What’s seldom is wonderful! Last Sunday’s win by the Roscommon senior footballers was one of the best that we have had in the league at Dr. Hyde Park in recent memory. All the pundits (yours truly included) got it wrong on this one. The manner of Monaghan’s win against Dublin led me to believe that they would be too strong for Roscommon. But I reckoned without Roscommon’s new-found self-belief and never-say-die attitude. Add that to a well organised defensive system that all the players have bought into, and it’s a potent mix that Monaghan were not able to match.
It was so heart-warming to see Roscommon with such a will to win and a never-say-die attitude. Even when they went down to 13 men towards the end of the game they never lost their composure and held on to the ball so well. The penalty was earned while the team were two men short and even when Jack McCarron and Conor McManus levelled the scores after that Roscommon kept driving on for the win. Most of us would have settled for a point, but not this team. They wanted the win and win they did too.
What Anthony Cunningham and his coaches have achieved in the space of just two months with this team is nothing short of remarkable. There are at least eight players missing off the panel from last year and when you add in Sean Mullooly, who is injured and Donie Smith who was suspended that brings the number to ten and that’s without Diarmuid Murtagh and Brian Stack as well.
It would be wise not to get carried away though. If Roscommon want to have a chance against Tyrone next Sunday they will have to match or even better last Sunday’s effort. Very soon the element of surprise will be gone from this team too and the opposition will be ready for the challenge. But Sunday’s win has changed everything in Division One. Before the game Roscommon were hot favourites for relegation. Now they have a real chance if they can show the same fight and determination they showed last Sunday.
Lads who were not heard of this time last year on the inter-county scene are now playing a major part with the team: Evan McGrath, Conor Hussey, Gary Patterson, Shane Killoran and Colin Compton look at home in a county jersey and they can only improve. Conor Cox kicked two outrageous frees with the outside of his boot but I think he has a lot more to offer from general play when he settles in. My friends in Kerry rate him very highly.
One long-standing Roscommon supporter said to me last Sunday night: “Roscommon were always known as a tough, hardy team who would never lie down, and we are back to that now thank God”. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Well done to all concerned and now instead of fearing Tyrone we will look forward to their visit on Sunday. They need a win so it will be a huge dog-fight, but Roscommon will enjoy that too. Let’s just take it one game at a time!
Reality check for Ireland in English mauling
A reality check is what some of the pundits called it while others were a little more downbeat. After the hammering at the hands of England last Saturday I have to agree with the view that it was a pity the World Cup was not in the autumn of 2018 when Ireland were at their very best. The wear and tear is beginning to show now and some key players are getting injured.
There is also the worry that guys like Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton are not playing well. The experiment of playing Robbie Henshaw at full-back did not work last Saturday but I agree with the school of thought which says he should be retained there for the game against Scotland. The amazing thing about the Irish squad at the moment is that we have two world-class players at full-back (Simon Zebo) and second row (Donnacha Ryan) sitting around twiddling their thumbs because of a stupid rule about playing here in Ireland.
Joe Schmidt will start his World Cup preparations now but he must be careful that the team does not develop a losing habit. They will be up against it in Murrayfield on Saturday and they must dig in and get the win. England v France will be a big game although England look far too strong for the rest of the teams in the Six Nations at the moment. The only team that might threaten them is Wales.
Arrogant Sergio deserved a lengthy ban
Readers of this column know that I am a huge golf fan but what Sergio Garcia did last weekend in Saudi Arabia was a disgrace and he should have received a ban from competitive play for a number of months. He didn’t like the greens on the course he was playing and he chose to deliberately damage at least five separate putting surfaces on his way around which he admitted to later. He got a slap on the wrist and was told not to do it again.
Who do these overpaid, arrogant people think they are? This guy has at least €100 million in the bank yet he thinks he can behave like a common vandal just because things were not going his way. If it was Tiger Woods that did it there would have been an outcry! Garcia should have been left on the sidelines for a couple of months to teach him a lesson but the reality is that the authorities are afraid of these so-called ‘superstars’ and they are afraid to annoy them.
Liverpool remain favourites despite draws
Liverpool are suffering a bit of a wobble at the moment but it is very significant that they haven’t actually lost a game. Last week against Leicester a draw at Anfield was probably a fair result but they got away lightly against West Ham on Monday night when the Hammers missed at least three clear goal chances, while the goal Liverpool scored was offside. Even so, the pressure is still on Manchester City to remain unbeaten which is a very tall order. Liverpool are still in the driving seat and remain firm favourites for the title.
The Manchester United story under Solksjaer is incredible. They are playing with the swagger of old and they are in with a chance of a top four place which seemed impossible a couple of months ago!
Mayo and Kerry looking good!
Elsewhere in the league, Mayo were very impressive against Tyrone as they swept them aside in Omagh. It was hard to judge what they were like the previous week given the conditions in MacHale Park but they are now in a great position in the table even at this early stage.
Kerry are also unbeaten and they got by a stern challenge from Cavan before emerging with the win. Sean O’Shea looks the find of the league so far. He is a superb striker of the ball and is being compared to Maurice Fitzgerald, which is pretty high praise! The Kerry v Dublin clash this weekend will be very interesting indeed.
Dublin swatted away the feeble challenge offered by Galway on Saturday night, but it was a brutal match to watch. The results last weekend now mean that Division One will be a real battle all the way to the last round and there will be as much interest in the bottom of the table as there will be at the top.