Seamus Duke On Sport – 15th July

Things can only get better for Rossies

Who would be a pundit? In the build-up to last Sunday’s Connacht final, conventional wisdom had it that Roscommon would win the game if their attack could get enough ball. There were worries about the defence and midfield. As it turned out, the defence was magnificent, Niall Daly was superb at midfield while the attack totally misfired.

  The horrible weather conditions meant that the game was always going to be a poor one but the attitude of both teams contributed to the sub-standard fare. Especially in the second half, the ball was recycled and handpassed over and back across the field – and, in many cases – forty or fifty metres backwards. Too many players simply did not want to make a mistake and give the ball away, which is admirable, but a little more ambition is certainly needed.

  Sean Mullooly, John McManus and Niall Daly drove at Galway, but too many other players were hesitant. These are great young players. They should be let off the leash a little. If they make an odd mistake, then so what? They will learn in the end.

  Having said all that, I am certain that there is far more improvement in Roscommon than there is in Galway ahead of Sunday’s replay in Castlebar. The arrival on to the field of Thomas Corcoran and Ultan Harney and Donie Smith last Sunday was very welcome, and with Donie Shine and Senan Kilbride also there, the selectors will have a headache as they sit down to pick their team this week. I would certainly go again with Niall Daly at midfield, with Cathal Compton or Thomas Corcoran as a partner.

  It is likely that the weather on Sunday next will be much better than last Sunday and hopefully we will see a better game. I am convinced that Roscommon will win this replay. They will improve and the attack will never be as poor again. We need to re-create the swashbuckling football we saw against Cork and Donegal in the league and the football we saw in the second half against Sligo.

  Just going back to last Sunday and given where the game was held and the terrible day we had, I was surprised at how big the crowd was (24,234) and there should be at least 15,000 there again on Sunday next, given that the game will not be live on TV. I must also mention last Sunday that we got out of Galway easily after the game. The Gardaí switched off the traffic lights and there were patrols on every junction and we got out without much hassle at all. However, it wasn’t the same story for everyone because I spoke to several Roscommon people who came back through the city and were held up in the chronic traffic jams. But well done to all concerned.

Great weekend of championship action

What a weekend it was in the hurling and football championships. In the hurling, Tipperary are now the justifiable favourites for the Liam McCarthy Cup following their hammering of Waterford in the Munster final. They looked awesome and poor old Waterford didn’t know what hit them. Well done also to Wexford, who had a great win against Cork, who are really struggling at the moment. Clare and Galway will be a great quarter-final on Sunday week.

  In the football, pride of place has to go to Longford, managed by Denis Connerton, who went to Clones and beat the Ulster champions. That was some win and I am delighted for Longford and especially for Denis, who is a lovely guy and a very good manager.

  Kildare were just too good for Offaly, while Clare upset the odds as well, by beating Laois. They are having some year. Cavan scraped by Carlow and there was huge controversy in Castlebar, where Mayo overcame Fermanagh.

  The game was decided after a penalty was given to Mayo with a few minutes left. It definitely wasn’t a penalty; Aidan O’Shea clearly dived. It was certainly something that no one likes to see, but in the aftermath of the game you would think that O’Shea was after committing murder, such was the reaction.

  Mayo were unconvincing and it was only when they brought on Barry Moran, Andy Moran and Alan Dillon that they won the game.

  As an amusing aside, check out the Rory’s Stories account on Twitter for their take on the Aidan O’Shea penalty. It’s hilarious.

Portugal win ‘funny old game’

Jimmy Greaves used to say that soccer was “a funny old game” and that adage was seen to be true again last Sunday night as Portugal won the Euro 2016 Championships, beating France in the final.

  As long as the match went on it was looking more likely that Portugal would win – and France have no one to blame only themselves. According to  reports, Cristiano Ronaldo made an impassioned speech in the dressing room at half-time which  inspired his team-mates. Ronaldo was injured in the first half and could not continue. It was a great win for Portugal and while there was no outstanding team in Euro 2016, the tournament was a huge success and there was a great atmosphere throughout. Thankfully there were no serious terrorist incidents and everything passed off peacefully.

Open weekend in Troon

This weekend is one of the biggest for golf with the British Open taking place in Troon in Scotland. It’s always a brilliant week and a lot will depend the weather. The likes of Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke love links golf, and all have a chance on these type of courses. As usual it’s a lottery, but I am going to have a few bob each-way on McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Shane Lowry.

Championship Crystal Ball

Ulster SFC Final: Donegal v Tyrone on Sunday in Clones: This promises to be an absolute cracker and while Tyrone will start as favourites, Donegal proved against Monaghan that they are far from a beaten docket. Tyrone have been magnificent in this championship so far, and while they would love to win this Ulster title, they have eyes on an even bigger prize later in the year. I think they will win this by four or five points. Prediction: Tyrone.

Leinster SFC Final: Westmeath v Dublin on Sunday in Croke Park: We have seen nothing to suggest that this will be anything other than a stroll in the park for Dublin. Longford’s heroics against Monaghan will give Westmeath hope, but they will do well to keep the margin to below 10 points. Prediction: Dublin.

Connacht SFC Final replay: Roscommon v Galway in MacHale Park, Castlebar on Sunday: The game is previewed in more detail elsewhere in the paper this week. I think Roscommon can do it this time. Prediction: Roscommon.

All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers

Sligo v Clare: A chance for Sligo to make further progress, but Clare look the better bet. Prediction: Clare.

Cavan v Derry: Not much between these two. Maybe Cavan to prevail. Prediction: Cavan.

Mayo v Kildare: Mayo look unconvincing. Kildare are only middling though and Mayo can advance. Prediction: Mayo.

Longford v Cork: After beating Monaghan, can Longford do it again? They have a chance, but you would have to fancy Cork. Prediction: Cork.