All’s not lost after battling display!
In the conditions Sunday’s game against Dublin was a cracking contest and Roscommon players can hold their heads high after another very good display. The first half was a good as I have seen in a long time from the Rossies and throughout the game Dublin had to work for every single score they got. Roscommon just got tired in the second half and the Dubs dominated possession.
I know the decisive second goal was a very soft one but overall Dublin just about deserved to win it. Roscommon were not helped by a very poor refereeing display by Padraig O’Sullivan who gave the visitors a lot of soft frees especially in the second half. But there is plenty for Roscommon to be positive about.
Sean Mullooly is back and he will readily slot into the full-back position. Conor Daly is a superb footballer and I would love to see him at number 10 or 12. John McManus is back on the panel and Brian Stack is close to a return too as is Diarmuid Murtagh. It’s all very positive going forward.
However, whether it will be good enough to save Roscommon from relegation is another matter entirely. It’s such a pity that Roscommon played so poorly against Cavan because I’m convinced that five points will be enough to stay in Division One. It means that Roscommon will have to beat Galway or Kerry and that’s not beyond the bounds of possibility. Galway are a fine side but on the 16th of March they will still be without their Corofin contingent in Pearse Stadium and Kerry will hopefully be in the league final by the time we meet them the following week in Dr. Hyde Park so all is not lost. It would be fantastic to survive in the division. Where there is life there is hope. It can be done!
Cheltenham set for the off on Tuesday
Next Tuesday (12th), the annual Cheltenham Festival takes place and there will be huge interest as usual. There is a warning this year though as we have just had the mildest winter in many decades, and as a result a lot of the horses will not like the ground which has resembled summer conditions over the past few months. A lot of the trainers will be hoping for plenty of rain between now and next Tuesday.
I was at a very successful Cheltenham Preview night in Athlone last week along with almost 400 others. Gordon Elliott, Noel Meade, Eddie O’Leary and Kevin O’Ryan of Racing TV were on the panel.
I am very reluctant to give out tips but champion trainer Elliott gave Delta Work and Dallas Des Pictons as his two naps of the meeting. Kevin O’Ryan (a great character) thinks Apples Jade will win the Champion Hurdle and finally, all there reckoned that the Joseph O’Brien trained Sir Erec is the nap of the whole meeting. It will be interesting to see how they go! I don’t usually back horses or take a huge interest but Cheltenham is special and I’m looking forward to it.
Hurlers set for final showdown
Roscommon’s hurlers are poised to take the Division 3A title when they face Armagh on Sunday in the final in Navan. These have been the two best teams in the division and it should be a good final. Roscommon’s defeat to Lancashire last Sunday is a worry but they were already in the final at that stage. There won’t be much in it but it would be a great boost ahead of the championship if Roscommon could prevail.
Leitrim’s impressive league campaign
It would be remiss of me not to congratulate Leitrim on their promotion from Division 4 of the league. The excitement and interest that this year’s campaign has generated in the county is enormous and they will now get a chance to play in the league final against Derry in Croke Park.
It’s another indication that the league is a far fairer competition than the championship. The league gives a chance for small counties like Leitrim to have a bit of success that they could never enjoy in the championship. Well done to all concerned.
Gentleman Jim pays his respects
To read the likes of Paul Kimmage or some of the national journalists over recent years one would think that Jim Gavin is some sort of monster that couldn’t care less about anything except his own players. However, last Sunday in Dr. Hyde Park he was a thorough gentleman and was very warm, respectful, co-operative and friendly.
During his after-match interview he paid a genuine tribute to the Roscommon team and how they played. He was also gushing in his praise for the pitch at Dr. Hyde Park, which he said was the best he had seen outside Croke Park. Even more amazingly when he was finished with the media he came back and asked that he be allowed pay tribute to Liam Gilmartin who had been a neighbour of his in Raheny over many years. He also praised Dermot Earley who had helped him when he started out in the army. I also had a few dealings with Gavin when he was Dublin U-21 manager a few years ago and I have always found him to be friendly and courteous.
Expect more twists and turns in title race!
Another interesting weekend in soccer across the water and it is hard to decide whether Liverpool are getting nervous as the title finishing line is coming into view. I didn’t get a chance to see the Merseyside Derby but according to reports, Liverpool were not as sharp up front as they have been, But they have a few very winnable games coming up and they will soon get back on track.
Manchester City are playing very well but they are not scoring as many goals as they would like. The stats from their match against Bournemouth at the weekend were remarkable. They had 82% possession, they had 29 shots on goal while Bournemouth (who were at home) had none at all but City still only won 1-0. City have a lot of big games coming up in the FA Cup and the Champions League never mind the Premier League, and it may well be that injuries could be a huge factor before the season is out. I wouldn’t call the title race at all yet. There will be more twists and turns.
Meanwhile, Manchester United roll on. Their game against Southampton was about as exciting as you can get. There were five great goals and loads of controversial talking points. It would appear from reports that Solskjaer will be given the manager’s position on a permanent basis. He has done some job since he came in.
CBS gets top marks for sport!
What a great year they are having on the sporting front at Roscommon CBS. To have reached their first ever Connacht senior cup final is a marvellous achievement and hopefully they will continue against Garbally next week.
They are also going great guns in the football and there is a great tradition there over many decades. The football team looks very strong and hopefully there is a ‘B’ title there. This comes just a year after the school won the All-Ireland Schools Golf title. It’s a great advertisement for the school and the work that’s going in there in sport.
Ireland to set up title decider with Wales
Ireland are back in the Aviva on Sunday against France and it should be a comfortable enough win for Joe Schmidt’s side but you never know in sport. The Irish performances against Scotland and Italy have been mediocre and it would appear that the England defeat really let the wind out of the Irish sails. But they know that if they can win on Sunday they can set up a championship decider against Wales the following weekend and what a game that would be.
It will be interesting to see what starting 15 Schmidt goes with on Sunday. I would wager that he will go with as close to his strongest team as he can for this game and the match against Wales. They are the last competitive games before the World Cup and it would be great to go to Japan on the back of two good wins.
It’s hard to know what France are like. They were very poor against Wales and England but they improved against Scotland. If Ireland are to be considered as a World Cup contender then they will have to win this match on Sunday.