New year, new
The New Year starts very quickly for Roscommon senior and U-21 footballers this weekend when they both have games. The U-21s are first into action when they take on Longford on Saturday in the Hastings Cup. At the time of writing there is no venue fixed for the game as pitches are saturated after all the heavy rain but the game will definitely go ahead Ė but it could be at a Longford venue.
I was talking to Roscommon U-21 manager Nigel Dineen on Monday and he tells me that he is very happy with the way training and preparations are going. Itís going to be a very tall order to repeat the success the U-21 team enjoyed in 2012 but we have plenty of very talented young footballers in the county and we can look forward to the coming year with confidence at this level.
The seniors start life under John Evans with a game in the FBD League against Leitrim in Elphin on Sunday. As with the U-21 match there may be a change of venue but the game will go ahead. I have been talking to John Evans (see the match preview elsewhere in People Sport) and he will have a very depleted squad with the St Brigids contingent missing and with seven or eight players playing with their college teams.
However it is a new start and there will still be plenty of interest in how the team get on in their first few games. The vibes I hear from the camp are very positive and John Evans is proving popular with the players and they are enjoying the new regime so far.
When I was speaking to John on Monday he told me that he and Paidi OíSe played midfield for the Kerry minors many moons ago and he, like everyone else who knew him, spoke fondly of his memories of the late great Paidi. I went to Paidiís funeral in West Kerry and it was an extraordinary ceremony. It was incredibly sad but it was also a joyous celebration of one of the great characters of Irish life over the past few decades.
Some of the stories told from the altar, at the graveside and in the pub afterwards had everyone laughing and there are very few people who knew Paidi who did not have some story to tell.
What came across to me (again) during that brief visit was the incredible passion that people in Kerry have for the game of gaelic football. I know that we love our football here in Roscommon, and itís the same in many other counties, but Kerry people are truly football fanatics. I can tell you that I will be watching out for Kerry in 2013. They always seem to have a good reason to win the Sam Maguire Cup. In 2013 it will be for Paidi Ė and with Tomas and Mark OíSe still there Ė I will not be backing against them!
I am the worldís worst at predictions but I suppose that it is only a bit of fun. So here goes for 2013. Connacht SFC: Mayo. Leinster SFC: Dublin. Munster SFC: Kerry. Ulster SFC: Donegal. All-Ireland SFC: Kerry. Munster SHC: Cork Leinster. SHC: Galway. All-Ireland SHC: Galway.
Premier League: Manchester United. Champions League: Dortmund. Relegated: QPR, Reading, Aston Villa. Heineken Cup: Claremont Auvergne. Six Nations: England. Roscommon SFC: St Brigids. Roscommon SHC: Four Roads.
Also: Tiger Woods to win one golf major in 2013, Ireland to have six winners in Cheltenham, Roscommon to win at least one Connacht title at U-21 or minor level (hopefully both) and Roscommon to get promoted from Division Three of the National Football League.
Every year throws up some great sport but it will be hard to top 2012 in terms of a sporting year. There were so many major events locally nationally and internationally, topped off by a magnificent Olympic Games in London. But time moves on and letís hope that itís a great sporting year locally, nationally and internationally too.
It was an interesting Christmas period in the Premier League. The amount of goals being scored this season is incredible and I suspect that itís down to poor defending rather than brilliant attacking play, but it has made for some cracking games.
The best game of English league soccer that I have seen in many a long day was the Everton v Chelsea one last Sunday. Everton are a really good side this season but Chelsea are now a far harder side to beat since the arrival of Rafa Benitez. He has put the accident-prone David Luiz into midfield where he is playing really well and he has brought Frank Lampard back into the side and he is playing better than ever.
The title race is between Man. United, Man. City and Chelsea. United are far from home and dry despite their seven-point lead. They are woeful at the back and are depending on Robin Van Persie to save them game after game. If he gets injured they will be in big trouble.
Down at the other end of the table Aston Villa and QPR are in big trouble. Villa seem to be going from bad to worse while QPR are just a very poor side. I watched Liverpool take them apart on Sunday last and it could have been 10-0 to Liverpool. Reading are the other side who will probably be relegated.
It was also interesting to see over the Christmas period that two sleeping giants of the English game, Leeds United and Nottingham Forest, have both been bought out by new owners. Maybe we will see both these clubs back in the top flight where they belong.
Most clubs will hold their AGMs over the next week or two and in the GAA there will be a dilemma for a lot of the smaller clubs who will have to examine whether they will be able to field teams at underage and at junior level.
Even some of the bigger clubs are now experiencing difficulty in fielding teams and it is almost certain that amalgamation will become commonplace all over the country in 2013 and 2014. It will be one of the big local stories of the year.
The Christmas racing fare was outstanding and the finish to the Lexus Chase was one of the best that has been seen in many years at that level. It leaves the betting for the Gold Cup wide open. Tidal Bay was a brilliant winner in Leopardstown but he doesnít look the one to beat when it comes to March in the Cotswolds. Long Run got up to win the King George well but Flemminstar might well have a say before the Gold Cup is won.
In the race to be the Champion Hurdler for 2013 it is hard to look past Hurricane Fly and Darlan. Both were very impressive and look to have the crown tied up between them.
Apparantly the attendances at the Christmas meetings at Limerick and Leopardstown were up on last year and thatís something positive. Of course the kind weather had a lot to do with that too.
Issued dated 4th January 2013.