Seamus Duke on Sport – 28th of April

Tribesmen serve notice ahead of the summer

What makes sport so attractive is that it is so unpredictable. In the run-up to last Sunday’s hurling league final, most people expected Galway to ‘give Tipp a game’ but that the All-Ireland champions would sweep to another title without too much fuss. But Galway were in command from the throw-in and they totally swamped Tipperary and never let them get into the game at all. It was hard to work out whether Galway were so good or whether Tipp just had an off day. As usual with these things the truth lies probably somewhere in between.

  It was hard to believe that this was the Tipperary team who blew away everything that appeared in front of them last year, putting up massive scores. They were terrible on the day last Sunday and they will have to pick it up again to make a strong defence of their title.

  On the other hand, there is no doubt that Galway are now serious contenders for the Liam McCarthy cup. They played with great assurance and authority and most of the plaudits went to their excellent attackers like Joe Canning, Conor Whelan and Jason Flynn. But I thought their defence was majestic, led by Daithi Burke and Gearoid McInerney and either one would have been my man of the match.

  I still think that Tipperary are the team to beat in the race for All-Ireland glory this year but it will not be as straightforward as many people think.

  I was also surprised at the small crowd at the match in Limerick last Sunday (16,089), there were almost 60,000 at the football league final. I know that it is hard to match the appeal of a Dublin v Kerry match but I thought there would have been at least 25,000 at the hurling final.

  Having seen what Galway did to Tipperary on Sunday, it will put a pep in the step of many counties around the country who might be meeting Tipperary this summer. The video of last Sunday’s game in Limerick will get many a showing before this summer is out in the tactics rooms of the big hurling counties.

Hurlers to entertain London in the Hyde

Roscommon were just not in luck once again last Saturday when they were beaten by Down in the Christy Ring Cup in Ballycran. With 40 minutes gone, Johnny Kelly’s men were leading by five points and looking good but in a repeat of what happened in a number of recent games Roscommon just ran out of steam and it was hard to believe that Down actually won by seven points in the end.

  That game is now in the past and at least the second round draw has been kinder to Roscommon and a home game against London is definitely winnable. London are not as strong as they were a number of years ago and Roscommon are well capable of beating them.

  The team have had no luck in the league or championship so far but this might be their day. We wish them the best of luck.

  It is also great to see that the game will be played at Dr. Hyde Park. The new pitch is eminently suitable for hurling and it would be fantastic for the team to win there. It’s been a while since the team have played in ‘the Hyde’ and I hope that there is a big crowd there to see them.

Excitement builds ahead of club championship

The club football scene is fairly warming up ahead of the championship opening rounds which will start in about ten days’ time. It is interesting to see how the various teams are going in the league but as we all know: what happens in the league has no bearing whatsoever as to what will happen in the championship.

  Nevertheless, people are looking for pointers as to who might win the club championship and who is playing well from the county panel. If you look at our league round-up elsewhere this week, a lot of the county players have been doing well for their clubs, as they should be.

  It will also be interesting to see what players emerge who are not on the panel or who are on the fringe of the panel in the first two rounds of the championship. I am sure there will be a number of players who will put their hand up over the next few weeks.

  League form is notoriously unreliable when it comes to picking possible winners of the championship and at this stage both the SFC and IFC look very open to me.

Galway’s football renaissance continues

This Saturday, Galway can add to their growing reputation in football by beating Dublin in the All-Ireland U-21 final. They were ever so impressive as they swatted hot favourites Kerry aside in the semi-final and they have a great record in this competition in recent years.

  Good luck also to Roscommon’s camogie team who face Dublin in the National League Division 3 final on Sunday. With many talented young players coming on stream to join the more experienced members of the panel, it an exciting time for Roscommon Camogie and we wish them the best of luck.

Former stars come together this weekend

The great Roscommon team of the 1977 to 1981 era will have a get together next weekend. While we have seen some great Roscommon teams over the years, notably the one which Marty McDermott trained from 1989 to 1991, in my lifetime, the greatest Roscommon team that I saw was in the period 1977 to 1981. I know that it is a generation ago but at that time we won an incredible four Connacht titles in a row, one National League title, an U-21 All-Ireland title, several All Star awards and we also appeared in an All-Ireland senior final.

  People will know the fuss that we all made of being in Division One over the past two years, well this team was in Division One in that era too. Not only that but they travelled all over the country and could compete with and beat the likes of Dublin, Kerry, Cork, Armagh, Offaly and all the other teams who were doing well at that time.

  Of course, they could not match the feats of the team of the 1940s but some of the greatest players who ever played for Roscommon were on that team and I have to say it was a pleasure to have been around to see them. I know that to a man they are all still hopeful that Roscommon can go on and emulate their feats someday soon, but to date it has not happened. I hope they all enjoy their get together next weekend. They deserve it. They gave some enjoyment to football fans who were around at the time.

Memorable season

No luck for the Irish rugby teams last weekend and I got to see both games. Munster put up a brave show against Saracens but they never looked like winning the match. The sheer power of Saracens was just too much.

  On Sunday it was a different story. Leinster were very slow to start and when they went 15 points down it looked an impossible task but they fought back well. To have had to travel into the lions’ den in France was probably the deciding factor in the end.

  But is has been another memorable season for Irish Rugby and a real possibility that Munster and Leinster might be competing in the Pro12 final yet. Then when it’s all over the Lions Tour will begin in June.

Forde ban extremely harsh

The fact that Davy Fitzgerald got an eight week ban for his pitch incursion in the league semi-final can be argued one way or another but even if he has to sit up in the stand for a couple of games, it will not be a huge inconvenience.

  However, the fact that the Tipperary’s Jason Forde, who was involved in the altercation with Fitzgerald and got a two-match ban, is far more serious. Forde simply defended himself when Fitzgerald confronted him and it was Fitzgerald who was the aggressor. However, if Forde misses the game against Cork and the Munster semi-final if Tipp win, he might not get his place back on the Tipperary team for the rest of the year which would seem to me to be an incredibly harsh penalty to pay.

  The GAA have dealt with this matter in a very unfair manner and I hope that they see sense. Forde probably shouldn’t have gone near Davy when he came onto the field but he had to defend himself at the same time.

United face stern derby test

Manchester United returned to their frustrating worst last Thursday night but I suppose that they did make it through to the Europa League semi-finals, but they were very poor.

  They paid a heavy price for that win as Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were both carried off and I would say that Ibrahimovic could have a career-ending injury.

  United were a little bit better on Sunday when they beat Burnley, who I thought were a very poor side. We will see just how good United are when they take on Man City tonight (Thursday) in the derby match.

  The FA Cup semi-finals brought together last season’s top four teams in the Premier League  and the match between Chelsea and Spurs was a cracking encounter and there were some fantastic goals scored. But Chelsea were that little bit more clinical in front of goal and that was the difference.  

  The win by Arsenal against Man City probably saved Arsene Wenger from the sack and he will probably stay now until the end of the season.

  One interesting aside to the defeat suffered by Liverpool at home to Crystal Palace last Sunday, Jurgen Klopp sold Christian Benteke at the end of last season and held on to Daniel Sturridge. That didn’t go too well! 

  However, the soccer highlight of the weekend was the brilliant ‘El Clasico” which Barcelona won with a goal from Lionel Messi in the final minute of injury-time. In my very humble opinion, he is the greatest player that there has ever been in the game and there have been a number of great ones over the years. Only he could have scored that goal to win it for his side.

  A mention too for Lecarrow’s own Johnny Caulfield who has steered his Cork City side to an incredible ten wins in a row in the League of Ireland Premier Division. It is early in the season yet but already Cork are nine points ahead of Dundalk. Sensational stuff for sure.