Seamus Duke on sport -26th of January



One bad weekend away from disaster

I’m glad so many columnists and commentators are now on the fixtures bandwagon this week. I wrote about the problems that lay ahead two months ago but there wasn’t a blind bit of heed passed. Now there is blue murder after last weekend’s wash-out. One more bad weekend of weather and the whole inter-county fixture list will be totally unworkable. Even as it is, clubs like Michael Glavey’s, who have had All-Ireland semi-finals put back a week, will now have just a week to prepare for the final. It is the biggest day in the history of many of these clubs and it is very unfair on them.

  We have a situation now where the McKenna Cup, FBD League and O’Byrne Cup finals will all now be played over the weekend of the 17th and 18th of February which is in the middle of the national league campaign. The priority will always be the league for every county and it will take away from these finals as team managers will try to rest as many players as they can. Once again, trying to shoehorn so many fixtures into such a short time, especially at this time of the year, is asking for trouble.

  I know that the GAA has no control over the weather but the likes of Michael Glavey’s will have to get themselves ready for Saturday in Mullingar after the disappointment of the late postponement last Sunday. I know it’s the same for all teams but there is now a desperation to get these fixtures played which is not the way that these competitions should be treated. However, it is what it is, and I am still expecting Michael Glavey’s to win this semi-final but the bigger fixtures picture will be very hard to solve.

Leagues throw-in this weekend

The national league season is upon us again and Sunday’s game against Meath is a huge one for Roscommon. Kevin McStay’s men have four games at home and if promotion is to be a realistic aim then we must be targeting four home wins in those games. Meath are improving but I am expecting Roscommon to beat them. We have to re-establish Dr Hyde Park as a fortress and two points on the board would be a great start.

  I think that Roscommon footballers will have a much tougher game on Sunday week in Thurles. It will be interesting to see what team lines out on Sunday. It will be hard to pick it and particularly the six starting forwards.

  I am glad to see the hurlers playing as part of a double header on Sunday. They will simply have to get out of that league division and they should start with a win against Louth.

  Good luck to Michael Finneran and his Roscommon ladies team who also start this weekend against Offaly in Kiltoom. It’s a pity that the game is on the same day as the football and the hurling but these fixtures must be played.

The passing of an unsung hero

Roscommon football lost one of its greatest fans and one of its unsung heroes this week with the passing of Des Whyte. Des was one of the most passionate Roscommon football men I ever met. He will be known as the man who sponsored Roscommon when they won the minor title in 2006 and again when they won the Connacht senior title in 2010 but Des did so much other work on behalf of the GAA in the county that was never publicised or heard about. The number of players he looked after with regard to jobs and finances, the number of meals he paid for, and the number of contacts that he was able to provide for Roscommon GAA will never be known or quantified.

  He had very strong opinions and was never afraid to vent them either. He rang me on a regular basis to comment on whatever the controversy was at the time. Indeed, regular readers of this newspaper over the years will know that he ‘wrote’ in many a letter (dictated to me over the phone) about various topics always to do with the GAA.  

  Not a lot of people know that Des Whyte was one of the main people involved in the development of the St. Brigid’s GAA club in Dublin, which is now one of the biggest in the capital. He was always an Oran man through and through and he loved Oran GAA club dearly right to the end.

  His highly successful Sierra Communications company in Dublin had a fleet of primrose and blue vans, which were instantly recognisable. He was also a great man for the greyhounds and he enjoyed some great successes over the years.

  In the past few years, although he was incapacitated, he went to many games and I enjoyed many great nights in his company in the pub and out at his house. Even though he was ill he loved the craic and banter.

  There were times when you wouldn’t see eye to eye with Des but the rows never lasted too long. In fact, you were not considered a friend unless you had some sort of a row with him over the years! He had an infectious laugh that would win anyone around. I enjoyed being in his company to the very end.

  One of the fondest memories was the night that Roscommon came back with the Tom Markham Cup in 2006. I was involved in a pub in Church Street at that stage and Des was there that night. I thought that his heart would burst out of his chest he was so proud. It was a very, very long night! He was a great Roscommon man and I and many more will miss him.

  He was back amongst his own in Oran this week, where he was happiest. They don’t make too many like Des Whyte anymore. To Elliot, Kellie, Ciara and all his family members I extend my deepest sympathy. May he rest in peace.

Pitch perfect at The Hyde

The magnificent pitch at Dr Hyde Park saw another tremendous game last Saturday with Multyfarnham pipping Lahardane in the All-Ireland junior club football semi-final. There were about 1,500 people at the game and there was a cracking atmosphere.

  The reason I mention that game is that since the new pitch at Dr Hyde Park has been open there have been a number of high-scoring and very exciting games played there. Think of the county senior final, the Connacht intermediate final between Michael Glavey’s and Claregalway and the match last Saturday. It is no coincidence that we have had a lot of top class games in ‘The Hyde’ since the pitch was done up.

  I sincerely hope that the County Board look after the pitch now. It is a precious asset. I saw both junior clubs training on the pitch last Saturday for at least a half an hour before the game started. If that continues it won’t be long until we are back at square one once again.

Golf season tees off

The new golf season will really spring to life this weekend with huge tournaments on both sides of the Atlantic. Tiger Woods makes his long-awaited return to tournament play in The Farmers Championship in the States. Shane Lowry will also make his seasonal debut in that same competition.

  In Dubai, Rory McIlroy will be in action again this week alongside Paul Dunne. McIlroy was very impressive last weekend in his first tournament back for over three months. Dunne is also going well and don’t be surprised to see the Wicklow man make a huge bid for the Ryder Cup team this year.