The championships come alive!
The hurling championship continued to deliver outstanding entertainment last weekend with the Wexford v Kilkenny game. Wexford were fantastic and the atmosphere at the game and the reaction of the Wexford fans after the game is what the GAA championship is all about. What a display from Lee Chin for Wexford. They might not win the All-Ireland but Wexford will bring great colour and excitement to the rest of the championship. They will soon have to commission a statue to Davy Fitzgerald!
It looks like this Kilkenny team, probably the greatest we have ever seen in the sport, is on the wane and it had to happen sometime.
What I loved about last weekend was that the football championship came alive with two very good games in poor conditions. The Cavan v Monaghan game was settled by probably the best forward in the game, Conor McManus, who scored a peach of a goal in Breffni Park. But Cavan were unlucky not to have got at least a draw.
The game in Salthill may not have been the greatest ever seen in terms of quality but it was thrilling to the very last minute. The sending off of Keith Higgins was a key factor in the final result but Mayo couldn’t get the scores they needed and Galway were impressive.
So what does that mean for Roscommon? I know that Kevin McStay’s men have to win against Leitrim on Sunday but I would prefer Roscommon’s chances against Galway rather than having to go to MacHale Park where Roscommon have a brutal record and have not won in the championship since 1986. Let’s see how next Sunday goes first!
It will be exciting for fans and the TV audience nationally to see the new pitch at Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday and a crowd of 8,000 to 10,000 is expected. Anything other than a fairly comfortable Roscommon win would be a disaster.
National Sports Centre an impressive facility
I went to see Roscommon play Wexford in a senior football challenge game last week at the National Sports Centre in Abbotstown and I took time to look around, and what a facility it is.
The game was played on an immaculate full floodlit pitch which had a stand with about 600 seats under cover. There were also four other fully lit GAA pitches, two of which were all-weather. There was also a hurling wall and at least six dressing rooms and showers, meeting rooms, gyms etc. and that was just the GAA facilities. There are at least 12 fully lit soccer pitches (the Irish team had been training there earlier in the day) there are hockey and rugby pitches as well. Then there is the indoor athletics and gymnastic facilities and that’s quite apart from the National Aquatic Centre which was there from the start.
It is a magnificent facility but of course, like everything else it’s in Dublin, and the facts are that we are in the Third World down the country when it comes to sporting facilities.
‘Pay-as-you-watch’ on the horizon?
Sports followers who like to watch on TV will be interested in the following article from Monday on balls.ie:
‘The Financial Times are reporting that Sky Sports have seen a sharp decline in viewing figures for the past Premier League season. Average viewing for live games for the full season across Sky’s channels fell by 14%, which represents the sharpest decline they have suffered since these figures were first recorded in 2010. This decline in viewers comes at a worrying time for the broadcaster: they paid a total of £4.2 billion for the TV rights under the most recent agreement, which works out at an average of £10 million per game.
There is also the wider context to fret about: ESPN’s business model has taken a huge loss owing to an enormous loss of subscribers, as viewers move to the on-demand model, in which you pay for what you want to watch.’
It means that SKY and BT Sports could soon be in trouble if this trend continues and there will be moves to go to a ‘pay-as-you-watch’ situation where people will only pay for events and matches that they want to watch in the future.
It is very hard to justify spending up to €100 per month watching sporting TV as it stands. Very interesting times ahead for sure.
Irish soccer team hard to watch
Maybe it’s just me but I find it very hard to watch the Irish soccer team in action. The game came after the two football games, which were both very exciting and that probably was part of the reason. It’s just that Ireland do not have the standard of top class player that we have had in the past. But we have a great manager and the players show great commitment and a love for the jersey and playing for their country which counts for a lot.
Last Sunday against Austria they were very poor in the first half but rescued the situation in the second period and were probably unlucky not to have won. It looks good for qualification for the World Cup in Russia now.
US Open will be a big hit
The US Open takes place in a new venue this week as it is staged for the first time at Erin Hill in Minnesota. The experts say that this is a very tough test and it is a very long course.
In fact, the four par 5s are all over 600 yards with the 18th a massive 663 yards. It seems to me like a course for long hitters and that will bring in the likes of Dustin Johnston, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Bubba Watson and Gary Woodland. A score close to even par is usually good enough to win and if McIlroy has cured his putting ills he could be a great bet to lift the title on Sunday night.
Munster SHC Semi-Final: Cork v Waterford on Sunday in Thurles at 4 pm
Local GAA fans will be concentrating on Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday but nationally this is another mouth-watering clash and such has been the standard of the hurling championship so far we will all hope for another epic here. If Cork play as well in this game as they did against Tipperary then Waterford will be in trouble. But Waterford are an excellent side, have a good manager and they have their eyes on the big prizes this year and justifiably so too.
Match odds: Waterford 8/13, Cork 13/8, Draw 8/1.
Leinster SHC Semi-Final: Galway v Offaly on Sunday in Portlaoise at 2 pm
Anything other than an easy Galway win would be the shock of the decade.
Match odds: Galway 1/100, Offaly 12/1, Draw 33/1.
Leinster SFC Semi-Final: Kildare v Meath on Saturday in Tullamore at 7 pm
This has the makings of a very tight and entertaining game. Both sides are improving and both put up big scores in their last outing. I have a feeling that there might be more firepower in Meath and Graham Reilly is the key man.
Match odds: Meath 1/1, Kildare 1/1, Draw 15/2.
Ulster SFC Semi-Final: Donegal v Tyrone on Sunday in Clones at 2 pm
A real heavyweight clash in Clones and it will not be a place for the faint hearted. I am not expecting an open game and defences will rule. I am not convinced by Tyrone and if Donegal can continue their upward curve they can win it.
Match odds: Tyrone 8/11, Donegal 11/8, Draw 13/2.
Connacht SFC Semi-Final: Roscommon v Leitrim at Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday at 3.30 pm
The game is previewed in detail elsewhere this week.
Match odds: Roscommon 1/12, Leitrim 8/1, Draw 16/1.
Qualifiers: This weekend there are four games in the qualifiers in Section A on Saturday and I am predicting wins for: Derry (v Waterford), Louth (v Longford), Laois (v Wicklow) and Sligo (v Antrim).