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Roscommon’s sights firmly set on Rackard Cup

Nicky Rackard Cup Final: Armagh v Roscommon on Saturday in Croke Park at 1.30 pm

Roscommon hurlers play their most important match in a number of years when they face red-hot favourites Armagh in the 2015 Nicky Rackard Cup Final on Saturday in Croke Park.

  Following a couple of years of under-achievement by the Rossies, this final will afford Justin Campbell’s men a chance to revive their fortunes. However it will not be easy against an Armagh team who have improved out of all recognition in recent years and who won this competition just two years ago.

  Indeed Roscommon defeated Armagh in the final of this competition in 2007, but a lot has changed since. Roscommon have slipped back in the intervening period but there have been positive signs this season. Under Justin Campbell there has been a noticeable rise in commitment levels by all the players to both training and general preparation.

  While the league showed up some inconsistent performances, the championship displays have been excellent thus far.

  Good wins against Fingal and Monaghan gave the side confidence and to beat Monaghan easily was a great boost to the squad as the Ulster side had beaten Roscommon twice in vital league games in recent years. Then in the semi-final against Tyrone Roscommon played some splendid hurling in Carrickmore to secure their place in the final.

  Armagh are a very good side who have gained Christy Ring Cup experience in recent years. They defeated a strong Donegal side in the semi-final, by 1-19 to 1-12. Ciaran Clifford is a strong and forceful full-back while Nathan Curry and Conor Devlin are impressive in the half-back line. John Corvan is Armagh’s inspirational captain and his influence at midfield is vital. Ryan Gaffney is an excellent free-taker and will punish any Roscommon defensive indiscretions, while Eoin McGuinness and Conor Corvan are very dangerous attackers in the Armagh full-forward line.

  Roscommon know that they will have to improve again on their semi-final display if they are to win on Saturday but they will feel that there is plenty more improvement in the tank.

  Noel Fallon improves with every game and he now looks a top class goalkeeper. Roscommon have been resolute in defence and Ian Delaney, Liam Kilcline and Peter Kellehan have been rock-solid in the full-back line. Micheal Kelly is the Roscommon inspiration at centre half-back and his performances this year have been top class. Tom Seale and Declan Leonard have been very consistent in the half-back line.

  At midfield, Cathal Dolan and Keith Kilkenny will have a huge task ahead of them as Armagh are very strong in that department. Up front Jerry Fallon will shoulder the free-taking duties and he is one of the best in the business in that role. John Moran and Ronan O’Meara will have vital roles to link the play and get scores. In the full-forward line, Cillian Egan, Adrian Murphy and possibly Johnny Coyne will have the job of getting the match-winning scores with Cathal Kenny, Jason Kilkenny and Naos Connaughton chomping at the bit to get some action.

  Armagh deserve to start this final as favourites as they have been operating at a consistently higher level than Roscommon in recent years, in both league and championship. But Roscommon will always feel that they can beat Armagh in the championship and the confidence is growing within the Rossies’ squad. Armagh have a lightning-fast attack with some really good finishers. The Roscommon defence, which has been excellent in the championship so far, will have to play out of their skins if they are to provide a platform for victory.

  So, is a shock result on the cards? I have a feeling that there is enough confidence coursing through the veins of a Roscommon side that is determined to take this title on Saturday. If they can improve on their semi-final display and get the breaks on the day, they can win it. Prediction: Roscommon.

Gaels look like realistic title challengers

Last weekend we saw the second round of club championships in Roscommon with the big game of the weekend between Roscommon Gaels and St Brigid’s turning out to be a very competitive affair with Brigid’s using all their experience to register a one-point win in the end.

  The Gaels will wonder how they lost but they will also take a lot of encouragement from their display, especially in the second half. If they can build on their performance and improve in the next couple of games then they can be considered as realistic challengers for the title.

  St Brigid’s will be delighted to have won this game playing below par and they will expect to improve as the championship progresses.

  Elsewhere, the big talking point was the great comeback by Castlerea in the second game in Strokestown. After 16 minutes Strokestown led by 1-6 to 0-1 and looked like world-beaters. But incredibly Castlerea hung in there and came back to win by the minimum margin.

  Nigel Dineen has done a lot of character-building in this team as they were in a similar situation in the first round.

  I was in Ballyforan for what was a bizarre match between Padraig Pearse’s and Clann na nGael. The combination of injuries and a hailstorm meant that there were 14 minutes of injury-time.

  Clann must be very disappointed to have not secured at least a draw as they failed to score in the final 20 minutes of play with a huge wind at their backs. But Pearses were the better team and fully deserved their win.

  Western Gaels and St Faithleach’s played out a draw which leaves them both at the bottom of the Group table after two games. In Group B, Boyle got their season back on track with a good win against Elphin while St Croan’s also had a good win when they travelled to Kilmore.

  Now the championship will take a break for at least a month and that will depend on how Roscommon get on against Sligo.

It’s time to change All-Ireland format

Last Sunday we saw the expected humiliation for Longford against the rampant Dubs. The huge competition for places on the Dublin team means that they cannot take their foot off the gas and they will always compete strongly right up to the final whistle.

  This match does nothing for football in either county and underlines the urgent need for a serious rethink of the football championship format. It should be high on the agenda in Croke Park.

  There is no doubt that the present provincial structures need to come into the spotlight. There is a place for the provincial championships but the All-Ireland championship should be a completely different competition.

  Just look at the seeding in our own local championships and how it has led to a lot of close matches. If that was the case on a national level it would aid the marketing and competitiveness of the game of football.

  It is obvious that the grading structure of the game of hurling works and there are very few mis-matches in the hurling championship and that’s why the game of hurling is on the rise.

Hurlers off to Croker

On Saturday Roscommon hurlers face a big test when they take on Armagh in the Nicky Rackard Cup Final. It is a great opportunity for all involved to get a chance to play in Croke Park and at this level they should be expected to win.

  Elsewhere this weekend, in football, Laois should get the better of free-falling Kildare while Derry might surprise Down in Ulster. In hurling the Cork v Waterford game could be a real cracker, with Cork the favourites. The loss of Padraic O’Mahony could be a fatal blow to Waterford hopes this year.

  In the Leinster Championship I felt that Dublin were slightly the better side last Sunday and Joe Canning will have to improve if Galway are to win the replay. I know he was playing with an injured hand but there are no excuses when you cross the white line and he was more of a hindrance than a help to Galway last Sunday. Dublin look the better bet here.

NO ‘ENDA’ TO DOMINANCE OF BALLINASLOE TOWN

Roscommon & District League Challenge Cup Final

Ballinasloe Town 3 Castlerea Celtic 1

Enda Concannon, manager of all-conquering Ballinasloe Town, has described last Sunday’s Cup Final win by his side as one of their sweetest successes in recent years.

  Concannon, whose team collected a fourth successive Challenge Cup title after a 3-1 win over Castlerea, paid tribute to his players after they fought back after going behind three minutes into the second half.

  Concannon praised a Castlerea team who offered impressive resistance against the hot favourites.    “Castlerea were excellent out there today. They were very disciplined, so we had to be patient. However there was a very strong wind and we were happy at half-time that they hadn’t scored in the first half.”

  After that scoreless opening period, Castlerea raised prospects of a shock win by taking the lead on 48 minutes. However a stunning equaliser from Shane Duffy settled the favourites and they went on to win yet another trophy.

  It’s a fourth Cup win in a row and also represented the completion of another league and cup double by a team that continues to dominate the Roscommon & District League.

  Squally showers and a strong, bitterly cold wind ensured that it was not a day for fancy football and the first half was a drab affair with few chances, the best of which fell to Castlerea, who were playing with the strong wind at their backs.

  Ballinasloe were restricted to a couple of half-chances but they knew that with the aid of the elements they would get opportunities in the second half. However, with the score at 0-0, the second half opened with Castlerea scoring a super goal on 48 minutes. Enda Foster crossed from the left and Pater Farrell headed home superbly from eight yards.

  Was there a shock on the cards? Castlerea played well for about 10 minutes after that but Ballinasloe never panicked and they slowly worked their way back into the game. After they’d missed a couple of chances the Ballinasloe equaliser came in the 53rd minute – and what a goal it was.

  There didn’t seem much danger when Shane Duffy ran on to a loose clearance from the Celtic defence but he let fly from 30 yards and his left-footed strike flew into the top corner for a spectacular goal. It was all Ballinasloe after that, although Castlerea did have one goal chance in the 62nd minute when Ronan Curran’s header was saved by Aidan Fallon.

  Then in the 75th minute Ballinasloe went ahead. David Grehan shot from 25 years and Liam O’Connell saved well, but he could only parry the ball into the path of Martin Flannery who swept home from eight yards.

  David Grehan and Aiden Dooney both had chances for Ballinasloe after that and then, with a minute to go, the champions struck again. It was route-one stuff as Aidan Fallon kicked long and Martin Flannery was quickest to react and he shot low and hard to seal another famous win for ‘The Town.’ Can anyone stop the five-in-a-row?

  Certainly Ballinasloe manager Enda Concannon appears to retain the hunger for more success. “It’s been a great season again but I actually found it the hardest season of all because we had a lot of injuries and suspensions. We showed today that we have a very good squad and this was one of our best wins in recent years. “We are thrilled to win this trophy once again. We have a great bunch of lads who are determined to keep on winning.”

  Ominous words for the rest of the league!

Ballinasloe Town: Aidan Fallon, Gary Egan, Kenneth Kenny, Peter Keighery, Des Hope, David Nee, Shane Duffy, Darragh Concannon, David Grehan (Michael Greaney 77), Aidan Dooney, Malcom Flannery, (Mike Lynch, 91). Castlerea Celtic: Liam O’Connell, Derek Kennedy, Giles McDonagh, James Joyce, Declan Creaton, Ronan Curran, Stephen Ryan (Aaron Keane 77), Eoghan O’Connell, Nathan Bligh, Peter Farrell (Cathal Dineen, 77), Enda Foster (Oisin Ward 65). Referee: Bobby Stokes.

Heneghan heroics

Hodson Bay Hotel Roscommon SFC

Castlerea St Kevin’s 0-12 Strokestown 1-8

 

Castlerea staged one of the comebacks of the year to snatch victory by a solitary point in this low-key encounter played in awful weather conditions in Strokestown on Saturday evening.

  After 16 minutes of play Strokestown led this match by 1-6 to 0-1 and a landslide victory for the home side looked on the cards – but incredibly Strokestown only scored twice in the final 44 minutes of play as Castlerea awoke from their slumber to notch what was a remarkable victory.

  Strokestown were on fire in the opening quarter. Aided by a Keelan Beirne goal in the 4th minute, they blitzed Castlerea, with Thomas Corcoran, Colin Compton and Kevin Finn all absolutely flying. They led by 1-6 to 0-1 after just 16 minutes.

  Responding to the blitz, Castlerea moved Enda Kenny to midfield, and he and Fintan Kelly took over after that. At half-time Strokestown led by 1-6 to 0-4 with Ger Heneghan, Fintan Kelly and Enda Kenny all scoring good points before the break for Castlerea.

  A revitalised Castlerea continued to dominate in the second period and by the 49th minute they had drawn level at 0-10 to 1-7. Thomas Corcoran pointed a Strokestown free in the 54th minute but veteran Ger Heneghan was once again the Castlerea hero as he kicked two magnificent long-range frees from 50 and 55 metres in the final three minutes to give his side a remarkable win.

Castlerea St Kevin’s: John Duggan; Dermot Lyons, Neil Collins, Niall Collins; David Quinn, Cathal Dineen, Eddie Creaton; Ronan Raftery (0-1), Fintan Kelly (0-1); Niall Connaughton, Seamus Heneghan, Declan Creaton; Enda Kenny (0-1), David Scahill (0-1), Ger Heneghan (0-6, 3 frees 1 ’45). Subs: Chris Dineen (0-2) for Quinn (19), Patrick Gunning for Cathal Dineen (52), Strokestown: John McHugh; David Neary, Ruairi Molloy, Paddy Brogan; Daniel Rogers, Sean Mullooly, John Rogers (0-1); David Butler, Seamus Collins; Keelan Beirne (1-0), Kevin Finn (0-2), Thomas Corcoran (0-2, 1 free); Colin Compton, John Cullinane, Diarmuid McGann (0-2, 1 free). Subs: Conor Silke for Beirne (39), David Parker for Mullooly (black card, 56). Referee: Kevin Naughton. Man of the Match: Enda Kenny (Castlerea St Kevin’s)

‘The Bullet’ for darts exhibition in Elphin

Elphin will welcome one of the rising stars in PDF Darts when Stephen ‘The Bullet’ Bunting performs in an exhibition on Saturday 13th of June in An Bothar Rua.

  Bunting, a former BDO world champion, will take on a number of local darts players in an exhibition-typed event. He has also been known to produce a trick shot or two on stage.

  The event will follow the 3rd Annual Elphin Open which begins at 1 pm in An Bothar Rua, Elphin. There will be a €2000 guaranteed prize fund with an entry fee of €20.

  The top eight placed players will receive prize-money and trophies. Food will be served on the day. There will be a raffle with all proceeds will going to Elphin S.O.S. (Support to Overcome Suicide).

  For more details contact Gerard on 083-4613378. All are welcome to what will surely be a great day of darts and entertainment!

Its world class from Damien and Rikki!

Shane Reynolds 

World titles don’t arrive in Roscommon all that often but recently in front of a packed house at the purpose-built City West Handball Complex local handballers Damien Martin and Rikki O’Gara from St. Coman’s Handball Club won gold in the Men’s A Doubles World Championship.

  Damien and Rikki, who have been part of the St. Coman’s club from an early age, landed the title when they overcame Karl Browne and Jerome Willoughby in a nail-biting tie-breaker (11-5) for a 21-12, 8-21, 11-15 win. 

  The momentous achievement represents the pinnacle of both players’ careers and put them

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Gormley leaves lethal Mark Aidans stunned by Bunninadden comeback

AIB Connacht Club IFC semi-final

Bunninadden (Sligo) 3-11 St. Aidan’s (Roscommon) 3-10

Seamus Duke 

An incredible final-quarter final revival saw the Sligo champions Bunninadden come from 12 points down to snatch a sensational victory in injury-time in this thrilling intermediate football semi-final played in Kiltoom last Sunday.

  In all the years of going to and covering games, I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite like this. With 45 minutes played St Aidans were leading by 2-10 to 0-4 and were coasting to victory and set for a place in the Connacht final. Their opponents were down and

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McStay concerned over injury list

Seamus Duke 

St Brigids manager Kevin McStay spoke to the Roscommon People this week.

  “I have been happy with our preparations since our semi-final win but our injury situation is a worry. Frankie Dolan looks like he will be ok but he has not trained since the semi-final and that’s a worry. Shane Curran is also a doubt and we are worried about the extent of his leg injury. 

  “Darren Dolan is very doubtful and Garvan Dolan is also a doubt. On the plus side Cathal McHugh is making good progress and may be ready to play a

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Moving on with happy memories!

Two weeks ago the World Handball Championships concluded with a number of spectacular finals at juvenile and adult grades. There were several fantastic highlights from these major championships, not least the extraordinary standard of juvenile boys and girls handball.  

  Roscommon is no exception to this and the county was reasonably represented across all juvenile grades in both 40x20 and 1-wall codes. 

  It would be fair to say, however, that initiatives being promoted by the County Board, including training of coaches, juvenile blitzs and school demonstrations will need to be capitalised upon by the further facilitation of the

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Huge task for us Hughes

Gerry Hughes is the Salthill/Knocknacarra manager. 

  “We were delighted to win the county final but we played a league game since and we were beaten in that so that brought us back down to earth. We also have a couple of niggly injuries and Gary Cox and Ruaidhri McTiernan are receiving treatment this week and hopefully they will be able to line out. 

  “We didn’t pass any heed on the Connacht Championship at all until the last week or two. We were very focussed on winning the county title because we hadn’t won it for a few years.

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