In just a few days’ time it will be 2017 and crystal ball gazing is a business fraught with danger. I’d hate to be taking out the predictions list from last year! But here goes…
It is hard to oppose the Dubs again in 2017 but Kerry are sure to have something to say about that and Tyrone are going to give it one hell of a lash because it is probably Mickey Harte’s last year in charge. Mayo? If they return with all guns blazing then they can surely be there in the shake up again. But how long can they keep going to the well? And of course, the revelations over the weekend about how Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly were removed by the players in 2015 will certainly not help.
Here in Roscommon it’s the start of the Kevin McStay era. To stay in Diivision One in 2017 would be an even bigger achievement for Roscommon than 2016 because Tyrone are there now and Cavan will be ultra competitive too. Add that to the fact that we have only three home games and it is a mountain to climb. Roscommon need to be competitive in every game and let’s see where that leaves us in April. It’s not the end of the world if we are relegated but we must be competitive.
In the championship, Roscommon simply have to get to the Connacht final and that’s with all due respect to Leitrim. If Roscommon are actually in the Connacht final then anything can happen on the day. It will all depend on Mayo’s attitude in 2017 as to the possibility of a Connacht title. A last eight appearance in the All-Ireland series for Roscommon is also a requirement by front or back door. It will be an interesting year for our seniors surely.
On the underage scene, Roscommon have a favourable draw in the U-21 championship and can have legitimate ambitions of a place in the Connacht final at least. The final minor championship ever will be played alongside the U-17 championship in 2017 which will make it a busy year for a lot of the elite underage players. I am aware that we have had very good teams at U-15 and U-16 level in 2016. These players must be looked after to keep the production line intact.
One of the things that I am most looking forward to is the re-opening of Dr Hyde Park in February 2017. After 45 years in existence, the pitch has been replaced with a state-of-the-art surface. If we get as many thrills and spills in ‘The Hyde’ over the next 45 years as we have had in the past 45 we will be well pleased.
On the club football scene, there will be a queue to relieve St. Brigid’s of their title in 2017. Given their astonishing success rate in 2016 at underage level, the future looks bright down Kiltoom way. Clann na nGael will be looking to get back on top again in 2017 and Pádraig Pearses will be there or thereabouts again for sure. I know I’m biased in this regard but I have a feeling that Roscommon Gaels could have a big year in 2017. I hope that’s not the kiss of death for them! Another sleeping giant are Strokestown who have a lot of very good players.
On the intermediate scene, Oran will be back at the business end of the championship surely as will Michael Glavey’s, Tulsk and Fuerty. In the junior championship, it should be between St. Ronan’s Ballinameen and Kilglass Gaels.
Roscommon hurling people are rightly excited about 2017. The appointment of Johnny Kelly as senior hurling team manager has lifted everyone and his CV is very impressive. With promotion in the league secured and the team playing in the Christy Ring Cup there is scope for major progress to be made. I hope he gets the co-operation he deserves.
On the club scene, Oran will be anxious to show that 2016 was not a one-off but Four Roads will surely have something to say about that.
On the national scene, I am looking forward to seeing Clare in action under their new management. They have so many talented players. Tipperary and Kilkenny will surely be there again too but I have a fancy for Clare to upset the applecart in 2017.
In Ladies Football, the appointment of Michael Finneran as county senior team manager has given a great boost to the game in the county and hopefully he can oversee progress in both league and championship.
On the club scene, Kilbride showed what could be done with hard work and dedication in 2016. The standard of club football is rising all the time and we look forward to another super championship in 2017.
In Camogie, Athleague will be going for three-in-a-row senior titles in 2017 and with the young talent they have on the way up they will be the favourites to do it.
On the inter-county scene, Roscommon should be able to finally claim that All-Ireland junior title in 2017. They have come so close over the past two years. The young talent that is emerging in the county will be a year older in 2017 and that could make all the difference.
In soccer, the standards are rising all the time locally. The Roscommon & District League have been making great progress in recent years and the facilities that the clubs are offering are improving all the time.
On the national scene, it is sad to see the League of Ireland struggling, and despite the brilliance of Dundalk there are many problems in the league that the FAI are not addressing. It is particularly sad to see how far Longford Town and Athlone Town have slipped down the pecking order. I used to go to see both teams over the years but both are struggling badly.
On another planet is the Premier League where it looks like Chelsea will be the champions again. In the Champions League, it will be the usual suspects there at the finish but more interestingly, Ireland should have qualified for World Cup 2018 when 2017 comes to a close. They are in a great position on the table. Martin O’Neill has done a great job and another couple of positive results will do it.
What a year we have in prospect in rugby. Connacht are now in a strong position in their group in the Champions Cup and hopefully they can make it to the knock-out stages. I would love to see Denis Buckley getting that overdue recognition at international level in 2017. He deserves it.
The Six Nations will be another fantastic competition in 2017. Ireland go into the championship in a very strong position but so do England and the clash of the two at the Aviva could be a title decider. What a prospect that is.
And in other sports…
In horse racing we can look forward to another great Cheltenham, and Aidan O’Brien will have his usual quota of classic winners in 2017. Locally, Lenebane will be up and running again in May 2017 and it is a fantastic evening out if you can manage to get there.
In golf it promises to be another very exciting year and the re-appearance of Tiger Woods will add a huge amount of interest. Can he ever get back to anything like his best form or even win one more major? Rory McIlroy will surely be gunning for more majors too, and after a poor enough year in 2016, it would be great to see Shane Lowry back on the winning trail again. The Irish Open is now one of the biggest tournaments on the European Tour and in fairness to Rory McIlroy he has put in a big effort in recent years to raise its profile. Watch out also for the progress of Leona Maguire from Cavan who is now the number one amateur in the world in Ladies’ Golf.
There are many other sports that we can look forward to in 2017, not least the careers of Katie Taylor and Michael Conlon in boxing. I expect to see Katie Taylor go to the very top in 2017. Michael Conlon has all the attributes to be a world champion. If he is looked after properly and trains hard he can be a world champion for sure.
The O’Donovan brothers are sure to have another great year and they have brought rowing to another level as a sport in Ireland.
Athletics is like cycling at the moment, they are both sports with huge problems on an international level but sports that enjoy huge support on a local level.
I realise that Conor McGregor was voted as the Irish Sports Star of the Year on RTE last weekend but I would be a hypocrite if I said I was looking forward to seeing him in 2017, because I am not. There are plenty of people in the media paying homage to McGregor and he certainly doesn’t need my approval. The best of luck to him.
Snooker is a sport that was once one of the biggest on our TV screens. It has slipped back but it is still always worth watching when Ronnie O’Sullivan is in action.
Darts will be a big draw over the Christmas holiday period and it is great television. Can Phil Taylor win an incredible 17th title? Can Gary Anderson retain the title he won in such sensational fashion last year? Or can the best player in the world, Michael Van Gerwin, stamp his authority by winning the biggest tournament of them all? It will be decided over the next week or two at ‘The Ally Pally’ in London. The Sky TV hype machine will be in overdrive!
This is the final column of the year and I want to wish all our readers and our advertisers a very Happy and Peaceful Christmas. In February of 2017 The Roscommon People will be 10 years in existence and it is hard to believe that it is decade since we started out. I want to thank the people of Roscommon and the sports fans in particular for your support and loyalty over those ten years. It was not an easy journey at times but we have got there. More about that in the New Year for sure. Enjoy the holidays!