Rossies set for trip to Carrick
So it’s Leitrim to face Roscommon on the 26th of May and I had a sneaking suspicion that they would sneak through in New York but what a tight squeeze it was. Listening to the commentary it looked like New York would win it in extra-time but in fairness to Leitrim they remained composed to just about get over the line. We will have plenty more time to preview that Connacht semi-final in the next few weeks but I am expecting Roscommon to win that game comfortably.
However, it’s a pity for the game in the county that the junior team were dumped out of the championship by Mayo last Wednesday night. Our fringe players could have done with a few extra games. It’s a setback for sure and a worry that a team with so many players on our senior panel were defeated by a team made up of junior and intermediate players.
All eyes on Castlebar!
There will be major national focus on the Mayo v Galway match on Sunday. It may not be a football classic but there will be a huge amount at stake and it is the biggest game that we will see in the football championship this side of August. They do not like each other and Mayo will have to win it, as a long drawn-out back-door route will not suit them this year. I have a nagging feeling Mayo will win it.
It will be a throwback to days of yore with a full house in Castlebar but I will settle for the armchair view. I’d love to go but the prospect of sitting in traffic for two hours after the game is putting me off.
The almost chaotic championship calendar will begin in earnest this weekend and we are facing the biggest changes in the football and hurling championships in the history of the association. It could be really exciting or it could blow up in their faces. Time will tell.
Kevin McStay had some very interesting things to say about that in his interview in this paper this week. I am not a follower of the squeezed league schedule and we saw what the bad weather did to that programme. I wonder are there any unforeseen problems ahead for the football and hurling championships? If Roscommon get into the Super 8s (which they should) it could well be a massive summer for the fans. Let the action begin!
Hurlers face tough opener
It has been a terrible few years for Roscommon hurling. The profile of the county at national level has slipped further and further each year, and this weekend the county team are in Newbridge to face Kildare in the Christy Ring Cup. It is a very tough start to the championship. The league campaign will not be much inspiration but I know that under Ciaran Comerford the team have been training hard. Kildare will be the red-hot favourites to win so hopefully they will be a little complacent. It will be a tall order for Roscommon to go there and win but you never know in sport. Good luck to all concerned.
Minors can turn it around
The minor footballers’ defeat to Galway last Friday night was a bit of a shocker. This is a talented team that had been preparing hard for the past five months. But after Galway got the two goals in injury-time at the end of the first half, Roscommon’s challenge totally collapsed and it was hard to watch in the second half as the home side ran riot.
The brutal reality is that a defeat against Mayo on Friday night in Kiltoom will see Roscommon out of the championship before the middle of May, which would be a terrible pity. The management team of Paul Staunton, Stephen Lohan and Michael Gallagher will have the unenviable task this week of lifting the players to produce a performance against a Mayo team who hammered Leitrim last week.
I don’t believe all is lost. There are many fine young footballers on this Roscommon team. They froze and lost their way last Friday night. If they can play for the entire 60 minutes they can turn the ship around. It won’t be easy but it can be done.
‘Fifth Major’ this weekend
The biggest golf tournament of the years in terms of prize money, the so called ‘fifth major’, The Players’ Championship, will take place at Sawgrass this coming weekend and it is brilliant TV.
The iconic 17th hole provides one of the toughest challenges in the game. It is a very short hole but the pressure on the players standing on the tee is massive and it’s a huge test for those in contention on Sunday.
All the big names are playing. Tiger Woods has been going well since his return to the game but he has not shot the light out at any stage. His putting is poor but if he gets the flat stick going he could be in contention. I’ll be backing Rickie Fowler this week.
Huge day of sport coming up…
What a day of sport lies ahead on Saturday, May 26th with the Rossies facing Leitrim in Carrick-on-Shannon in the Connacht semi-final at 5.30 pm and then Liverpool in the Champions League final at 7.45 pm.
I wrote in this column in January that Liverpool were capable of winning the Champions League because of the quality of their attack and now that they are in the final they have every chance of taking a 6th title. Real Madrid are a great team but they are not as strong as they were over recent seasons. If Liverpool can stop the supply to Ronaldo they can win it.
Remember, I am a Manchester United fan. If Liverpool do win I will probably stay in Carrick-on-Shannon for the weekend and not come back at all because I’ll never hear the end of it!
Connacht SFC Quarter-Final:
Mayo v Galway on Sunday at 4 pm
Outside of the All-Ireland semi-finals, this is the summer’s most eagerly awaited championship game. After being beaten by Galway in each of the last two years, Mayo will be anxious to go the direct route this year as their team puts up more and more miles on the clock. Lee Keegan is a huge loss but Mayo will be giving this everything. I have a feeling there is one more huge game in Stephen Rochford’s men and that they will edge it by a point or two. It promises to be an absolutely huge battle and as they say: ‘no place for a gasan!’
Donegal v Cavan on Sunday at 3.30 pm
Both of these sides would have designs on winning an Ulster title this year. Cavan had a great league and while Donegal’s campaign wasn’t so good they played some great football. The loss of Dara McVeety will be felt by Cavan as he is their best player. At home, and with the McHughs and Paddy McBrearty on board, I expect Donegal to win.
Wexford v Laois on Saturday at 6.30 pm
Not much to choose between these two. Wexford are hard to beat at home but Laois were unbeaten in Division 4 and maybe that momentum might carry them through.
Louth v Carlow on Sunday in Drogheda at 3 pm
Two of the Leinster minnows clash in Drogheda. Louth were very poor in Division 2 and never won a match. Carlow are on a high after being promoted from Division 4 but are without the inspirational Brendan Murphy. There won’t be much in it.
Offaly v Wicklow on Sunday in Tullamore at 3 pm
Wicklow have had a nightmare season so far and ended up bottom of the Division 4 table. Offaly are going through a transition period too but at home they should have the measure of John Evan’s Wicklow side.
Offaly v Galway on Saturday in Tullamore at 7 pm
Offaly have improved under Kevin Martin and will pose much more of a threat than in recent years. But Galway will come with all guns blazing and there is only one possible outcome.
Dublin v Kilkenny on Sunday in Parnell Park at 2 pm
I expect Dublin to give this a real lash. But the Cats are back in business after a super league campaign. There won’t be much in it but Kilkenny have to be the choice.