Seamus Duke on sport – 23rd of February


No bonfires but back on track!


There was no need for bonfires or a homecoming on Sunday night last after winning the FBD League, but in the context of the season it was a win that came at just the right time. After such a poor display against Down the previous week, the squad needed a lift and to win this final was just what the doctor ordered.

  There were other positives too. It was good to see Cathal Cregg playing well again. In the form we saw him in last Sunday he will be a huge asset to the team and he has surely put his hand up for a starting place against Louth on Sunday next. I was also impressed with Ross Timothy. He was marking probably Galway’s best player Barry McHugh, but he was impressive on the ball. With Niall McInerney and Sean Mullooly out it is a chance for him to stake his claim for a starting place. He was an excellent underage player and has loads of potential. Peter Domican is also doing well since returning to the panel and Seanie McDermott showed that there is plenty of life left in the old dog too.

  To score 2-16 was very positive and hopefully a lot of the dirty petrol that was in the engine during the Down match is now out of the system. It was Roscommon’s fifth final in a row and it was nice to win it. No one will be getting too carried away but any bit of silverware we can get is most welcome.

  The news that Niall McInerney will be out for the rest of the league is disappointing but totally understandable. His education comes first and he has been a great servant to Roscommon thus far and he will be again.

  Sean Mullooly will be a huge loss too. I wrote here a couple of weeks ago that he was settling in nicely to his role at centre half-back but now Kevin McStay and his selectors will have to find someone else for the year and hopefully Sean will be back in action in 2019. Sometimes people forget that these lads have lives outside football and at the end of the day it is a past-time that they do not get paid for. I wish the two lads the best of luck.

  The immediate task now is to replace both for the rest of the league with a view to the championship as well.

Rossies must win in Drogheda

To say that Sunday’s game in Drogheda is a ‘must-win’ is an understatement. I fully realise that anything can happen in the league but Louth have not been going well and this is a game that Roscommon should win and win with a bit to spare. The Cavan win against Meath is another positive result for Roscommon and if two points can be taken next Sunday then the management and players can sit down and look at where they are after that.

  There has been much talk in recent weeks about whether Roscommon might be better off to stay in Division Two, but the priority must be to get enough points to ensure survival first. Trips away in the league are always dangerous and Kevin McStay and his men will have to be ready for a battle on Sunday. There are still problems to be ironed out at midfield but if the attack get enough ball then it should be a win.

Player welfare went out the window

It is amazing that despite all the great well-meaning speeches that we have heard in the GAA about player welfare over the past 10 years that things are actually getting worse in that regard. Many commentators including yours truly predicted chaos with this new fixtures plan and it is coming to pass already and we are only in February.

  Last Saturday afternoon Liam Silke and Kieran Molloy played for their club Corofin against Moorefield in the All-Ireland semi-final in O’Connor Park. However some genius also fixed the Sigerson Cup final for 3.30 pm on the same day in Santry which is 60 or 70 miles away.

  Both lads, who helped their colleges NUIG (Molloy) and UCD (Silke) to get to the final made a desperate dash from Tullamore in an attempt to make the game and Molloy came on as a sub in the 7th minute of the second half. Silke couldn’t come on as he hurt his finger in the All Ireland semi-final.

  Of course they were going to play for their club, but a Sigerson final is a very big deal too and it was desperately unfair to expect these lads to play two games in the one day. Unless we actually take the issues of player welfare and burn-out seriously then young men will not commit to playing our games and who would blame them. It was known for three months that a clash could have happened yet nothing was done.

  NUIG lost by a point in the end but that is not the issue. John Divilly, who is the UCD manager was very angry after the match and his comments were echoed by Maurice Sheridan who was the NUIG boss. As my mother used to say many times “the thing about common sense is that it’s not too common”.

Ireland face fired-up Dragons

Ireland must be very careful when they play Wales on Saturday in The Aviva. They are the deserved favourites to win but Warren Gatland has a history of upsetting the applecart and there is nothing that would give him greater satisfaction then scuppering Ireland’s championship hopes again.

  The Welsh were very badly affected by injuries and yet they hammered Scotland and almost beat England in their opening two games. They have a number of very high profile players back this weekend including Leigh Halfpenny and George North and Ireland will have to play out of their skins to win.

  Robbie Henshaw is a huge loss and Joe Schmidt will struggle to replace him in the centre. The easy win against Italy will have taught Ireland very little about what might happen against Wales. I am hoping and praying for an Ireland win but don’t be a bit surprised if it goes the other way.

Score-fest in National Hurling League

One very noticeable thing about nearly all the games in the National Hurling League season so far is the number of points being scored in every game and there is a lack of goals. Last weekend Clare scored 23 points, Kilkenny 20, Tipperary and Wexford each scored 21, Laois scored 27, Limerick 26, Kerry and Carlow scored 22, Wicklow 21 and Roscommon 25. In the Laois v Antrim match a total of 27 frees were scored by Ross King (0-15) and Neil McManus (0-12) and no free at all was missed! The Laois team manager Eamon Kelly said it was the best exhibition of free-taking he had ever seen.

Poor game and dire facilities

I watched the Bohemians v Shamrock Rovers game on Friday night, which was the opening live game for the new Airtricity League of Ireland season. It was a very poor game until the last 20 minutes when there were four goals. It was played in Dalymount Park which has seen better days. The game was a 5,500 sell-out but the crowd are only allowed on two sides of the pitch. The atmosphere was good but the facilities are dire.

Marist set for Leinster final

Well done to Marist Athlone (with several Rossies on board) on reaching the Leinster Colleges Senior Football ‘A’ Final. The school have never won a title at this level and were beaten in the finals in 2014 and 2016. They will play Naas CBS, who have never been in an ‘A’ final, on the 10th of March. Good luck to all in the preparations.

Referees are human too

Referees are human too and we have to remember that, and anyone can make a mistake but the sending off of Corofin full-forward Martin Farragher after an incident just 45 seconds into last Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final was a whopper. In fairness to the referee Derek O’Mahoney, he looked as if he was only going to give a free for the incident but he sent Farragher to the line on the (incorrect) advice of a linesman. A straight red card was an outrageous sanction (it was a free at most) and surely the referee had to be 100% certain before dismissing a man who has been training for the past four months to play in the game.

  Corofin eventually won the game but it could have turned out so differently. Hopefully the red card will be rescinded and Farragher will be allowed play in the final.