Seamus Duke On Sport

Connacht Final predictions were wide of the mark

I don’t know how so many people (including me) got it so wrong. I was convinced that Roscommon could not play as bad again in the replay, and that Galway would not have much improvement in them.

  Well, that was fairly wide of the mark! Roscommon were stuck to the ground, were beaten in almost every position on the field, and Galway were a team transformed.

  They went back to the old Galway style of direct, fast football – and even though Roscommon could not cope – it was beautiful to watch at times. The interplay between Paul Conroy and Damien Comer was superb and Comer was lord of all he surveyed. He is a superb player. His teamwork and unselfish passing won the game for Galway and when you add in top class displays from Declan Kyne, Gareth Bradshaw, Gary O’Donnell, Tom Flynn, Gary Sice and the deadly accurate Danny Cummins, it was a display from Galway that I certainly did not see coming. They are a team that is improving all the time and they will give a good account of themselves in Croke Park.

  So what of Roscommon? The season is coming to a shuddering halt and history suggests that the odds are stacked against Roscommon on Saturday in Salthill. In the 15 years of the qualifiers, only two teams have ever coped with a six-day turnaround after a loss and those two teams are Dublin and Cavan (who beat Carlow recently). It would be a marvellous feat for the management and players to be able to turn last Sunday’s disaster into a quarter-final place. It’s not an impossible task.

  Maybe it’s that the championship is much tougher and much more intense, but Roscommon were simply not at the races on Sunday last. We were well beaten at midfield and our defence was in trouble from the opening minutes. There will have to be changes to freshen up the team for Saturday. Some of the players who have been so great all year look worn out. Lads on the fringe of the team need to be given their chance to show what they can do with an eye to next year as much as anything else. A 70% fit Diarmuid Murtagh would be on my team an we simply have to do something at midfield, where Clare are strongest.

  The bottom line in Roscommon football over the past six years is that our championship performances have been poor for the most part. We have got to change that. I don’t blame the management for putting an emphasis on the league, because it was very important to stay in Division One.

  But we have to find a way of competing in Division One and concentrating on the championship as well. That’s what all the big teams do.

  Saturday’s game against Clare will be a very difficult one for Roscommon. They are coming in on the back of three good qualifier wins and they would have been hoping to draw Roscommon. Under normal circumstances, Roscommon would fancy their chances of beating Clare, but it will be very hard to get the players up for this game after last Sunday. But we have Clare at a neutral venue to get into the last eight of the championship. It could have been a lot tougher.

  I wonder who fixed this game for Salthill…do these people not know what it is like to try and get in and out of Salthill on a Saturday in the middle of summer? It is a total nightmare and obviously the supporters are the last thing on the minds of the fixture-makers in the GAA. The decision to stage this game in Salthill will cost the GAA, because thousands of people will not bother going, as the game is on Sky TV.   

  Finally on the Connacht final replay, the decision of RTE to stream it on the RTE Player was less than a success. For many people the Player simply did not work and the screens were blank.

   Elsewhere in the championship, Dublin scored their expected easy win against Westmeath, while Tyrone came from behind to take the Ulster title after a very disappointing game. Tyrone are still the dark horses for the All-Ireland title though. Longford’s run came to an end against Cork, which was a pity for the midlanders. Mayo are improving all the time. They blitzed Kildare before half-time to win another qualifier. With a game against Westmeath coming up, they should be in the quarter-finals again this year.

British Open duel a delight

I taped the highlights of the final day’s play at the British Open and the duel between Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson was one of the greatest in the history of the game. From Friday onwards it was obvious that Mickelson and Stenson were way ahead of the field, but no one was prepared for the fireworks on Sunday. Mickelson played almost a perfect round of golf to record a 65, but incredibly Stenson scored a 63, which broke all sorts of records. It was breathtaking stuff and a spectacular win for Stenson.

  By the way, in the preview here in last week’s People Sport I tipped Stenson to win. Did I back him?…no! It was also interesting to note that this was the first year that Sky Sports covered the British Open live. Their average viewing figures last week were in the region of 300,000. The BBC showed a highlights programme each night and they averaged two million viewers. Those stats speak for themselves.

From the Internet

It’s important not to weight too much importance on the quality of one game. It’s also imperative not to overreact, considering the high-scoring nature of the four (including replays) Ulster semi-finals. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that it’s high time for a rule change to save Gaelic football from itself.

  Tyrone and Donegal played mirror systems last Sunday in the Ulster final, neutralising one another and choking the life out of the game. Both teams conceded the short kick-outs, a blight on the game, and dropped at least 14 players behind their own 45’. Only once the ball reached that point did they start to pressure the man in possession.

Both teams were petrified of getting caught too high up the field, being turned over and hit on the break. There was just one goal chance in the game, which Cathal McCarron fluffed, and the high quality of score-taking from distance saved it as a spectacle.

  The problem is that most teams in the country don’t have players like Sean Cavanagh, Odhran MacNiallais, Peter Harte and Ryan McHugh, players that are capable of kicking long-range scores. So inevitably lower quality opposition produce unwatchable affairs.

  The teams produced just 14 kick passes each in the first-half. Gaelic football has become like basketball without the shot-clock, a game where possession is king. The ball isn’t kicked into the full-forward line anymore. We can’t go on like this. Joe Brolly’s proposed rule-change to cure football makes sense and should be considered. (the

Championship Crystal Ball

All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers: Clare v Roscommon on Saturday in Pearse Stadium at 3 pm: The heart says Roscommon and the head says Clare. It would be a huge win if it were to happen. Our luck has to change soon. Prediction: Roscommon.

Derry v Tipperary on Saturday in Kingspan Breffni Park: Derry are on a roll now and they scored an excellent win against Cavan last weekend. They are the sort of a team that play well the longer they stay in the championship. Tipperary are a good side but they may just come up short here. Prediction: Derry.

All-Ireland SHC – Quarter-Finals: Limerick v Wexford in Thurles on Sunday: Wexford had a great win against Cork and they will be up for this one. Limerick are not the team they were two years ago and as a result this could be a very close game. I have a feeling that Limerick might just have the edge. Prediction: Limerick.

Clare v Galway in Thurles on Sunday: This promises to be a cracking match and there will be no love lost between these two. Galway have been mediocre and were well beaten by Kilkenny in the Leinster Final. Clare’s intentions are very clear this year and they intend to be in the semi-final by the back door. The Banner look the better bet to advance. Prediction: Clare.