Seamus Duke On Sport

Mission accomplished as Rossies reach final

There have been a few bumps along the way, but Roscommon are in the Connacht final – and now they can sit back and watch as Mayo and Galway battle it out this Saturday in Castlebar.

  The aims at the start of 2016 were to survive in Division One and to get to the Connact final, and both those aims have been achieved, so well done to all concerned. 

  Roscommon have been hit by a lot of injuries this year but hopefully they will have cleared up in time for the final. It was good to see Cathal Compton and the Smith brothers coming on last Sunday. I must say that I really liked the attitude of Neil Collins. He was dropped last week but he was determined to prove a point and was magnificent when he came on.

  The aim now must be for Roscommon to be competitive in the Connacht final and to put up a good show. We have a lot of very good young players and this will be a huge test for them, but they should relish it. This is what all the training is for.

  I am expecting that Mayo will beat Galway and that we will therefore have to travel on July the 10th. More about that closer to the final.

  It was great to see a big crowd in Dr. Hyde Park for the last game before the pitch is redone. It is a magnificent venue for a big game. 35 minutes after the match ended, the traffic was all gone. When we have a new pitch we will hopefully get many big games at the venue.

  Elsewhere, Tipperary pulled off a fantastic win against Cork in Munster. Roscommon man Paddy Neilan was the referee and there was huge praise after the game for his performance.

  This Tipperary win did not come out of the blue, as they have been threatening this for some years and they have had great success at underage level in recent times. Well done to Liam Kearns and his players. However I would say that there is consternation in the Munster Council at the result.  

A Tipperary v Kerry final will draw a fraction of the crowd that Cork v Kerry would have drawn. I hope that the tens of thousands of Tipp hurling supporters make an exception for the final and go out and support their footballers.

Greatest day in Irish rugby history

Last Saturday was the greatest day in the history of Irish international rugby. First, the U-20 team went out and beat the mighty All Blacks easily. It was a superbly confident performance from a very talented team who had earlier beaten the Grand Slam champions Wales. It was unbelievable to think that these young men were the first Irish men’s team ever to beat the All Blacks. Let’s hope they can go on and win the tournament now.

  Then later in the day the Irish senior men’s team beat South Africa with a display full of heart, determination and skill. When CJ Stander was given a red card after 20 minutes I thought Ireland were bunched, but they showed unbelievable character to stay in front. I was glad for Paddy Jackson that he played so well after all his years in the shadow of Johnny Sexton.

  To win on South African soil for the first time ever – with 14 men for 60 minutes – was one of the greatest achievements in modern Irish sport.

Swede and Sour in opening game

Good and bad. That’s the verdict after the Ireland v Sweden match on Monday evening. Ireland were excellent in the first half and could have gone in 2-0 ahead. They scored a cracking goal from Wes Hoolihan three minutes into the second half, but then they retreated into their shell – and in truth there was a real sense for about ten minutes that the equaliser was coming.

  Now the big game is against Belgium on Saturday. There are certainly grounds for optimism. Despite all the great players that they have, Belgium looked a poor outfit against Italy. However, on the other side of the equation, the game against Ireland is one that Belgium are under pressure to win now, which might be bad news for us.

  Remember too that Italy play Sweden on Friday, and if Italy were to win that encounter they would be certain to be group winners – in which event they may not be at full tilt when we play them in the final group game. All to play for yet.

  I have to say that I have enjoyed the games that I have seen so far at Euro 2016.

  Needless to say a minority of English fans have disgraced themselves again. I know that the Russians were to blame for a lot of the violence in Marseilles, but how come there has been trouble surrounding almost every game involving England for the past 30 years?

Cavan girl number one in the world

There wasn’t much coverage of the Curtis Cup golf match between Britain & Ireland and the USA last weekend, and that’s a pity – because in women’s golf we have the number one player in the world in Leona Maguire from Cavan.

  Leona led the home team to victory and was the highest point-scorer with four points out of a possible five. It is only a matter of time before she turns pro. She is expected to be a force at the very top for many years to come.

  Staying with the little white ball, the US Open is on this weekend on a very tough course at Oakmont. Patience is required on this course and the usual suspects are expected to be at the top of the leaderboard. Rory McIlroy is my tip to win it, if he’s putting well. If McIlroy’s putter is cold, then my choice would be Dustin Johnson.

Championship Crystal Ball

Connacht SFC – Semi-Final: Mayo v Galway in Castlebar on Saturday: Anything other than a comfortable Mayo win here would be a shock. The vibes coming out of the Galway camp are not good, and while they have some very good players, Mayo look far too strong. Roscommon followers will be taking a keen interest here. Mayo to win easily. Prediction: Mayo.

Ulster SFC – Semi-Final: Tyrone v Cavan in Clones on Sunday: Cavan played some really nice football against Armagh and are an improving side. Tyrone look a very formidable outfit and have designs on being there at the business end of the championship. Cavan will give Tyrone plenty to think about – but Mickey Harte’s men will prevail. Prediction: Tyrone.

Leinster SHC – Semi-Final: Offaly v Galway on Sunday in Portlaoise: Offaly have done well after a terrible start to the year. Galway were comfortable winners against Westmeath, but have bigger fish to fry. The Tribesmen will be too strong, but it remains to be seen how good a team they are. Prediction: Galway.

Munster SHC – Semi-Final: Limerick v Tipperary on Sunday in Thurles: This will be a cracker. Limerick are coming in under the radar and could well spring a surprise, but Tipp look the better bet after their demolition job on Cork in the quarter-final. Prediction: Tipperary.

All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers: This weekend I am predicting wins for Laois (v Armagh), Derry (v Louth), Wicklow ( v Carlow), and Waterford (v Leitrim).

Note: Our good run of predictions came to an end last weekend, with Tipperary footballers’ win against Cork in Munster. However all the rest were right – so 29 out of 30 is not bad, I suppose!