Seamus Duke On Sport – 26th August

Mayo will need the performance of the year

To be a Mayo football follower must be so frustrating. Their team have been magnificent over the past six years but they have slipped up at the final hurdle so many times. In 2016 they are back in the All-Ireland final but on the basis of what we have seen so far from them this year they are destined to come up short again.

  They are going to have to produce a performance of a standard that we have not seen from them before this year if they want to have a chance of winning the All-Ireland. Maybe there is one huge game in them but it is hard to see it. They struggled against Tipperary for long periods and they were helped by a woeful refereeing performance from David Coldrick who needlessly black carded influential Tipperary centre half-back Robbie Keily and then sent off Bill Maher for what was no more than a push.

  Mayo probably just about deserved to win against Tipperary, but watching the game I couldn’t help thinking that if they were playing against Dublin or Kerry they would have been in big trouble. They experimented with Barry Moran in defence last Sunday and at times he looked totally lost. They had to rely once again on the old hands Andy Moran, Aidan O’Shea and Keith Higgins to get them out of trouble. I would love to see Mayo win an All-Ireland title but they are going to have to play to a level that we have not seen in 2016 so far if they are to do it.

  This Sunday it’s another instalment in the Kerry v Dublin saga and it promises to be a fascinating duel. Dublin deserve to be favourites but one thing is for certain; Kerry will give this everything. Kerry do not like to lose and they have painful memories of defeats to Dublin in last year’s All-Ireland final and this year’s league final fresh in their minds. Eamon Fitzmaurice will have a definite game plan to unhinge the Dubs and they will give this one huge lash.

  The Dubs are not unbeatable but they have become a far more streetwise team over the past year or so. If Bernard Brogan, Paul Flynn, Kevin McManamon, Diarmuid Connolly and company get enough ball then Kerry will be in trouble. It has been a very mediocre football championship thus far. Hopefully it will come alive on Sunday.

Curtain comes down on Olympics

So the Olympic Games are over for another four years. I have to say I had less interest in the games this year than ever before but there were a number of highlights.

  Our two silver medals were the major Irish highlights and the O’Donovan brothers were a breath of fresh air. I enjoyed watching Mo Farah and Usain Bolt in particular as well. I hope that both athletes are clean but then again you never know.  We will never see the likes of Bolt again.

  The event I enjoyed most was the soccer final which I sat down and watched from start to finish on Saturday night. Both sides (Brazil and Germany) went out with attacking intent from the first minutes and it was an incident-packed match that went to extra-time and penalties. You couldn’t have written the script any better as Neymar (who defied his club Barcelona and played in the Olympics) scored the winning penalty. It was incredible to see the emotion in the stadium as the Brazilians celebrated their gold medal in the sport that they love more than any other.

  However to hold such an expensive festival of sport (it cost approximately $12 billion to stage) in a country where there is huge poverty, was a mistake. The half-full stadiums were a testament to the fact that the Brazilian people could not afford to go to the various events.

  Of course the controversy surrounding our boxers and the tickets scandal have dominated the headlines here. I don’t have much insight into the whole situation but I have to say I find it hard to have any sympathy for Pat Hickey. He always came across as arrogant and uncaring over his many years at the top in Irish sport and maybe it’s a case of ‘what goes around comes around’. If you want to know what Hickey is like then read the piece about him in the Sunday Times last Sunday when Eamon Coghlan has a quite incredible story to tell about Hickey’s arrogance and bad manners. But I wouldn’t be getting too excited about him. Like all the guys who move in those circles, he will be out shortly and back to normal. It’s just a pity that John Delaney was not in Rio too. A couple of weeks in a high security jail out there might bring him down to earth too!

Club championships reach critical stages

This weekend in the county the twitter accounts, mobile phones and calculators will be busy as the final round of championship games take place in the various groups in the SFC and the IFC. The fact that almost every club still has something to play for in round five is an indication that this championship format is working well so far. The games are previewed in detail elsewhere in the sports section this week but there should be big crowds out at the various games and hopefully we will see a high standard of play. That would of course be a huge help to our county senior team. By the Sunday night all the semi-finalists and quarter-finalists will be known. Best of luck to all concerned.

 Hard-working camogie players miss out

Hard luck to the Roscommon camogie side who were pipped at the post by old rivals Armagh in the All-Ireland junior semi-final last Sunday in Drumlane, Co. Cavan.

  What a lot of people may not realise is that the girls on the Roscommon panel have put in a massive effort at training and they prepare just as diligently and work just as hard as any of the men’s county teams do. They were devastated to lose last weekend and I spoke to many of the team on Sunday night and they were inconsolable at having lost out on a place in the final.

  I also heard on the grapevine that Annette McGeeney may well have decided to retire from inter-county fare. If that is the case then one of Roscommon GAA’s true legends will have stepped aside. Annette has given at least 15 years of sterling service to Roscommon ladies football and Roscommon camogie and she has been a real leader and inspiration to so many members of county teams over the years. Her contribution has been huge and hopefully she will be able to share her expertise and leadership qualities with Roscommon teams in the coming years. Always co-operative and with a great attitude it has been a pleasure working with her and watching her play. If it is the case that Annette is retiring I wish her the best of luck and say thanks for the memories!

Not a fan of McGregor

I note where our latest national sports ’hero’ Conor McGregor, is back in the news again after he beat some unfortunate opponent in Las Vegas at the weekend. I’m sorry folks, but no one will ever convince me that MMA is sport. When you can sit on someone’s chest and batter the face off them- or kick someone in the head and they have no protective headgear on, then it is no better than brawling.

  I didn’t watch the ‘fight’ on Saturday night but I saw some of the pictures afterwards and the damage done to both men was horrendous. Even the people who report on these encounters called it ‘brutal’. I know that it’s fashionable to support McGregor and his ‘sport’ but it’s not for me and it worries me that so many young people think it’s great. I don’t care how hard he trains or what effort he puts in, wanton violence is wanton violence no matter where it happens, in the ring or outside it.

Championship Crystal Ball

All-Ireland SFC Semi-Final Dublin v Kerry on Sunday in Croke Park at 3.30 pm: There is still something special about a match between Dublin and Kerry. Dublin are the deserved favourites to win here but Kerry will be very determined to reverse last year’s All-Ireland final result and also the league final result in May. Midfield will be crucial and it will be interesting to see who Kerry pick to play there. It will be a fierce battle but I think that the Dublin bench will settle it. They just have too much strength all round. But it will be well worth watching and there will not be much in it. Prediction: Dublin

All-Ireland MFC Semi-Final Kerry v Kildare on Sunday in Croke Park at 1.30 pm: This could be one of the games of the year. We had a cracking semi-final between Galway and Donegal and Kerry will be the slight favourites to win here although Kildare are very strong this year. Prediction: Kerry