Dubs and Kerry must do it all again!
When I was walking down Jones’s Road after the All-Ireland final in 2017 I was firmly of the opinion that it was the best final that I had ever seen in terms of quality, tension, incidents and atmosphere. I didn’t think I’d ever see the likes of it again. Little did I know it would take just two years for an arguably better decider to come along.
Last Sunday’s game was simply sensational. It crackled and fizzed from the time the ball was thrown in until the final whistle blew after eight minutes and twenty seconds of injury-time at the end of the game. The final fifteen minutes were the most tension filled that I have ever experienced at any sporting event as the title was in the balance. I’m glad both sides have a chance at a replay. It would have been cruel if either team had lost such an epic.
Yes, I did predict that Dublin would win last week, and I wasn’t on my own either. Kerry were much better than I expected they would be on the day and fair play to Peter Keane and his management team as they produced their young side in perfect order for the match. Of course the sending off was crucial. By the way, I reckon that David Gough got that call right but was very lenient on Tom O’Sullivan in the second half. Overall though, the referee did well.
However, if you had told me on Sunday morning that Jonny Cooper would be sent off before half-time and that Brian Fenton, Ciaran Kilkenny, Paul Mannion, Con O’Callaghan and Michael Darragh MacAuley would play well below par then I would have feared for the Dubs, but that’s what happened. But as with all great teams, others stepped up to the plate: Stephen Cluxton, Jack McCaffrey, Brian Howard and Dean Rock were outstanding and kept their side in the game. McCaffrey’s performance was one of the greatest individual displays ever seen in an All-Ireland final. He was poor in the semi-final against Mayo but he more than made up for it on Sunday. On the other side of the coin, Kerry were excellent and will now believe that they have a measure of this Dublin team. They had many stars on the day but I thought Sean O’Shea was sensational. He scored ten points, which included kicking three ’45s into The Hill in the second half. Talk about nerves of steel! The much-maligned Kerry defence did a good job of keeping the likes of O’Callaghan, Mannion and Kilkenny quiet. It was also a huge surprise that Kerry had a much bigger impact off the bench with Killian Spillane scoring a sensational goal and Tommy Walsh making a huge contribution as well.
So who will be best prepared for the replay? In my humble opinion, Dublin have far more room for improvement. It’s been a long time since the likes of Fenton, Kilkenny, James McCarthy, O’Callaghan and Paul Mannion have been as quiet in a game and the subs that came on didn’t add too much to the party either. I fancy Dublin to win the replay but I am expecting another gripping encounter. There is no doubt about it, when Gaelic football is played in the right spirit as we saw last Sunday it’s a fantastic game. Roll on Saturday week!
Aoife brings European title to Castlerea
I wouldn’t be the biggest boxing fan in the world but what Aoife O’Rourke achieved at the European Championships in Madrid last week was as fine a sporting performance as we have ever seen from any athlete from our county. To put her gold medal winning performance in perspective, Katie Taylor is the only other woman to win a gold in the Europeans which is some achievement.
I know my colleague Dan Dooner has spoken to Aoife on many occasions and she is down to earth and very grounded. I know her family are fantastic sporting people. I was thrilled to see so many people out to welcome her home to Castlerea on Sunday night. Every Roscommon person is so proud of what she has achieved so far and it would be fantastic if she qualifies for the Olympics in Tokyo next year. Well done Aoife!
Carty makes the cut for Japan!
The day after Aoife O’Rourke arrived back in Castlerea there was another massive honour for a Roscommon sportsperson as Jack Carty was chosen on the 31-man Irish squad to travel to the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this month. I have spoken to Jack a couple of times this year (there is an interview in the Roscommon People Plus magazine) and he is a lovely guy. Over the past 18 months he has improved steadily and his progression to the Irish team was well deserved. Joe Schmidt gave him his first start last Saturday against Wales in Cardiff and he took his chance with both hands earning the ‘Man of the Match’ award.
I was very surprised that Devin Toner was left out. Surely he would have been a better option in the line-out and his experience would have been an asset. The pressure will be on Jean Kleyn and Tadgh Beirne to deliver. It will re-open the debate as to whether the ‘residency rule’ should be used to recruit at the expense of Irish born players.
I presume that Ireland will field their strongest side against Wales at the Aviva this Saturday. If so we will see Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw for the first time in the warm-up games. The way things are going I am fearful about our opening World Cup game against Scotland at this stage.
Four Roads overcame Pádraig Pearses in last Saturday’s Kepak Senior Hurling Championship Semi-Final in Athleague. Pic: Michelle Hughes Walsh
Club championships reach boiling point
These are interesting times in the football and hurling championships locally. The play-off situation will be sorted out after this weekend’s fixtures in football and anyone (including yours truly) trying to predict results after what happened in round two will have their work cut out. The formbook was literally tossed out the window after round one so it will be fascinating if the unpredictability continues this weekend.
The two hurling semi-finals were very disappointing last Saturday night. In fact, the U-21 final on Monday night was a far better match. However, both Athleague and Four Roads won well so hopefully we will have a good final and I think we will too.
‘Boys in Green’ back in action tonight
Maybe it’s just me, but I am finding it very hard to work up any excitement about Ireland’s match against Switzerland in the Euro 2020 qualifiers tonight (Thursday). Mick McCarthy has certainly steadied the ship since he returned as manager but the facts are that the quality of player available to Ireland is not good at the moment. I read the other day where none of the strikers in the squad for the match on Thursday night have ever scored a goal for Ireland. It doesn’t really inspire all that much confidence!
Biggest day of the year for camogie
It’s the biggest day of the year on Sunday in camogie and hopefully there will be plenty of talking points out of the day. There will be lots of interest here in the county in the Premier Junior final between Limerick and Kerry as Roscommon ran Limerick very close in the recent All-Ireland semi-final.
Common sense prevails ahead of replay
Thankfully sense has prevailed in the GAA at the top level with the decision to reduce the ticket prices for the All-Ireland final replay to €60. Indeed, they could have come down a bit more but any reduction is welcome.
With regard to the starting time, I’d hate to be travelling from Waterville or Cahersiveen to Croker for a six o’clock start. What time would that mean that they would get home? They won’t care if they win it of course!