Seamus Duke On Sport – 22nd April

County hurlers back in the big time

Roscommon’s hurlers are back in the big time this weekend when they take on Derry in the Christy Ring Cup at Athleague.

  Having won the Nicky Rackard Cup last year and promotion this year, there is no doubt that Justin Campbell’s team are on the rise – but this Saturday’s game against Derry is a big step up.

  It is a huge test for Roscommon but they are at home, which is a big advantage, and they are meeting a Derry side who did not have a great league campaign.

  Confidence levels in the Derry camp will be low as opposed to the buoyant mood in the Roscommon camp after the dramatic win against Donegal that secured promotion. The odds will be heavily weighed in favour of Derry but I am not ruling out a shock.

  On the national scene there were two very interesting league semi-finals last Sunday. I am not a big fan of the way Waterford play but it sure is effective and they easily dealt with the challenge of Limerick.

  Clare were sensational and they blew Kilkenny away in the first half in particular. They are certainly live contenders to win another All-Ireland title in 2016 after this display.

  I know that there is a long way to go, but Clare have a freshness about them that is very exciting to watch and it promises to be an exciting summer in the Banner. It would be very foolish to write off Kilkenny but they were well beaten last Sunday and have a lot of ground to make up.

Inspirational Klopp effect at Anfield

I am sure most Liverpool fans would choose the famous night in Istanbul as the greatest win that their team has ever had, and rightly so too, given that it was the Champions League Final, but I would wager that last week’s victory against Dortmund at Anfield is right up there in the top three of all time.

  It was a thrilling game and Liverpool showed huge reserves of character and heart to keep plugging away. I have absolutely no doubt that Jurgen Klopp had a huge amount to do with it. He is an inspirational manager and I have said it before here that he will prove a brilliant manager for Liverpool in time. When he gets his hands on a few players during the summer that play the way he likes, Liverpool could be back challenging at the top.

  As a Manchester United fan, I can say that there is some difference between Klopp and Louis Van Gaal. Chalk and cheese. This weekend we have the FA Cup semi-finals and predicting a win for Manchester United these days is not a very certain science. They could go out on Saturday and beat Everton 3-0 – or they could lose by the same margin.

  It’s a 50-50 tie, as is the other semi-final between Watford and Crystal Palace. There used to be a time when the FA Cup semi-finals would generate huge excitement. Not any more.

U-21s’ conquerors march on

There were two excellent U-21 football semi-finals last Saturday. Roscommon players, fans and team management would have been watching Mayo’s super comeback with a rueful smile as they left it until deep into injury-time to defeat the Dubs by a point. Is their name on the cup this year? 

  Roscommon should have been there last Saturday for sure, but now Mayo have a great chance of winning the All-Ireland. Cork were good too against Monaghan but Mayo will not be scared going into the final with them.

MMA in the spotlight over brutal death

There is always a knee-jerk reaction after something controversial happens in all walks of life but the sport of MMA is in the spotlight after the brutal death of the Portuguese fighter Joao Carvalho last week – and rightly so too.

  I hear many apologists for this ’sport’ saying that the people who are complaining about it are out of touch and from an older generation – that the critics just don’t understand it. That’s a load of rubbish, to be quite honest. It has nothing to do with a generational argument.

  The facts are that this man was pinned to the ground and punched hard on the side of the head nine times. He could not defend himself in the position he was in.

  It was a brutal spectacle and there were hundreds of people there taking pictures on mobile phones and drinking pints of lager as this poor guy was under this onslaught. If there are people who don’t think that there is anything wrong with that then they have a problem, not me.

  Yes, I know there are problems with boxing – and I’m not a huge fan of that either – but at least there are reasonable rules and, if someone is getting hurt, the fights are stopped within a reasonable timeframe.

  We have a generation now who have grown up playing violent computer games, who have access to all kinds of violence and porn even on their mobile phones. People have become desensitised to extreme violence and the huge growth in the popularity of MMA is partly a result of this.

  Any sport where you can kick someone in the head or pin them to the ground and batter them 10 or 12 times in the head and face is not a sport – and no one will change my mind about that.

Camogie team set for final countdown

In camogie this has been a great time for the game in the county. The senior team have made great strides in the past year or two and a National League Division Three Final appearance awaits.

  This Saturday Roscommon’s minor camogie team face Down in the All-Ireland ‘B’ final. It is a huge achievement to be in this final having won the ‘C’ final last year – and of course the Roscommon Convent of Mercy team were narrowly beaten in the All-Ireland colleges final earlier in the year.

  A win on Saturday would be the biggest boost to the game in the county for many years and we wish Shane Curley and his team the best of luck.

Ten days to an American adventure

The championship game against New York is now only ten days away and the panel has been chosen for the trip.

  None of the injured players will be travelling which is unfortunate for them but I suppose the cut had to be made somewhere.

  The county players were playing for their clubs last weekend, but even though there is a full round of league games coming up again this weekend, the county players will be not be in action due to the forthcoming New York trip.

  This weekend the National Football League Finals take place in Croke Park and in the first game I expect Tyrone to be too strong for Cavan while the game between Dublin and Kerry promises to be a cracking encounter.

  Kerry are not usually too interested in the league but this year they are really up for it. They shipped a lot of criticism after the All-Ireland final last year and are intent on getting an early rattle at the Dubs.

  Both sides were really impressive in their semi-final wins and there looks to be nothing between them. I have a feeling that Kerry’s desire for a win against the Dubs might tilt the balance in their favour.

  Also on Sunday in Croke Park the GAA will celebrate The 1916 Rising with a special show after the football. I am told it will be a spectacular event. I am not going to the matches and will settle for the TV on this occasion.

Cricket scores not good for minor Cats

On Sunday morning, while looking through the sports section on the Sunday Independent, I noticed that there were results of games that had taken place on Saturday in the Leinster MFC.

  I looked at the score in the game between Wexford and Kilkenny. It was 17-21 to 0-1. I was sure that it was a misprint. Surely it should have read 1-21, or even 7-21. But I looked it up on a number of websites and it was true.  

  I would love to hear someone from the Leinster Council explain just what good this game did for the poor unfortunate lads that played on the Kilkenny team.

  I would also love to hear from the Kilkenny officials that sent out a team to play in this championship. It represents a 71-point margin and while it looks a joke it is not funny for the people involved, especially the Kilkenny players. 

  Wexford probably won’t even win the Leinster title, never mind the All-Ireland. Surely someone has to answer for allowing this to happen? 

Connacht continue to dazzle

The Sportsground was hopping last Saturday night as Connacht scored a fantastic win against Munster in the Pro12 league.

  The atmosphere was fantastic and Connacht were full value for their win. They played some brilliant stuff. The performance made one wonder has Robbie Henshaw done the right thing by joining Leinster.

  Connacht are playing a lovely style of rugby and now they are not only in next year’s Champions Cup, they are in the semi-finals of the Pro12 league too.

  Well done to Denis Buckley who was once again a star in a very impressive Connacht front row. Surely his international call-up is very close now. It was also great to see Jack Carty back after injury and making a major contribution after coming on as a sub against Munster. It has been a magical season so far for Connacht.