Seamus Duke on Sport

Food for thought for Frankie!

In the club football championships last weekend, there were some interesting results. Roscommon Gaels drew first blood as they beat defending champions Clann na nGael in the first ever championship game to be played at Lisnamult. The match, played in a rainstorm, was shaded by the Gaels, but I don’t think Clann will be too worried at this stage. The respective losses of Cian Connolly to the Gaels and Ultan Harney to Clann cancelled each other out on the night.

  Padraig Pearses were impressive against St Brigid’s and Frankie Dolan will be worried about the Kiltoom club’s form as he looks ahead to the rest of the championship. They could have done with Frankie himself up front as they looked weak in that department.

  Boyle were the easy winners against a Castlerea side who were short a number of players, some of whom were assisting Castlerea Celtic, who are going for the Roscommon & District League Premier Division title.

  St Faithleach’s, powered by the Murtaghs, were far too good for Elphin, while St Croan’s were superior to last year’s Intermediate champions, Michael Glavey’s.  Strokestown have a strong side on paper but they were stopped in their tracks by an impressive looking Western Gaels side.

  In the Intermediate Championship there were two games called off because of the hurling. The most impressive winners were Tulsk, who were far too strong for St Dominic’s, and they look on course for a fourth final in a row at this grade.

  It’s a terrible pity that there will not be any more championship action for at least six weeks (except for the two games outstanding in the IFC). It must be very frustrating for clubs to be training for a championship game one weekend and then nothing for six more weeks.

Happy hurlers!

The Roscommon hurlers’ long campaign ended last Saturday in Ballycran – but what a year it has been for them.

  If you said to manager Justin Campbell and his players last January that they would be promoted in the league and would comfortably retain their Christy Ring Cup status – and give Antrim a scare along the way – they would have been delighted with it. They have done really well.

  The task now is for Justin to strengthen the panel for next year. Well done to all concerned.

The Leicester City FC fairytale

Last Monday night week I was in New York as Leicester City won the Premier League title when Chelsea drew with Spurs.

  I saw the final half an hour of the London derby, and when the result confirmed Leicester City as champions, the realisation set in that we were witnessing one of the biggest sports stories of our lives – that’s in any sport.

  Eamonn Sweeney summarised it nicely in the Indo last Sunday. He wrote: “Our children or their children will never see anything like it and our fathers and grandfathers have never seen anything like it either.” 

  It is just astounding that a team like Leicester could go through a nine-month season and finish on top of the table, given the opposition and the money that many of the other clubs have.

  Yes, Ranieri did a good job as manager, but he failed in most of the jobs he had over this career. Many of the Leicester players were discarded by other (bigger) clubs or they were bought for ‘half nothing’.

  A weaker club can sneak into an FA Cup final by getting a favourable draw and by perhaps having some luck, but this was no lucky streak. Leicester did it over a 38-game campaign and now it looks like that might win it by at least 10 points, which is staggering.

New York: The fall-out

The fall-out from the game between Roscommon and New York continues, but the players all had a chance to go back to their clubs last weekend and hopefully the poor display against the exiles will be forgotten about.

  Leitrim are next on the agenda and while Roscommon’s lacklustre display against New York will have given Leitrim renewed hope, it will quell any excitable talk about Roscommon before that game, which is good.

  The Roscommon team will have to put the performance in New York down to a bad day out at the office and now move on.

  The game in Carrick-on-Shannon will not be easy, but it is one that Roscommon are well capable of winning.

  Having seen New York in the flesh a few weeks ago I am convinced that the players that I saw on that day in Gaelic Park are capable of winning a game in the Connacht Championship.

  The only major worry from a Roscommon point of view is that it was the New York team who finished the stronger side and it was they who looked fittest. That flies in the face of what usually happens in these fixtures.

  However I am confident that the Roscommon team will bounce back in Carrick-on-Shannon and a good championship win will banish the New York game to the dustbin of history.

  The match apart, the huge Roscommon contingent really enjoyed their weekend stateside and everyone got back safe and sound – eventually!

Connacht Rugby – marching on

Connacht Rugby goes from strength to strength. The win against Glasgow last weekend was another great season highlight. Now let’s hope that they can take advantage of the home semi-final draw to get to the PRO12 final. It would be some achievement.

  To hear the experts gushing about the Connacht style of play is fantastic and Pat Lam deserves huge praise for what he has achieved since he arrived in the West.

  On Monday, Bundee Aki, the Connacht winger, was named as the Pro12 player of the year and there were seven Connacht players named on the team of the year, including Roscommon native Denis Buckley at prop. Surely his Irish debut is not far off now. It has been a wonderful season for him.

CHAMPIONSHIP – Crystal Ball…

(It’s summer! It’s championship season!)

This weekend the All-Ireland Football Championship activity increases, with four games – three in Leinster and one in Ulster. RTE’s flagship ‘The Sunday Game’ is back this weekend too.

Leinster SFC

Laois v Wicklow (on Saturday in Portlaoise): This local derby has been very hard-fought in the past, with several controversial incidents throughout the years. Wicklow have regressed in the past few years, and while Laois are no great shakes either, they have players like Donie Kingston who can make the difference. Prediction: Laois.

Louth v Carlow (Saturday evening in Portlaoise): Not the most exciting of prospects here. Carlow are struggling badly, so I presume that Louth will be expected to win. Neither will go too far in the championship though. Prediction: Louth.

Offaly v Longford (on Sunday in Tullamore): This should be a lively encounter. Offaly are on a bit of a roll – having won Division Four – but they are not a coming force or anything like that. Longford seem to be in a bit of turmoil after manager Denis Connerton threatened to resign over club fixtures recently. Longford have some nice young players but I am going to give a hesitant vote to Offaly to win it by a point or two. Prediction: Offaly.

Ulster SFC

Fermanagh v Antrim (on Sunday in Brewster Park): Roscommon fans will remember the nightmare that they endured in Enniskillen last year and a similar fate potentially awaits Antrim in this Ulster opener at the same venue. Fermanagh are not great, but under Pete McGrath they are difficult to beat at home, and they should have enough to overcome what looks like a very ordinary Antrim team. Prediction: Fermanagh.