Club Championships heading for exciting finale
After four months during which there was little or no club football, it’s been a frantic, helter-skelter six weeks as the county championships continue week after week in an effort to get the competitions finished. A lot of people I’ve been speaking to over the past few days have expressed surprise that the senior, intermediate and junior semi-finals are on just a week after the quarter-finals. Most of the players involved will have played competitive matches five or six weeks in a row.
I fully realise that all club players want to be playing football, but to have to play championship games every week – especially when it comes to the last eight and last four – is a bit much. Before any of the fixtures committee get on to me about this situation, I know that the clubs voted for this system, so the fixtures’ personnel’s hands are tied, but the way the championships have been played it looks like we are in a massive rush to get the competitions finished. In a couple of weeks time, it will all be over.
Having said all of the above, we will have a new name on the Fahey Cup for the first time since 2009. A number of teams have put their hands up to claim that they are the ones who can take the title this year. Padraig Pearses have stuttered a lot in this campaign but they came good against St. Brigid’s last Sunday and are now the bookies’ favourites to lay their hands on their first ever title. Boyle will have something to day about that. They have put up some incredible totals in this championship and I won’t be surprised to see them in the final. Good forwards win football matches and Boyle have three of four who stand out.
Roscommon Gaels have been steady as a rock, although they had a bit of a wobble during the first half against Elphin last Saturday. Overall, they have a very strong panel. Strokestown have stolen into the last four almost unnoticed, and will relish their underdog’s tag against the Gaels. I’m really looking forward to these semi-finals.
In the intermediate championship it looked written in the stars that Tulsk and Castlerea would battle it out for the title, but write off St. Dominic’s and Oran at your peril. I am predicting two close semi-finals.
In the junior championship, Ballinameen will be playing in the Connacht Club Championship, but they would dearly love to be bringing the cup with them on their travels. Roscommon Gaels, St. Brigid’s and Clann na nGael will have something to say about that.
With so many matches going on at the same time this year I haven’t been able to go to as many games as I would have liked to, but according to my sources, the Pearses/Brigid’s game in Ballyforan last Sunday was an absolute cracker and one of the best seen at senior level in the county for a number of years. Let’s hope we have more of the same this weekend.
Great start for Ireland at Rugby World Cup
Needless to say there are a number of pundits and journalists getting carried away after Ireland’s very impressive 27-3 win against Scotland in the Rugby World Cup last Sunday. It was a top class performance, but Scotland were very poor. But it does look as if Joe Schmidt has geared the training and preparations for the past 12 months for this World Cup and the aim now will be for the team to peak in time for a quarter-final on October 20th. Ireland should be good enough to beat Japan on Saturday and to be able to deal with Russia and Samoa as well.
The only dark cloud on the horizon (for other teams) is the form of both New Zealand and South Africa who played each other last weekend. It was a fantastic game and both sides look a cut above the rest. It’s early days yet though.
It was great to see Jack Carty come on after only 58 minutes and play such a big part in Ireland’s win. He looked assured and confident. He has really matured as a player. Great to see a Rossie in the World Cup!
Top two untouchable, but Manchester Reds off colour
With all that has been happening in GAA and elsewhere over the past couple of months, the soccer season has slipped down the list in terms of column inches, but I’ve been keeping an eye. In the Premier League, Manchester City and Liverpool are way out ahead of the field already and there are less than 10 games played.
Liverpool may have been beaten last week in Europe but they won’t get too worried about that as they suffered a similar fate last season and still came back to win the Champions League. City blitzed Watford (8-0) last Saturday and one newspaper report claimed that Watford were lucky it wasn’t 15!
As for Manchester United, their descent into mid-table mediocrity has continued this season. They were well beaten by West Ham last weekend and the comment that stood out for me after the game was when one pundit said “West Ham had better football players than United” – simple as that.
United have a collection of very average players who cannot compete at the very top level. Remember that it has taken Liverpool almost 30 years to return to the top after their period of dominance in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It could take United as long, which is a depressing prospect for those of us who follow the club. It’s six years and counting now.
Closer to home it’s hats off to Dundalk on winning their fifth League of Ireland Premier Division title in six years on Monday night. The so-called experts claimed that when Stephen Kenny left the club they wouldn’t be such a force as they had been. Vinny Perth has taken over quietly and has delivered the goods again.
All-Star nominations for Rossies?
The All-Star nominations will be released in the next few days and I am expecting that Roscommon will get two and maybe three nominations this year. Conor Cox and Niall Daly certainly deserve to be nominated and Enda Smith might get one too. I am not expecting any Roscommon player to get on to the actual team, but as ever, will be interesting to see who the selectors opt for.
Lowry on course for more glory?
The BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth was a super tournament and the switch from May to September seems to have paid off. The quality of the field was top class and there was some great play. Both Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry finished with two great rounds and it is great to see Lowry back in contention after all the excitement earlier in the summer.
Last week the Clara man was made an honorary life member of the European Tour, arising from his Open win, and he currently leads The Race to Dubai standings. What a year it would be for Shane if he were to win that as well. The Irish Sports Personality of the Year in waiting.
Pat Smullen fundraiser
The link between sport and good causes has always been strong and the recent ‘Pat Smullen Champions Race for Cancer’ at The Curragh has now raised in excess of €2.5 million for cancer research, which is a staggering amount. It’s also a testament to the status of the Co. Offaly man who is suffering from pancreatic cancer at the moment.
During the course of my radio work I have had occasion to interview Pat many times. He is a thorough gentleman. He will be so proud that this venture has been such a success.