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What a week for Roscommon sport!

  First, Castlerea Boxing Club member, Aoife O’Rourke, became only the second Irish female fighter after Katie Taylor to win gold at the European Elite Women’s Boxing Championships when she stormed to victory over Polish opponent lziebta Wojcik in Saturday’s 75kg final. O’Rourke was greeted by thousands of supporters in Castlerea last Sunday as she returned home with the belt.

  Aoife fights under Paddy Sharkey in Castlerea and her sister Lisa is also an accomplished fighter. What made her European victory even sweeter was the fact that she enjoyed a measure of revenge over Russian Youth Olympic and World Youth champion Anastasia Shamonova in a hard-fought semi-final. Shamonova had beaten Aoife in the European U-22 Championships earlier in the year.

  Elsewhere, Kiltoom native Jack Carty seized his Rugby World Cup opportunity with both hands during Ireland’s recent warm-up game against Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff. Jack celebrated his 27th birthday by donning the fabled Irish number 10 jersey for the first time.

  A confident display from the Connacht fly-half earned him not only the ‘Man of the Match’ award but also a seat on Team Ireland’s flight to Japan!

  Japan is a country that certainly resonates with our two sporting heroes this week. Jack is already on his way there to wear the green while Aoife will be hoping to seal her passage to the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ for next year’s Olympics.

  Maybe it’s time Roscommon County Council reached out the Tokyo Twinning Committee…

Seamus Duke on sport - September 6th

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Final round of group matches in IFC

 

 

 

Mulryan Construction IFC (Round Three)

Ahead of this weekend’s action in the Mulryan Construction Intermediate Football Championship, Seamus Duke looks ahead to what promises to be a thrilling climax…

 

Group A

The situation: What we know for definite in Group A is that Tulsk and Creggs have both qualified for the quarter-finals.

 

Kilbride v Kilglass on Saturday in Strokestown at 4.30 pm

Kilbride have struggled without talisman Conor Devaney and they will have their work cut out here against a Kilglass side which has played well despite losing both their fixtures so far. There may not be much between the teams but Kilglass look the better bet to escape from the relegation play-offs.

Prediction: Kilglass Gaels

 

Tulsk v Creggs on Saturday in Dr. Hyde Park at 4.30 pm

This will decide who tops the group as both sides are already through. Tulsk have been impressive in their two wins so far and look to have too much for a Creggs side who have done well so far but this may be a step up for them.

Prediction: Tulsk

 

Group B

The situation: This is one of the tightest of all the groups because the only thing we know for definite is that Castlerea St. Kevin’s won’t be involved in a relegation play-off.

 

Éire Óg v St. Barry’s on Sunday in Loughglynn at 4.30 pm

Home advantage should count here as Éire Óg have a win against Shannon Gaels in the bank already and Shannon Gaels went on to put up a huge score against St. Barry’s in the last round.

Prediction: Éire Óg

 

Shannon Gaels v Castlerea St. Kevin’s on Sunday in Croghan at 4.30 pm

Castlerea have been motoring nicely with two good wins under their belts but they will be tested here. If they want to entertain serious notions about winning the title then they would need to be victorious here.

Prediction: Castlerea St. Kevin’s

 

Group C

The situation: This is another very tight group as the only certain thing is that St. Dominic’s will not be involved in a relegation play-off.

Kilmore v St. Dominic’s on Sunday in Kilmore at 2 pm

A fascinating match in prospect here which could be the game of the day in the Intermediate championship. Kilmore on their own patch are very hard to beat and although Dominic’s had a great win against Oran in the last round they could come up short.

Prediction: Kilmore

 

St. Aidan’s v Oran on Sunday in Ballyforan at 2 pm

Oran were shocked by St. Dominic’s in the last round and they missed a litany of chances to win but couldn’t manage it. Aidan’s will point to a very good draw with St. Dominic’s on their first outing but they were well beaten by Kilmore in round two. If Oran can get their act together they can win it.

Prediction: Oran

 

 

The Sporting Brief - September 6th

 

 

Golf

Connacht Champions!

The Roscommon Ladies’ Senior Foursomes were crowned AIG Ladies Senior Connacht Champions last Saturday in Gort. The All-Ireland finals take place in Knightsbrook on September 25th-27th.

  The recent Gent’s All-Ireland Sunday competition at the club was won by Shane McConn with 41 points, while Joan O’Gara took the ladies’ prize and Michael Corcoran won the Junior Prize. The recent Michael Craven Memorial Cup was won by Aiden Mulvihill with 38 points. Matt Farrell won the Sean Hanly Memorial Cup with 38 points.

  The men’s Connacht Shield team narrowly lost out to Portumna last Saturday.

  Athlone’s Mixed Foursomes team heads to Castleretroy in Limerick this weekend for the All-Ireland Finals.

  The ladies’ junior and intermediate teams lost out in the Connacht Finals of the AIG Cup and Shield competitions last Saturday.

  The Scotch Foursomes final will be contested between Shane Mannion and Gavin Delaney and Aidan O’Driscoll and Conor Quilty.

  The Tom McCormack Fourball was won by Vincent Connaire and Declan Corcoran recently.

  At the GUI All-Ireland Gold Medal regional qualifier last Friday, Sean Doyle and Peadar Kane both qualified for the finals at the K Club on October 8th.

  The King Cup in Boyle was postponed last Sunday. New date TBC.

  The men’s 12-hole Stableford was won by Liam Whyte while the 2s Club was won by Lorcan Egan.

  Fr. Joe Poole’s Captain’s Prize was won by Billy Molloy in Castlerea. Billy had two very impressive rounds and held his nerve during a play-off to win. Second prize went to Keith McDermott, Dara Bruen took the gross prize and Daryl Kelly came third on the day. Valerie Rabbitt was best of the ladies, closely followed by sisters Dympna McGarry and Irene Burke. Dympna just pipped her sister on the count back!

  John Collins won the recent men’s competition with 40 points while Valerie Rabbitt enjoyed yet another win in the ladies’ competition with 70 nett.

  The recent ‘Play in Pink Day’ Kathy Burke Memorial Cup was won by Caitriona Newman and Laura Griffith. Laura Griffith and Greg Bruen impressed in the style stakes!

Darts

Up for the Cup!

Mick Kilroe emerged victorious in last Friday’s Darts Superleague Cup Final at The Hollywood Bar. Kilroe beat Ciaran Hickey 4-1 in the quarter-finals before defeating Paul Carton 5-1 in the semi-finals.  

  Another in-form darter, Thomas Concannon faced Kilroe in the final and the pair produced a truly epic battle.

  Kilroe took the initiative early on and stormed into a seemingly unassailable 4-0 lead before Concannon fired back with three straight legs to bring it back to 4-3.

  Kilroe steadied the shop in the eighth leg to make it 5-3 but Concannon refused to bend the knee and levelled matters up at 5-5.

  The final leg saw some great darts with Concannon applying some early pressure. Kilroe wasn’t to be denied though and clinical finishing helped him to a 6-5 win and Cup glory.

 

Handball

Doubles defeat!

St. Coman’s’ Damien Martin and Rikki O’Gara are out of the 60x30 Open Doubles after losing to experienced Wexford pair Tommy Hynes and Barry Goff last Saturday at Na Fianna in Dublin on a scoreline of 12-21, 14-21.

  Elsewhere, St. Coman’s’ Sean Rafferty and Brian Mannion had a good 21-13, 21-14, 21-19 win in the 60x30 Junior ‘C’ Doubles Connacht final held in Collooney, Co. Sligo last Sunday against Sligo pair Clive Slevin and Josian Oskoz.

 

Dooner's weekend predictions - September 6th

 

 

St. Peter’s take on Kilkerrin United while Ballymoe entertain Boyle Celtic in the pick of the action in the Premier Division this weekend. It’s still early days of course but we’ve seen how difficult it is to make up ground in this division in recent seasons so there’s very little margin for error…

Friday, September 8th

Umbro Masters Cup Final

At Lecarrow: Colemanstown v Castlerea. 8 pm

Friday Night Football sees the Masters Final at Lecarrow. Castlerea get a slight nod.

Prediction: Castlerea

RDFL Premier Division (8 pm)

Moore United v St. John’s Athletic FC

Both sides looking for their first win but this could end in stalemate.

Prediction: Draw

Skyvalley Rovers v Moylough ‘79

The hosts got off to a decent start with a draw against Moore last weekend. This will be an interesting test for the visitors.

Prediction: Moylough ‘79

RDFL Second Division

Ballymoe FC B v Ballinasloe Town B. 8 pm

The hosts didn’t play last weekend while the visitors will be hoping to bounce back.

Prediction: Ballinasloe Town B

Saturday, September 7th

RDFL Second Division

Boyle Celtic B v Skyvalley Rovers B. 8 pm

Both sides got off to winning starts last time out but Boyle get the nod to maintain their 100% record this weekend.

Prediction: Boyle Celtic B

Sunday, September 8th

RDFL Premier Division (2 pm)

St. Peter’s FC v Kilkerrin United

The Athlone side will be the favourites here.

Prediction: St. Peter’s FC

Ballymoe FC v Boyle Celtic

The visitors suffered defeat to Ballinasloe Town last weekend and will be hoping to get off the mark in Ballymoe.

Prediction: Boyle Celtic

RDFL First Division (11 am)

Cam Celtic v Ballaghaderreen FC

The hosts showed plenty of resilience last weekend and will need more of the same against Ballaghaderreen.

Prediction: Draw

Roscommon United v Dunmore Town

United will be hoping to get off the mark at home this weekend.

Prediction: Roscommon United

CP Ajax v Dysart FC

This could go either way but I’m leaning towards the hosts.

Prediction: CP Ajax

Rahara Rovers v Cloonfad United

The visitors were on fire last weekend.

Prediction: Cloonfad United

RDFL Second Division

Moore United B v Roscommon United B. 11 am

This will be the visitors’ first taste of competitive action.

Prediction: Moore United B

Ballaghaderreen FC B v Manor United. 11 am

Not an easy trip for Manor but they are tipped to maintain their unbeaten start.

Prediction: Manor United

Cloonfad United B v Glen Celtic. 11 am

Away win.

Prediction: Glen Celtic

St. John’s Athletic FC B v St. Cuan’s United. 2 pm

United will see this as opportunity to earn their first points this season.

Prediction: St. Cuan’s United

Rossie revival lands All-Ireland glory!

 

 

 

 

All-Ireland U-16 ‘C’ Camogie Championship Final

Roscommon 2-10

Kerry 1-8

 

 

Five points without reply in the final eight minutes saw Roscommon sweep to a dramatic victory against Kerry in this All-Ireland U-16 final played at Sixmilebridge in County Clare last Sunday.

  The Rossies were six points down at the interval, trailing by 1-6 to 0-3, but had all the answers after the restart, with the defence battening down the hatches and the offensive unit having much more joy than was the case in the opening period, albeit with the aid of a breeze.

  Amy O’Sullivan was the scourge of the Roscommon defence in the first half, scoring a goal and six points in the first 19 minutes, including 1-2 from play, to open up an eight-point advantage as The Kingdom led by 1-6 to 0-1 at one stage.

  Crucially, Roscommon managed to stem the tide, and points from Sally Bolger (45) and Siafra Finneran (free) gave them a confidence that they carried into the second half. Kerry led by six points at the interval.

  Ciara Kilcommins goaled for the Rossies seven minutes after the resumption after a great run from Niamh Fitzgerald, and then Kerry had a penalty (taken by O’Sullivan) brilliantly saved by Roscommon net-minder Ellen Cafferkey.

  Though O’Sullivan did put four between them once more, the Causeway sharpshooter was kept at bay thereafter, while a poacher’s goal from Anna Campbell following a long-distance Sally Bolger free brought the sides level.

  Roscommon finished with five consecutive points to put the issue beyond doubt which included three points from Siafra Finneran. It was a remarkable comeback and a tribute to the resilience of the side managed by Mary Grehan, Paula Miley and Mairead O’Brien.

  Best for Roscommon on a memorable day for the game in the county were Ellen Cafferkey, Aoife Keogh, Orla Connolly, Ciara Kilcommins, Niamh Fitzgerald, Claire McNeill, Sally Bolger and Siafra Finneran.

Roscommon: E Cafferkey; A Keogh, A Campbell, N Kelly; M Lawless, O Connolly, S Regan; S Bolger (0-1), N Fitzgerald (0-2); S Treacy, C McNeill (0-1), Anna Campbell (1-0), C Kilcommins (1-1), S Finneran (0-5), K Heneghan. Subs: E O’Farrell for Lawless, S Mannion for Heneghan.

Kerry: K Kenny; K Dwyer, J O’Sullivan, S Leahy; K Leen, E O’Donoghue, S Kearney; K Stack, C Cullen; D Jeffers, C Heather, S Maloney; E Conway, G Shanahan, A O’Sullivan (1-8). Subs: S O’Carroll for Maloney, A McCarthy for Jeffers, A Hannifan for Leahy, S Leahy for McCarthy.

Referee: M Ryan (Tipperary)

 

 

Deadly Donie leads the way as Clann crushed

 

 

 

Game of the Weekend

Hodson Bay Hotel Roscommon SFC Group C (Round Two)

Boyle 2-26

Clann na nGael 1-8

 

 

There were a couple of remarkable things that happened during this mis-match in Ballyleague last Saturday. Firstly, seldom (if ever) in the proud history of Clann na nGael have they ever been on the end of such a hiding in the club championship. It consigns the reigning champions to the bottom three, and having only won the championship last autumn, they will now have a relegation battle to plan for.

  But the highlight of a balmy evening on the banks of the River Shannon was that Donie Smith turned in one of the best individual performances that I have seen in all the years I have been attending Roscommon club championship games. The mercurial attacker scored a goal and fifteen points from play and placed balls, and not only that, he set up several more scores for his colleagues on the day. It was a mesmerising performance from an immensely talented player and surely some sort of record in Roscommon championship football.

  Boyle had Clann in trouble from the start, Enda Smith and Ciaran Cox were on top at midfield and with Donie Smith on fire, the scores soon began to pile up. It was 0-3 to 0-2 after seven minutes before Basil Mannion’s men scored seven points without reply (Donie Smith with six of those) to open up a handsome seven-point gap. Cathal Callinan was flying a lone flag for Clann up front and it was all the more surprising when he was taken off in the second half having scored three fine points from play.

  With five minutes to go to the break Cian McKeon was fouled by Philip Greene and referee Ollie Kelly awarded a penalty. It looked a harsh call, however Donie Smith made no mistake from 12 yards and at half-time Boyle led 1-9 to 0-6.

  But if Clann were second best in that first-half, it was nothing compared to what happened after the break as Boyle pressed the accelerator and sped off into the distance with a series of brilliant scores, with Donie Smith at the centre of almost every attacking move.

  In the 35th minute Enda Smith scored a spectacular goal and followed that up with a point almost immediately. It was exhibition stuff now and Clann were bystanders as the Boyle attack and Donie in particular ran riot.  In fact, Boyle settled for points on at least three occasions in the second half when a goal was on, such was their dominance. Donie Shine scored a goal in the 5th minute of injury-time for Clann but it didn’t even have the feel of consolation about it.

  For those of us who can remember the days when Clann ruled Roscommon football with an iron fist, this was a shock. Remember too that just last October the men from Johnstown scored 4-15 in a stunning attacking display as they defeated St. Brigid’s to win the Fahey Cup. They are short top-class players like Fergal Lennon, Ultan Harney and Jack Connaughton but even so, this was a demoralising and shocking defeat. It will be hard for them to recover from this.

  For Boyle it was a day to remember. Apart from the spectacular performance from Donie Smith, Enda Smith, Cian McKeon, Tadgh McKenna, Seanie Purcell and Ciaran Cox all played really well. For them the trick will now be to follow up this display with more of the same. It will be interesting to see how they do against Western Gaels in round three.

 

Boyle: Robert Kearney; Killian Cox, Conor Flanagan, Evan McGrath; Tadgh McKenna (0-1), Sean Purcell, Michael Hanmore; Ciaran Cox, Enda Smith (1-1); Dylan East, Cian McKeon (0-4), Jim Suffin (0-1); Donie Smith (1-15, 1-0 pen, 8 frees), Mark O’Connor, Mark O’Donoghue (0-2).

Subs: Colin Goldrick (0-1) for O’Connor (38), Ryan Finneran for McGrath (51), Seamus Keane (0-1) for O’Donoghue (55), Jack Moran for East (58), Brian Furey for Purcell (59), Ben Kerins for Suffin (63).

 

Clann na nGael: Philip Greene: Damien Duff, Stephen Flynn, Darren Duff; Darragh Pettit, Shane Pettit, David Connaughton; Dylan Sumner, Graham Pettit; Emmet Kenny, Cathal Shine, Cian McManus; Donie Shine (1-4, 1 free), Ciaran Lennon (0-1), Cathal Callinan (0-3).

Subs: Sea Henry for Kenny (12), Callum O’Brien for Shine (28), Oisin Lennon for Sumner (37), Johnny Dunning for Lennon (50), Darragh Kildea for Callinan (52), Cathal Duignan for D Pettit (56).

Referee: Ollie Kelly

 

 

Aoife O’Rourke guaranteed bronze in Madrid!

 

 

 

Castlerea boxer, Aoife O’Rourke, will be returning from the European Women’s Elite Championships in Madrid with at least a bronze medal following her emphatic unanimous points decision over Ukrainian fighter Tetiana Petrovich in the Spanish capital on Monday afternoon.

  O’Rourke who trains under Paddy Sharkey at Castlerea Boxing Club will now meet Russia’s Youth Olympic champion, Anastasia Shamonova for a place in the finals tomorrow (Friday).

  The Roscommon middleweight, who won silver at the 2018 European Under-22 Championships but was defeated in the European Games quarter-finals by British boxer Lauren Price earlier this year, won every round on Monday against Petrovich. The final scorecards read 30-25,30-25, 30-25, 30-24, 30-24 in favour of the Castlerea fighter.

  O’Rourke’s podium finish guaranteed Irish boxing its eleventh medal at the European Women’s Elites since the tournament began in 2002.

  While Friday’s opponent will pose a severe test, Aoife will take heart from her previous experience in high-pressure fights. There’s no reason the impressive Castlerea athlete can’t go one better and improve on her extremely impressive showing at the tournament so far.

Senior championship is wide open!

 

 

 

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.

 

Championship Watch

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.

Prediction: Dublin

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?

 

Final spots up for grabs in SHC

 

 

 

 

 

Kepak Roscommon SHC Semi-Finals in Athleague on Saturday

 

And then there were four! The Roscommon Senior Hurling Championship reaches boiling point this weekend as Athleague and Tremane and Four Roads and Pádraig Pearses battle it our for a place in this year’s decider…

 

Athleague v Tremane at 5 pm

An interesting clash between the neighbours to open proceedings and there is nothing that Tremane would enjoy better than to knock the  defending champions out of this year’s competition. They have done very well to get to the last four and it will be interesting to see if they use Niall Kilroy in an attempt to upset the odds. The county footballer is a magnificent club hurler but he has not played for them all year. They also have Peter Kellehan, Mike Keaveney, the Brennans and Niall Keenan to call on.

  Athleague have been going along quietly and have reached this stage of the competition without much fuss. The prolific Eamon Flanagan is a key man for them and with Robbie Fallon, Alan Moore, Cormac Kelly, David Flaherty, Pat Nolan, Gary Fallon and Ben McGahon on board there is plenty of talent there.

  There wasn’t much between the sides when they met earlier in the championship and I won’t be one bit surprised if Tremane upset the applecart and win through to the final. But Athleague just look that little bit stronger so I am giving them a hesitant vote to advance.

Prediction: Athleague

 

Four Roads v Pádraig Pearses at 6.30 pm

In the most controversial match in this year’s championship six players saw red when the sides met a couple of months ago so there is no love lost here. But the reality is that Four Roads look a much better side this year and they have to start this semi-final as warm favourites.

  The likes of Micheal Kelly, Shane Curley, Cathal Dolan, Padraig Kelly, Conor Coyle and Conor Mulry are all playing well this year as the Tisrara club bid to get the Mickey Cunniffe Cup back on home soil.

  Pearses have plenty of talent and Cathal Kelly, Leon Fehily, Shane Naughton and Oisin Kelly will be hoping to lead their side to what would be a surprise win. I don’t’ thnk that there will be much in it but Four Roads have looked the part so far this year and the should secure their place in the final with a bit to spare.

Prediction: Four Roads

 

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