As Miley Byrne used to say many years ago on Glenroe: “Well Holy God”. It’s an apt statement for events in the Roscommon football championships over the weekend!
Who would have thought that Clann na nGael, who won the title in such style last year, would be out of the championship after only two rounds of group games? Who would have thought that St. Brigid’s would be struggling?
Not alone that, but anyone who saw Elphin play St. Brigid’s and St. Croan’s play Fuerty would have strongly backed Elphin to come out on top but Croan’s were a team transformed in a week and beat Elphin by three points! Similarly, Strokestown looked in trouble after their loss to Roscommon Gaels but they rallied to get a vital draw with Michael Glavey’s.
I was in Ballyleague where Roscommon Gaels turned in a solid display to beat St. Faithleach’s which followed Boyle’s hammering of Clann na nGael. At least those of us who were there saw one of the truly great individual championship performances as Donie Smith notched up an incredible 1-15. It was a phenomenal display.
So where does that leave us now? Having seen five games in the SFC it is one of the most open championships that I have seen in the past 20 years. There are several teams of roughly the same ability and no obvious favourites for the Fahey Cup have emerged so far.
In the IFC, Tulsk and Castlerea have been the two most impressive teams so far. St. Dominic’s pulled off a dramatic win against Oran while Creggs are going nicely with two wins under their belts.
This weekend it’s the turn of the Kepak Senior Hurling Championship semi-finals. They are previewed in more detail elsewhere in the sports section this week but my fancy is for another Athleague v Four Roads final.
All-Ireland SFC Final
Dublin v Kerry in Croke Park on Sunday at 3.30 pm
It looks like history will be made on Sunday when the Dublin footballers will seek to achieve what no other team has done in the history of the GAA and that’s to win five senior football titles in a row.
I have to say that I’m glad that it’s Kerry that’s meeting them in the final and not Tyrone. With Kerry there the chances of having a Gaelic football game are pretty high. But have Kerry any chance of dethroning the Dubs? Not in my thinking. I have said it a couple of times in this column over the past few weeks, the day I saw Dublin in the flesh against Roscommon I was blown away by how good they were, how strong they were and how much they had improved in a year. There were people telling me before the semi-final that Mayo would beat them. There was never any chance of that happening and so it turned out.
Kerry are a better side than Mayo and if they could devise a way of getting the ball into Paul Geaney, David Clifford and Stephen O’Brien they might get the scores they need. But that’s a very big ‘if’. The Dublin defence are no great shakes but it’s the collective team effort and work ethic that is just so relentless with this Dublin team. They strike with such power and have so much skill and outstanding back-up play that it is almost impossible to subdue them.
Also, if the Dublin defence is vulnerable then the Kerry defence is much more so. The likes of Con O’Callaghan, Paul Mannion, Ciaran Kilkenny and Dean Rock are stronger, fitter and just better than they were 12 months ago. When you add in the peerless Brian Fenton at midfield it’s a mix that is irresistible. That’s not even taking into account the surging runs of Jack McCaffrey and James McCarthy from the half-back line.
David Moran is having a great year for Kerry in the middle of the park but he will have to play the game of his life on Sunday if The Kingdom are to have any joy. I think that it could be a game for 45 or 50 minutes but once the Dubs switch on the afterburners it will spell trouble for Kerry. For the neutral I hope it’s a good game. I can see Dublin winning by four or five points at least.
Note: The minor final is between Cork and Galway. It would be an incredible transformation if Galway were to take the title having lost to Roscommon in Dr. Hyde Park. Stranger things have happened!
Can Ireland recover before Japan?
I was really looking forward to seeing an almost full-strength Irish Rugby team take on England at Twickenham last Saturday. It was a total shocker, however, as England hammered Joe Schmidt’s men and despite the excuses being trotted out this week, it is a very heavy blow and maybe even a fatal one to our World Cup hopes before the tournament even begins.
I realise that Ireland are not as bad as we saw at the weekend but I would hate to see us having to face that English team again. They swatted the Irish players aside like flies and we had no one capable of competing with the like of Billy Vunipola and especially Maro Itoje who was awesome.
Ireland have still to play Wales a couple of times before they travel out to Japan but it is not looking good. Too many of their main players are either injured or suffering from a loss of form. Schmidt has a huge job to get the train back on the tracks over the next two weeks!
Young Rossies win All-Ireland title!
Congratulations to the Roscommon U-16 camogie team on their All-Ireland win at the weekend. The win represents a big boost for the game in the county and is a tribute to the people who have been looking after underage teams in Roscommon. It’s seldom that camogie is in the spotlight so well done to everyone concerned. It’s well deserved.
City and Liverpool lead the way again
There has been a very predictable start to the Premier League season with Manchester City and Liverpool looking head and shoulders ahead of the chasing pack. Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea have all looked very poor at times and are not in the class of the top two.
Then there is Manchester United. Nothing has changed since last season and despite Solskjaer being in charge the problems are still the same with no penetration up front and very little cover when players are playing badly.
The controversy over the penalties was crazy. There would be a designated penalty taker on every soccer team from U-11 upwards and how United do not do the same is beyond me. What happened against Crystal Palace last Saturday would never, ever have happened under Sir Alex Ferguson. There isn’t much point in changing the manager again, but the facts are that United’s squad is threadbare and they are depending on one world-class midfielder (Pogba) who does not want to be at the club. It’s a total mess and another season of extreme frustration is on the way for United fans.
Another giant step for ladies’ football
Ladies football took another giant step forward with the staging of the All-Ireland semi-finals at Croke Park on Sunday. A crowd of over 10,000 turned up which is encouraging. No one would deny that there remains a mountain of work to be done in terms of developing and marketing the game but it is going in the right direction and hopefully there will be another bumper crowd at the finals in two weeks’ time.
Mayo legend Andy Moran steps aside
A lot of Roscommon fans would have a love-hate relationship with Andy Moran but I don’t think that anyone would deny that he was a great player. In fact, he played the best football of his career over the past five years. His ball winning ability, and his vision and ability to make a difference, whether off the bench or from the starting fifteen, was unmatched on that Mayo team over the past decade.
I met him a number of times over the years and he is a lovely lad. I wish him the best of luck in his retirement. Is it the beginning of the break-up if this Mayo team?