A win for the ages in Castlebar!
People like me are often accused of living too much in the past. Well there will be none of that this week! Put simply, last Saturday night’s win against Mayo was one of the greatest in the many years that I have been going to see the Primrose and Blue. The game is analysed in detail elsewhere but I give Anthony Cunningham and his backroom team 100% credit for masterminding this mighty win.
Last week there was not as much as one sentence about Roscommon in the national media; in the papers, the TV or radio or on social media. It was all about Mayo. Former player David Brady was expecting a 12 to 15 point win, John Maughan said Mayo had bigger fish to fry, Tomas Ó Sé lauded the great job being done by James Horan as Mayo manager. It went on and on. I’d say Anthony Cunningham and the Roscommon players were delighted that they were being totally written off. And it got worse as the week went on.
But even I (who predicted that Mayo would win narrowly) knew that if Roscommon were in the game with ten or fifteen minutes to go that they had a huge chance. Roscommon knew what they were about and when it came down to the last quarter the strength of the bench made the difference. The Smiths, Conor Devaney, Brian Stack, Diarmuid Murtagh and Fintan Cregg are quality players to be able to call in when you need to win a game. It was some feeling when that final whistle sounded.
Tears were not far away I can assure you.
This group of players have given us some entertainment over the past five years or so. We have had a thrilling Division One campaign, a brilliant Connacht final win against Galway and now a win against Mayo in Castlebar. I am full of admiration for the players and the management who have brought such joy to the people of Roscommon.
But as Anthony Cunningham said after the game, the trick now is to follow one great display with another and Roscommon have not been good at that over the years. A Connacht final against Galway will be a very tough prospect and very hard to win. But Roscommon have never been afraid to face Galway in the championship and if they can replicate the effort and organisation that we saw in MacHale Park last Saturday night there is no reason why they cannot win.
Remember also that the Roscommon footballers are just one game away from another appearance in the Super 8s which would be some achievement.
The national media’s love affair with Mayo continued in the aftermath of Saturday’s game with most pundits concentrating on just how poor Mayo were and it’s now almost a national conversation as to whether they can came back through the back door.
However, maybe if Roscommon could put two great championship performances together the national ‘experts’ might come around to the idea that Roscommon are actually not a bad team at all!
Later on Saturday night I was in the company of several Roscommon players who gave me a hard time after predicting a Mayo win here last week. It was all great fun and craic and I had to put my hands up, but I was never so glad to have got it wrong! This bunch of lads are a credit to themselves, to their families, clubs and their counties. The effort they are putting in is phenomenal and I have the greatest of respect for them. If we never won another game this year I will never forget being in MacHale Park on the May 25th. To beat Mayo there for the first time since 1986 is absolutely massive. Thanks lads.
Liverpool start as favourites in Madrid!
It is very unusual for the teams contesting the Champions League Final to have such a long build up but that’s the way it is this year and both Liverpool and Spurs will be well rested and ready for action in Madrid on Saturday night next.
If Liverpool played Spurs ten times then Liverpool would probably win nine of those because they have better players, but in a one-off game you can never predict what is going to happen. The two managers are top class and it will be interesting to see what the game plan will be for both sides.
If the Liverpool front three of Firmino, Salah and Mane are fit then they must be favoured. But Harry Kane will most likely to be back for Spurs and he is certainly their talisman. Spurs have some really great players and Christian Eriksen will have a huge role to play. At his best he is world class. It promises to be a great game and both sides will come into the final on the back of incredible semi-final results. I have a slight fancy for Liverpool but don’t rule out a shock!
Outlook has changed for Irish Rugby
It’s amazing how the landscape can change in just a few months in sport. Not that long ago Irish rugby fans were rubbing their hands in anticipation as the World Cup in Japan was on the horizon. In fact, many were giddy at the prospect at Ireland’s chances.
Now at the end of the regular season it looks as though Ireland’s strength in depth in certain areas of the field is not as good as we thought. Sean O’Brien is the latest player ruled out which leaves Ireland very short of back row cover. There are also a plethora of players suffering from loss of form and from injuries so I presume that Joe Schmidt will welcome the break of a couple of months before the build-up starts to Japan.
On a positive note, it was fantastic to see the rich praise heaped on Jack Carty since the season has ended. He was chosen on the Pro14 ‘Dream Team’ and then was picked at number eight in the rankings of Irish players over the season. It has been a fantastic season for the former Roscommon minor footballer.
Hurlers face Royal table-toppers
Roscommon hurlers can seal an incredible turnaround in fortunes when they take on table-toppers Meath in the Christy Ring Cup on Saturday in Athleague. Already into the semi-finals, Ciaran Comerford’s men can hurl with abandon in the knowledge that they have more big games coming up. We wish them the best of luck!
The Villa are going up!
There are a number of clubs in the UK that enjoy huge Irish support and Aston Villa are one of them so there was much joy when Villa were promoted to the Premier League after their 2-1 win against Derby County on Monday.
There is usually some sort of an Irish connection at Villa Park and this season Conor Hourihane has been one of their best players. Villa are a big club and they will expect to stay in the top division next season.
Leeds United will have to start all over again in the Championship after it looked like this would be their season. It’s so difficult to get out of that league!
Munster SFC semi-finals on Saturday at 7pm
Clare v Kerry in Ennis
Clare are not a bad side but at this time of the year their chances of upsetting Kerry are nil.
Cork v Limerick in Pairc Ui Rinn
Cork football is in the doldrums while Limerick upset Tipperary to get to the semi-finals. Don’t rule out a shock, but Cork at home must be the choice.
Leinster SFC Quarter-Final replay
Longford v Kildare on Sunday in O’Connor Park at 3 pm
This was a cracking game last Sunday and Longford have proven great championship battlers over the years. A hesitant vote to Kildare though.
Waterford v Limerick in Waterford at 2 pm
A ‘must win’ game for both sides. Limerick got a shock losing to Cork while Waterford have lost their two games. I presume that Limerick have learned their lesson and won’t slip up here.
Cork v Tipperary in Ennis at 4 pm
An unusual venue for what promises to be a cracking game. Both sides will want to put down a marker here with the winners into the Munster final. Not much to choose between the teams but Tipp have looked more dangerous so far.
Carlow v Dublin in Carlow on Sunday at 3 pm
Ulster SFC semi-final
Armagh v Cavan in Clones at 4 pm
This will be the game of the weekend in the football championship. Both sides will fancy their chances. I have a slight preference for Cavan but it could go either way. Don’t rule out extra-time.