Topsy-turvy county championships!
What a topsy-turvy weekend it has been in the football championships in the county. Hats off first of all to Fuerty who are not only playing in their first ever campaign but they topped their group as well and are seeded. Their game against Elphin at the weekend was a cracker and a draw was predicted here as well! Elphin survived by the skin of their teeth as their late equaliser meant that they advanced and St. Croan’s were sent into the relegation play-offs.
St. Brigid’s put up a huge score against St. Croan’s. The big question is whether the men from Kiltoom are back in business? We will know after next Sunday’s match against Western Gaels.
Roscommon Gaels have looked the most consistent team so far. They have ticked all the boxes and have emerged unscathed from their group. They have played well in all three games and that is something that no other team has done so far.
Strokestown were worthy winners against St. Faithleach’s last weekend and the Ballyleague men are in free-fall since the championship started. Michael Glavey’s are slipping back after a good start but are still standing.
Pádraig Pearses, meanwhile, were everyone’s fancy before the start of the championship and while they still can win the Fahey Cup they have made hard work out of their two wins and suffered the shock defeat of the championship against Clann last Sunday.
Boyle and Western Gaels could both be labelled dark horses. Their game last Sunday was the game of the championship so far and both sides have really strong forward lines.
In the Intermediate Football Championship Castlerea and Tulsk continue to make the running and they look the two best teams in the competition. Oran have a lot of injuries but could also come back into the fray. All will be revealed in the quarter-finals.
The jury is still out on the new format this year but there were certainly a number of very exciting games last weekend. We will leave it another while before delivering a verdict!
All-Ireland SFC Final replay
Kerry v Dublin on Saturday in Croke Park at 6 pm
Replays are funny. They take on a life of their own and are seldom like the drawn game. After the classic that we saw two weeks ago there are so many questions to be answered. Did Kerry leave it behind them or will they finish the job this time? Did Dublin get away with it in the drawn game and can they play much better this time around? Was the extra man a huge advantage for Kerry in the drawn game? Can this young Kerry team finish the Dubs five-in-a-row ambitions? One thing is for certain, if the game is half as good as the drawn match it will be another classic.
I was of the opinion that the Dubs would win the drawn game with a bit to spare but was proved wrong. I definitely underestimated how good Kerry were but I certainly did not foresee how poor some of the Dubs main men would play. Brian Fenton, Con O’Callaghan, Paul Mannion and Ciaran Kilkenny were way below par and James McCarthy was roasted by Sean O’Shea.
But this week I am of the opinion that Dublin will never play as poorly again. Jim Gavin has been a magnificent manager over the years but he will have been annoyed not only with the performance of his team in the drawn game, but his own performance too as he slipped up badly not moving Jonny Cooper off David Clifford after the yellow card. He will have a plan formulated to deny possession to Clifford, Geaney and O’Shea. His trusted lieutenants like O’Callaghan, Mannion, Kilkenny, McCarthy and Fenton will surely never play as poorly again.
Once again, however, Stephen Cluxton will be key. He was magnificent in the drawn game. Jack McCaffrey won’t be as prominent as he was in the drawn game; it’s probably too much to expect that. But James McCarthy will step up to the plate.
Kerry will come all guns blazing and I expect them to put up stern resistance. David Moran will be so important to them. They need another big display from him in the middle of the field. Dublin could well pick James McCarthy alongside Fenton in the middle of the field with Cian O’Sullivan coming in at centre back and Michael Darragh MacAuley dropping out. It will also be fascinating to see how Kerry use Tommy Walsh. Are they tempted to start him? All in all, it’s a fascinating prospect.
I’m sticking with the Dubs on the basis that they played poorly in the drawn game and got away with it. In the end they will win by three or four points and write their own chapter in the history books.
All-Ireland camogie final was a thriller
It was great to see that last Sunday’s All-Ireland senior camogie final was such a great attacking and thrilling game. The finals in 2017 and 2018 were dour defensive and boring matches and the game badly needed a spectacle. It shows that when the game is played and refereed properly it can be as attractive as any other.
It was also good to see that almost 25,000 people were there on the day. This Sunday it’s the turn of ladies football and I’m sure the organisers are hoping for another huge turnout.
In the senior final Dublin are going for three-in-a-row. It could be a very big weekend for football in the capital! There will be big interest in Roscommon in the intermediate final when Meath face Tipperary. Michael Finneran’s Roscommon have lost out to Meath in the semi-final for the past two years.
Contradictory Keane is box office!
For those of you who are interested in sport and who didn’t hear it, I would strongly recommend that you listen to the Newstalk podcast from The Bord Gáis Theatre with Roy Keane and Gary Neville from last week. It was absolutely compelling stuff from start to finish.
Neville is knowledgeable and easy to listen to, but Keane stole the show. He is the most contradictory personality I have ever come across in Irish sport. He was funny, honest, brutal, bitter, withering, laid back and intense all in one evening.
Some of his comments about players he worked with during Martin O’Neill’s reign were brutal. But it was his comments about Alex Ferguson that were most controversial. I thought that what he said reflected a bitter and troubled man who is certainly not happy with himself. Whatever row they had, surely it’s time to let it go. Ferguson bought Keane and made him a superstar. Yes, Keane had the ability and was one of the greatest players that I have ever seen, but it is sad to see him so ill at ease with himself and everyone else around him. Having said all that, he is box office, he is sharp as a tack and compelling to listen to whether you agree with him or not.
Wary of Japan ahead of RWC…
Last Saturday’s final Rugby World Cup warm-up match between Ireland and Wales was a ‘nice’ occasion and a good way to complete preparations but it was lacking intensity and a million miles away from what we will see when the championship starts in Japan at the end of next week.
It was good to see the likes of Robbie Henshaw and Johnny Sexton back in the fold and we will need all those players when the tournament starts. The first two games against Scotland and Japan will be the big ones. Two wins will be what’s needed there and it will be a tough task. I have a feeling that Japan will be a very dangerous opponent. They are playing at home and they will want to cause a stir.