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Mettle Men: Positive signs in Tuam

 

 

 

When push came to shove – and it did – the Roscommon players weren’t found wanting as they defended their FBD League title last Sunday against reigning Connacht champions Galway.

  Anthony Cunningham’s charges limited the Tribesmen to just six scores in a manner that will please those Roscommon supporters who made the trip to St. Jarlath’s Park in Tuam last weekend.

  This was much better in terms of an all-round Roscommon performance and it would seem that former Galway hurling manager Cunningham and his backroom team of Iain Daly and Mark Dowd have been working hard on the defensive frailties which were so evident throughout the Super 8s campaign last summer.

  Galway did manage to find a way through the Roscommon rear-guard on one occasion for Barry McHugh’s goal but more often than not found themselves repelled towards their own goal as Roscommon defended from the front. On a number of occasions, only one Primrose and Blue player could be found in the Galway half as Roscommon packed their midfield and their defence.

  While there may have been a move towards a more defensive gameplan, Cunningham’s charges countered to great effect with Enda and Donie Smith providing the perfect pivot in transition to attack.

  The way Roscommon set up last Sunday meant they were a much different proposition to the side which shipped eight goals and sixty-eight points in last year’s Super 8s. This was only one game, however, and any defensive improvement will have to be built on if the Rossies are to have any chance of surviving in Division One this year.

  For now though, those watching on in Tuam will be extremely encouraged by the steely, streetwise nature of Roscommon’s victory. It may have lacked some of the swashbuckling attacking play of previous years but it may just be what’s needed if the county is to be competitive against the very best teams in the country this year.

 

The Sporting brief - January 25th

 

 

 

Darts

McDermott’s stay top!

McDermott’s maintain their lead at the top of the Roscommon Darts League following a 7-2 win over The Three Counties last weekend.

  Meanwhile, The Holly Tree kept up their pursuit with a 6-3 victory over Molly’s. There were also wins for The Hollywood over Creaton’s (7-2) and Flanagan’s over An Bothar Rua (7-2).

  Round 11 sees McDermott’s hosting Flanagan’s, Molly’s welcoming The Hollywood, The Holly Tree travelling to An Bothar Rua and Creaton’s entertaining The Three Counties.

 

Golf

Winter greens

At Roscommon Golf Club recently, Charlie Flanagan won the men’s club competition on January 6th with 38 points. Michael Lennon won the January 13th instalment with 39 while Johnny Walker whisked up 38 points to win last Sunday.

  The ladies’ club competition on January 8th was won by Jacqueline McCormack with 24 points while Mary Mulhern was victorious on the 15th with 20 points.

  The recent men’s seniors winners were Michael Tierney on January 3rd with 39 and Gerry Finn on January 10th with 38. The ladies’ winners were Kitty Blighe (January 3rd), Nuala McDonagh (10th) and Sandra Kelly (17th).

  The Club President and Captains will open the new golfing season with a drive-in on February 3rd.

  In Athlone, Charlie Walsh and Lily O’Sullivan are heading for a hattrick of wins. Charlie won the gent’s 15-hole and Wednesday Open recently while Lily claimed the ladies’ 12-hole and 97 Club competitions.

  In the Winter League, top position is now occupied by Team 10 (Mike Glynn Balliansloe GC) on 586 points with just two weeks remaining.

  The Ladies’ AGM took place in Castlerea recently and the following were elected: Lady Captain: Elizabeth Devine; Lady Vice-Captain: Maura Kelly; Secretary: Marian Caulfield; Treasurer: Catherine Collins; Handicap Secretary: Valerie Callaghan; Competition Secretary: Nicola Devine; Ex-Officio: Mamie Creaton. Committee members: Laura Griffith, Patricia Callaghan, Maureen Claffey and Kathy Burke.

  The winners of the recent Fourball Betterball in Boyle were the two convenors, Willie Tiernan and Vincent Egan, with a fine score of 44 points.

  This Sunday there will be an 18-hole Stableford while the Spring League for men and women takes place over the following three weekends.

  We finish in Carrick where last weekend’s 50/50 was won by Frank McGrath with 23 points (back 3), while Seamus Sheeran was second, also on 23.

 

Swimming

Longford gala

Coman’s took part in a Longford Development Meet recently. Aoife Lavin started with a bang, winning the girls’ U-11 100m Backstroke while Emily Ryan secured bronze in the ‘C’ category of the same event.  

  Aaron Lawrence won gold in the Boys’ U-11 ‘B’ 100m Backstroke, followed narrowly by Shay Morgan who took silver.

  Shay’s brother, Eoin, also won silver in the Boy’s 12-13 ‘B’ 100m Backstrokes while James Hawkshaw took bronze in the ‘C’ category.

  Scott Lawrence won the Boys’ Over-14 100m Backstroke and the ‘B’ 100m Individual Medley.

  In the Boys’ 12-13 ‘C’ 200m Backstroke, Dylan Tobin took gold while Michael Keaveney claimed silver.

  Meanwhile, Aaron Lawrence continued his winning streak, taking first in the Boys’ U-11 100m Freestyle.

  Michele Henry finished off a successful day for Coman’s’, winning a bronze medal in the Girls’ 12-13 ‘C’ 100m Freestyle.

 

No Naos but hurlers should start with a win

 

 

 

 

 

Allianz National Hurling League Division 3A (Round 1): Louth v Roscommon this Sunday in Darver

 

Roscommon hurlers begin their league campaign at the Louth GAA Centre of Excellence this Sunday. It’s a game that Roscommon will be hoping to win to begin their quest for promotion.

  Ciarán Comerford will take the reins again this year and when I spoke to him on Tuesday he was well pleased with how preparations were going.

  “We have a lot of work done. We started back in November and we have over 20 training sessions done. The numbers were slack enough for various reasons early on but it has picked up in the last six weeks. The lads are working hard and we are looking forward to getting started on Sunday.

  “It’s great to have Pádraig Kelly available again and Johnny Coyne is also back on the panel however he has a knee injury and won’t be available for a few of the league games. A huge blow for us is an injury to Naos Connaughton. He is out for Sunday and he is a huge loss.

  “We have to pay full attention to Louth. I saw them play a few weeks ago in the Kehoe Cup and they scored 1-18 that day so they have a decent side. However, it would be fair to say that this is a game that we are targeting to win,” he concluded.

  Last year, Roscommon also began their league campaign against Louth and won easily. They should be good enough to start with a win on Sunday with much bigger tests on the horizon.

Prediction: Roscommon

 

Dooner’s weekend predictions - January 25th

 

 

 

Best wishes to young Ballymoe FC goalkeeper, Jack Donnellan (18), who suffered a head injury during his side’s Premier Division match against Boyle last Sunday. Jack had to be airlifted to hospital after he was injured attempting to clear a ball inside his own penalty area.

  Thankfully, Jack is recovering and expected to “bounce back and make a quick and full recovery”, according to club chairman Tommy Shaughnessy.

  This Friday night sees Ballinasloe Town entertain old rivals Castlerea Celtic while the rest of the weekend is dominated by the Connacht Cup and Shield.

 

Friday, January 25th

Raftery’s Oakland Hotel Premier Division

Ballinasloe Town v Castlerea Celtic. 8 pm

A huge game in the Premier Division title race. The winner will go top.

Prediction: Ballinasloe Town

Sunday, January 27th

TP Brennan Connacht Cup Round 3 (2 pm)

Mervue United v Strokestown United

Home win.

Prediction: Mervue United

Castlebar Celtic v Skyvalley Rovers

Celtic will be favourites.

Prediction: Castlebar Celtic

St. Peter’s FC v Ballina Town

The Athlone side can progress against a decent Mayo outfit.

Prediction: St. Peter’s FC

St. John’s Athletic v Boyle Celtic

The visitors look too strong. Prediction: Boyle Celtic

TP Brennan Connacht Shield Round 1 (2 pm)

Dunmore Town v East United

Away win.

Prediction: East United

Glen Celtic v Colemanstown United

We’ll go with the hosts.

Prediction: Glen Celtic

Coolaney United v Cam Celtic

Away win for the RDFL side. Prediction: Cam Celtic

Fahy Rovers v Ballinasloe Town B

Home advantage should swing it.

Prediction: Fahy Rovers

Kinvara United v St. Cuan’s United

Unhappy travels for St. Cuan’s. Prediction: Kinvara United.

Roscommon United v Snugboro United

The Mayo side will start as favourites.

Prediction: Snugboro United

Norio’s Takeaway Division One

Moylough ’79 v CP Ajax. 11 am

The league leaders to edge this. Prediction: Moylough ‘79

Rahara Rovers v Ahascragh United. 2 pm

Rovers’ three points.

Prediction: Rahara Rovers

Killeen Sports Grounds Division Two

Ballymoe FC B v Manor United. 11 am

The hosts’ struggles look set to continue.

Prediction: Manor United

Skyvalley Rovers B v Castlerea Celtic B. 2 pm

The visitors should return to winning ways.

Prediction: Castlerea Celtic B

 

Castlebar holds no fear for improving Rossies

 

 

 

 

 

 

Allianz National Football League Division One (Round 1) 

Mayo v Roscommon at MacHale Park on Saturday at 7 pm

Three months ago the thoughts of Roscommon having to start their league campaign in MacHale Park was not a very appetising prospect. In fact, such is the dismal record that the Rossies have at the venue it couldn’t have been a much tougher start. Down at least eight prominent players from 2018, supporters (and pundits) were fearful of what might happen.

  However, since Anthony Cunningham, Mark Dowd and Iain Daly have taken the reins they  and the players have worked really hard to stiffen up Roscommon’s defence and on the evidence we have seen so far great work has been done in that regard.

  While no one is predicting a Roscommon victory, the team will be much harder to score against and to beat too and that is a great platform from which to work for the future. I am expecting Roscommon to give Mayo a tough game and that would give the panel of players great heart going forward.

  I spent some time chatting to Mayo GAA people this week for the preview and the word is that James Horan will be picking his strongest team for this fixture. Mayo lost their three home games in the league in 2018 and it almost cost them their place in Division One. Horan is also giving youth a chance and Michael Plunkett, Conor Diskin and Fionn McDonagh are expected to feature on Saturday.

  Of course many of the tried and trusted are still there. The full-back line of Brendan Harrison, Keith Higgins and Colm Boyle are a proven unit. Lee Keegan is returning to fitness and will surely feature at some stage. Jason Doherty will probably lead the attack with the impressive Brian Reape at full-forward. Reape has been playing great football so far this year and will have to be marked very closely. Cillian O’Connor and Andy Moran are unlikely to feature.

  The Roscommon line-up will be close to that which did so well in Tuam last Sunday. Hopefully Sean Mullooly will be back in contention for a place but in his absence Conor Daly can deputise. Niall Daly is returning to his best form at centre half-back while Tadgh O’Rourke and Enda Smith will have a battle ahead of them at midfield. It was also good to see Davy Murray back in business last weekend and Gary Patterson and Conor Hussey also did well.

  Up front Roscommon will have to be sharp and it was great to see Donie Smith return to his best form last Sunday. Roscommon need him firing on all cylinders on Saturday night. Ciarán Lennon and Cathal Cregg will have vital roles to play and Colin Compton has been a welcome addition to the attack.

  I am not expecting a football classic this Saturday night but I am expecting a tough battle in front of a huge crowd of at least 15,000 people. But I will repeat that Roscommon supporters will have to be patient. It is unrealistic to expect that the team can win at places like MacHale Park having done just a couple of months work under the new management.

  But from dreading going to MacHale Park a few months ago I am now looking forward to it. It may not be a win but it’s a performance we are looking for and I think we will get that.

Prediction: Mayo

 

Enda: ‘Another game under our belts’

 

 

Roscommon captain Enda Smith was happy enough to get more game time in the legs last Sunday while picking up the year’s first silverware following a hard-fought win over Neighbours Galway.

  “Yeah we’re happy enough, it was good to get an extra game under our belts ahead of next week because you lose a few games with no colleges in the FBD League this year. We were happy to get a good test against Galway too, they had quite a strong team out there and we were happy we stood up to it,” he said.

  Roscommon’s defence stood firm and limited the reigning champions to just six scores, but Enda wasn’t getting carried away.

  “The heavy pitch means the ball was being moved a bit slower into the forwards. It’s early days so it’s hard to put one imprint on it so far but we would have been happy with how it’s 1-5 we’ve conceded, that’s not bad going any day so yeah we’re happy enough how we were defensively”.

  Looking ahead to next week’s NFL Division One opener in Castlebar, Enda is hoping for an upturn in fortunes against old rivals Mayo.

  “It’s a tough one Mayo, we haven’t fared well down there in league or championship in recent years so a result would kick us off for a good couple of weeks.

  “The preparation has gone well. We started a couple of weeks later than most counties with Anthony only getting ratified in the middle or late November. We’ve trained hard now and lads have been putting in a huge effort so it’s been good,” he concluded.

 

Seamus Duke on sport - January 25th

 

 

Roscommon can give Mayo a fright!

 

I was away at the weekend in the UK but needless to say, I was hanging on every tweet  and message coming from Tuam and as the game went on it was clear that Roscommon were going to grind out a victory.

  To win the FBD League will not go down as one of the sporting highlights of the year, but it was the manner of that win that’s most important. Reading the coverage of the game since, Roscommon have really tightened up in defence and that was one thing that was needed, especially with the Division One campaign coming up. It was good to read what other people thought of the Roscommon performance for once and there was universal agreement that Roscommon played really well in defence and that will always provide a real platform for the other aspects of play.

  I was delighted for Donie Smith who is such a talented player. If he could be more consistent he could be one of the stars of the league this year.

  This win and performance will give the team hope as they prepare to travel to MacHale Park on Saturday night. It would be reckless to expect that Roscommon could go there and win, but it’s becoming clear that the Rossies are becoming hard to beat and Mayo will have to earn any scores they might get. If Roscommon can go and put it up to Mayo and give them a fright it will give the team great heart for the tough games ahead.

  The players are clearly working very hard, the performances against Sligo and Galway were excellent but the real business starts this coming weekend. When the league draw was made I have to say that I was dreading having to go to Castlebar for our first game in the league. In common with many Roscommon supporters, we have come back down that road from Castlebar  so many times over the past 30 years cast down after another heavy defeat. But the battling display against Galway means that I am now looking forward to starting another campaign.

  The match and the campaign is previewed in detail elsewhere in the paper this week but if we can keep the margin to less than six points and give Mayo a fright it will do me fine and would represent a very good start to the campaign.

 

Hurlers open league campaign in Louth

 

The Roscommon hurlers are also up and running this weekend and promotion must be a priority in this campaign. A trip to face Louth in Darver is a game that must be factored in as a win if progress is to be made. It will be interesting to see what players are available this year to Ciaran Comerford. If he can put close to his best team on the field Roscommon should definitely start with a win.

 

Not sure about scrapping hand-pass rule

 

And so the hand-pass rule is in the bin almost before it got a chance to be seen. The other rules will now be trialled in the leagues and at least they will be given a chance to see if they can benefit the game.

  At the weekend I saw two live games of Gaelic football: the Dublin v Westmeath game was very poor overall and featured a lot of negative football. On Saturday night, the McKenna Cup final was a much better game and a great contest. It’s clear that something had to be done to make the game less boring. I am not so sure that scrapping the hand-pass rule will be positive in the long run.

 

Carty to answer Ireland’s Call!

 

Huge congratulations to Jack Carty on being picked for the Irish Rugby squad. The former St. Brigid’s and Roscommon player has been phenomenal this year and richly deserves his call-up. It’s likely that he will not make the World Cup squad but you never know what injuries might befall the players who are ahead of him in the pecking order. The Six Nations starts the weekend after next and it will be fiercely contested as usual. Jack Caty’s star is still rising.

 

Ulster draw short straw

 

The rugby results at the weekend were interesting. Leinster showed their class against Wasps but both Ulster and Munster are really improving with every game they play.

  Ulster drew the short straw and have to travel to the Aviva to face the champions in a local derby. Leinster should win that with a bit to spare.

  The Munster v Exeter game was a mighty battle. Exeter gave it everything but Munster would not relent. Joey Carbery’s kicking was the difference in the end.

  Connacht also got through after a tough battle in Bordeaux. They will be up against it in the quarter-final as they travel to face Sale, who beat them easily earlier this season.

 

Shane Lowry into the world’s top 50

 

I was thrilled for Shane Lowry at the weekend. I had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times and he is a lovely guy and a great character. That he is a very talented golfer is in no doubt but his form is very streaky. He has to become more consistent. His win at the weekend puts him into the world’s top 50 which opens so may doors for him and he will get into all the big world golf tournaments and if he stays in the top 50 by the 1st of March he will also play in the Masters at Augusta. He is a down to earth guy who loves all sport and particularly GAA.

  With Padraig Harrington just appointed as the Ryder Cup captain, Lowry will be keen to make the team for next year. He is going about it the right way!

 

Ticket price hike unfair on fans

 

The decision of the GAA to increase the prices for all games is ill-advised in my humble opinion. It will now cost €20 for an adult ticket to a National League game and that’s a lot of money especially for couples who like to follow their team throughout the league campaign. Long trips away are dear enough without having to shell out €40 for tickets for two. Championship games have all gone up in price too. An All-Ireland ticket is now €90 and semi-final tickets will be €50.

  You might wonder why I am complaining as I don’t pay into a lot of games that I cover for this paper and the radio, but the GAA could be pricing itself out of the market with this increase. A lot of people have complained bitterly to me about this decision.

  The attendances at big football games in 2018 were well down and it will be interesting to see what the reaction of the public is to these increases. Remember the increase in the price of league tickets is a whopping 33 per cent. It’s way ahead of any sort of inflation figure I have seen even if the last price review was eight years ago.

 

Rice should be allowed make up his mind

 

The furore over Declan Rice is very unfair on the lad himself. He is only 20-years-old yet hardly a day passes by without some sort of story in the media about his international future. There is no doubt that he is a very good player and would be a big asset to both countries. Ireland probably need him more than England do but he should be allowed to make up his mind. Regardless of what he decided he should be left alone and let him get on with his career.

 

Liverpool inch closer to title

 

Liverpool are continuing to blaze a trail in the Premier League. Although they have a lot of injuries in defence they are still winning games that they would have lost in other seasons. Man City are showing no signs of slipping up but looking at Liverpool’s fixture list they have a decided advantage. With every passing week they are inching closer to their first title in 29 years.

 

Carty to answer Ireland's call

 

 

Ireland have called up Connacht's uncapped trio Jack Carty, Caolin Blade and Tom Farrell for the opening Six Nations games against England and Scotland.

Carty, a former Roscommon minor footballer, has been picked ahead of Leinster's Ross Byrne by head coach Joe Schmidt in a 38-man squad as defending champions Ireland prepare to kick off against England on February 2nd.

The Lead Story: History makers set for All-Ireland semi-final!

 

 

 

 

 

The hurlers of Carrick-on-Shannon made history last November when they became the first men’s team from Leitrim to claim a provincial club championship title.

  Carrick defeated Ballygar of Galway in the AIB Connacht Junior Hurling Championship Final on a scoreline of 2-11 to 1-9. They will now face Ulster champions Castleblayney from Monaghan in Cusack Park, Mullingar in Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final with throw-in at 2 pm.

   Olcan Conway from Derry is the man in charge of the Carrick club.

  “It’s a big achievement. Carrick is the next closest club after the likes of Roscommon Gaels and Oran in Co. Roscommon so we have players from all over and some of the boys play football for Shannon Gaels and Kilmore.

  “All of our underage teams compete in Roscommon, of course, but a few years ago would have been the whipping boys! Now it’s different, they like going down and you can sense a bit of fear creeping in in Roscommon!”

  In terms of the men’s team, Olcan said Carrick had been battling away for a number of years and had reached a couple of Connacht finals in the past. The big breakthrough arrived this year though as the Connacht title made its way across the Shannon to a rapturous welcome.

  So how does a man from Derry end up managing a Connacht-conquering team in Leitrim?

  “Ah look, you know yourself, you meet a woman, you marry her and you end up living in Leitrim – it’s definitely not the worst thing I’ve ever done!” (Laughs)

  Sunday’s semi-final showdown certainly won’t need any more hype in Carrick and Castleblayney nor among members of the Glancy family. As Hughie and Tomás prepare to tog out with Carrick, brother Cian will be waiting for them among the opposition.

  From a Roscommon point of view, David McKenna, Kevin O’Dowd, Lorcan Dolan, Shane and Dessie Beirne and Cian French will be lining out for the Connacht champions, who, due to players being spread out all over Ireland, must meet in Tubber in Co. Offaly twice a week for training sessions.

  Manager Olcan is happy the waiting is over and is quietly confident of his team’s chances.

  “I’m really looking forward to it now, been a lot of waiting around since November. We’ve enjoyed it though; it’s a whole new experience playing through the winter months. There are no distractions because there’s nothing else on! We’ll give it a good rattle on Sunday, I’ve seen Castleblayney and there’s not a lot between the teams”.

  The hurling history makers from just across the border will be hoping to come back across the bridge with another scalp and plans for another big day out this Sunday evening.

Creggs advance in Connacht Junior Cup

 

 

 

Connacht Junior Cup Round One

Creggs 32 Sligo 12

 

Creggs maintained their recent run of results with an excellent victory over a strong Sligo team in the first round of the Connacht Junior Cup at The Green on Saturday evening.

  After a scoreless opening quarter, hooker Maurice Buckley finally broke through for a vital try following some powerful mauling by the home pack.

  Shortly afterwards, a superbly placed kick by Shane Dowd unlocked the Sligo defence for winger Thomas Flynn to gather the ball at full speed and cross for a fine try in the right corner.

  Sligo responded with a series of attacks which yielded a try after a defensive mix-up close to the Creggs line. With half-time looming, out-half Shane Dowd cut through for a superb solo try to put Creggs 15-5 ahead but Sligo closed the half with a converted try to reduce the deficit to three points.

  Maurice Buckley scored his second try in the 54th minute following a close-in maul and Tom Oates crossed for another in the 67th minute as Creggs took control.

  In the final minute, Creggs scored a magnificent try with winger Chris Duignan crossing out wide. Duignan richly deserved his try as his defensive display was top class from start to finish.

  Creggs advance to the quarter-finals where they have a home game against Monivea on the weekend of February 9th.

  Creggs resume Connacht J1 League action with back-to-back games against Galwegians, one of which has been re-fixed from earlier in the season.

  First up is a trip to Glenina on Sunday, and then it’s back to Creggs the following Sunday. These are two difficult hurdles which must be safely negotiated before what could be the clash of the season on February 3rd against league leaders Connemara in Creggs.

 

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