Another great year for club championships
It’s been another great year for football and hurling, and the club championships have certainly thrown up some fantastic entertainment week after week.
In this column over the years I have marvelled at the fact that every year without fail we have new names coming forward.
Last Sunday we saw the defending All-Ireland champions Cuala play really well defending their Leinster hurling title but while that was going on we had a sensational win in the Galway County final when Liam Mellows won their first title in 47 years beating red-hot favourites Gort in the final. Some of the stories surrounding that final and the celebrations that followed are what the GAA is all about. Tears were plentiful among young and old as the Galway City side took the title in front of 10,000 people at Pearse Stadium. Mellows now play Cuala in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Another fairy-tale story! This Sunday St. Loman’s and Moorefield meet in the Leinster football final and once again we will have a new name on the trophy. I have nothing whatsoever against Kildare but it would be marvellous to see a Westmeath side win a Leinster title and they have a great chance of doing so too. The club championships are certainly where dreams come true.
Ladies’ impressive academy launch
I was ever so impressed by the launch of the academy and partnerships by the Roscommon Ladies Board last Sunday in The Abbey Hotel. Ladies football is the fastest growing sport around the country and in Roscommon it is the same story. There is huge interest in the game and the Ladies Board have recognised that fact and have acted accordingly.
It is very encouraging to see people like the Lennon brothers and Shane Curran join the likes of Michael Finneran and others who are playing an active role in the development and coaching of ladies football in the county.
They have great role models to look up to as Natalie McHugh, the captain of the Roscommon senior team, was hugely impressive when she spoke, as was special guest Noelle Healy from Dublin who is the Ladies Footballer of the Year. It was also an excellent move to involve Pieta House as we all know the problems that we have here in this country with mental health.
Roscommon County Council are also involved with financial aid to sponsor a part-time coach and more initiatives like that are needed. The fact that the county senior team players are involved with the coaching of the youngsters is a credit to the players involved.
If this positive attitude and commitment continues it is only a matter of time before Roscommon are successful at ‘A’ level in Connacht. There was a huge crowd in attendance and well done to all concerned.
2017 – The year of St. Brigid’s!
What a year it has been for St. Brigid’s. The only championship they did not win at Division One level in football this year was U-14 after they landed the U-20 title last Sunday against St. Dominic’s.
It was not all plain sailing though as Dominic’s could have won it if they were a bit sharper up front. They certainly gave as good as they got, but Brigid’s were sharper in attack and that’s why they won it.
But it was a very competitive final played in front of a big crowd in Ballyforan. To win the U-16, minor, junior ‘A’, U-20 and senior is some achievement for the St. Brigid’s club. It is up to the rest of the clubs in the county to match them now.
Queen Cora finishes on a high
The word legend is often abused when it comes to the description of sports people but in the case of Cora Staunton it is entirely deserved. It was fitting that she ended her incredible ladies football career with an All-Ireland club title with her beloved Carnacon last Sunday in Parnell Park.
There is no point in detailing her exploits over her 22-year career in this column as it has often been done, but she is head and shoulders above any player who has ever played the game, and there will probably never be anyone like her again. She deserves her chance of glory in Australia and with her determination, strength and skill, if she remains injury free she will be a success. A true legend.
United and Arsenal serve up a classic
The Premier League does not need any more hype from me because it gets enough on SKY Sports etc. but I couldn’t let this week’s column go without a mention of the Arsenal v Man United game last Saturday evening. It was definitely one of the best games in that league that I have seen in all the years that I am watching it. I know that I may be looking at the game with Man United glasses on, but the commentators, newspapers and pundits were all in agreement that it was a classic.
If these games were won on possession of the ball then Arsenal should have won by four clear goals as they had 75% of the ball. But United were clinical when they counter-attacked and they defended superbly all through.
In that regard we saw one of the greatest goalkeeping displays of all time from De Gea as the Spaniard refused to let Arsenal pass. He made save after save and many were point blank. It was astonishing stuff. I was watching at home and laughed out loud when commentator and former Liverpool player Steve McManaman picked Jesse Lingard as the man of the match. Incredible stuff, what game was he watching?
The reality of the result means that United stay in touch with Man City, but that gap could grow on Sunday next when the sides meet at Old Trafford. Paul Pogba will be a massive loss to United, after a needless (and well deserved) red card last weekend. With City going for the record 14 wins in a row, the pressure will be on United to win. But without Pogba, a draw would be a very good result for United, but they need more. Mourinho will have to pull a massive rabbit out of the hat tactically if United are to win and it looks unlikely against a rampant City side who are playing some brilliant stuff.
Great to see Tiger back
Regular readers of this column will know that I am a big Tiger Woods fan, but I had given up any chance that I would ever see him play at any sort of decent level again. However his display at the weekend at the Hero World Challenge was simply phenomenal.
He didn’t win, but he played well enough to suggest that he will be able to compete in 2018 and that is a mouth-watering prospect for the game. I would say that the TV companies and golf media around the world can’t believe their luck that the biggest draw in the game (and maybe in world sport) is ready to compete at the top level again. It was thrilling to see Tiger making birdies and eagles again and it will be fascinating to see him in action when 2018 comes around. What a story it would be if he were to win another major or two.