hype will start again in time for the Six Nations.
However, seven losing quarter-finals and counting is a terrible record for a team that is built up so much every time we go to a World Cup.
In the semi-finals I am expecting New Zealand and South Africa to emerge. England will try to bully the All Blacks but they have too much variety in their game to get caught but I am expecting a very good match between the two. Wales are the constant over-achievers and they will give it everything against South Africa but the Springboks look a very strong side with a very impressive bench and that could decide it in the end.
Norwich away is the real test for United!
In fairness, Manchester United put in a reasonable display against Liverpool at the weekend and I would have taken a draw before the game started. But I will withhold any great praise for United until I see how they get on against Norwich this weekend. United were always going to raise their game for Liverpool but it’s games like Norwich away that are the real test of character!
Meanwhile, Roy Keane was at it again on Sunday on Sky Sports and there is no doubt about it he is box office - whether you agree with him or not!
While the Manchester United and Liverpool players were waiting in the tunnel to go out on the field a number of players on each side embraced and others shook hands. Keane was apoplectic as he said: “What’s that all about? Players hugging and shaking hands, they are going out to war, into battle, it’s a load of crap if you ask me!”. He’s right you know!
Mixed response to two-tier football
The GAA will be bringing in a ‘tier two’ football championship in 2020 and there are many conflicting views about it. Most Roscommon people would of the view that it will not affect us here in this county but they are mistaken.
The bottom two teams in Division Two of the league will not get into the qualifiers for the main championship if they don’t reach their provincial final. I know that it’s probably highly unlikely, but if Roscommon were to be dragged into a relegation battle it would be worrying as we have the prospect of playing Mayo in the Connacht semi-final next May. That would be a 50/50 match. The new situation will make Division Two a real dog fight now, as if it wasn’t going to be one already!
The idea of a two-tier championship is a good one in my view but the GAA must take it seriously and market it properly. Players in the lower ranked counties must have something tangible to aim for. If the GAA get it right at the start it will be a success.
Meanwhile, the new playing rules will be interesting when they are introduced on January 1st. The kickouts from the 20-metre line will cause no controversy. However, the advanced mark will be tough for referees to police. Was the player outside or on the 45 metre line? Did the ball travel 20 metres? How long does the player who makes the catch have to decide whether to play on or take his free?
With regard to the 10-minute sin-bin, it will certainly work in big games when there are plenty of officials to rule on the time-keeping but I am not so sure it will work in club league games where there are very few neutral officials. But there is no point in shooting down the new rules before we get a chance to see them in action.
An honour to introduce 1979 heroes
It was a great honour to be asked to introduce the National Football League winning team of 1979 at Dr. Hyde Park at half-time in the recent senior county final.
That sunny day in May 1979 was one of the greatest days in Roscommon football history. Not only did Roscommon win the league title for the first time but they played some unbelievable football that day. They won the game by 0-15 to 1-3 and it was a display full of marvellous attacking and flowing football. Having beaten Kerry in the quarter-final and Offaly in the semi-final, it was a success on the national stage that I will never forget.
Note: I am running a video disco as a fundraiser for Roscommon Palliative Care this Friday night at Nancy’s Nightclub in Castle Street. Please support this worthy cause if you can. It’s €10 to get in and it should be a bit of craic!