Seamus Duke on Sport – 31st of March

Sad to say goodbye to Division One

This National League campaign for Roscommon footballers is becoming harder and harder to report on and write about as the weeks go by. If you say what you see you are being told that you are being too negative yet if you don’t you are accused of not wanting to rock the boat or of taking sides.

  This has not been a good league campaign. I would not pass that much heed on last Saturday night in Croke Park because I do not think that there is any team who could have lived with Dublin in the mood that they were in. That having been said, a 21 point beating was very hard to look at.

  In all the years that I have been watching Roscommon this was right up there with the worst defeats. There was one in Crossmaglen against Armagh about 2008 and another in Parnell Park about the same time. I didn’t expect Roscommon to beat Dublin last Saturday night and neither did anyone else but I hate to see lads who train so hard and put in so much effort being beaten out the gate.

  But slagging off the management or calling on them to step down is madness. And replace them with what? Kevin McStay has asked for patience and I for one will not give any verdict until we are out of the championship. Let’s review it then. The players that I have spoken to so far this year have all been happy with the set -up and say that there is a good spirit in the camp. There are far too many stories about Roscommon football in the national media and there are people who are getting a platform to give their opinion who don’t deserve that platform. 

  However, I have to say that there are worrying signs. I know that we have 11 weeks between the end of the league and the Leitrim/London game but on the evidence of what we have seen so far Roscommon will need every one of those 11 weeks.  Roscommon might be able to handle Leitrim or London but at this present moment in time we are miles off Mayo or Galway. That may well change in the 3 months before the Connacht semi-final but a mountain of work needs to be done.

  I am not too confident that we can win on Sunday either. Cavan come to Dr. Hyde Park needing to win and they will bring a huge crowd of supporters with them. They probably will not survive as Mayo will be hot favourites to beat Donegal in Castlebar but Cavan have made a great recovery after a very poor start in Division One and they will be determined to go down fighting. Make no mistake. this will be no easy game for Roscommon.

  But it’s a game that Roscommon can win if they really put in a shift. To beat Cavan would restore pride and would be a huge boost going into the summer but a defeat would have the opposite effect.  

  Sitting in the press box in Croke Park last Sunday it is a pity for players, team management and supporters that we are waving goodbye to Division One. I said it before, but the crowds, media attention, standard of football and general hype in Division One is fantastic. There is no doubt that it’s the place to be playing football. It might be a while before we are back. Just look at how competitive it is in Division Two. Galway and Kildare are looking good for promotion but when you see teams like Meath, Cork, Down and Fermanagh struggling, it is no easy task to get back into the top grouping. But that’s for 2018.

Mixed emotions for young footballers

It was very disappointing that our U-21 team lost out to Sligo last Wednesday night in Kiltoom. Even though they came back well at the finish, Sligo deserved to win. It was another blow to Roscommon football and last week was one to forget in general.

  However, it was not all bad news. I was in Moate on Saturday to see Scoil Mhuire Strokestown win the All-Ireland Colleges ‘C’ final. It was a super performance by this very well coached side. There are some very impressive performers on this team and hopefully they will form the backbone to a successful Roscommon minor team this year.

  It was also great to see so many people from the general Strokestown area and around the county at the match and I am sure the celebrations were memorable on Saturday night and over the weekend.

Minor All Stars honoured

The All Star awards are one of the highlights of the inter-county off-season and now they’re coming into the minor football and hurling championships. That was announced earlier this week.

  All-Ireland minor championships sponsors, Electric Ireland, announced on Monday that 2017 will be the inaugural year of the Electric Ireland GAA Minor Star Awards.

  The 15 best performers in each position from the entire season, across provincial and All-Ireland series, will be chosen by a combination of a four-man awards selection panel and a public vote on social media.

  The selection panel consists of Clare selector Donal Og Cusack, Armagh legend Oisin McConville, All-Ireland winning Cuala boss Mattie Kenny and Meath boss Andy McEntee. I think it’s a great idea.

Last chance saloon for hurlers

The Roscommon hurlers will have one last chance to remain in Division 2B of the league when they Mayo at the weekend and on the basis of what we saw in Athleague last Sunday, they have a great chance of survival. 

  In that match, Mayo looked so far out of sight at half-time Roscommon looked as if they would be beaten by 20 points. But in the end they only lost by four and short several players, manager Johnny Kelly and the players will be in a confident mood as they prepare for the match. It would be a big boost for the team to remain in this division and also a lift with a tough Christy Ring campaign just a month away.

Career-ending injury for Coleman?

It was sickening to see the tackle on Seamus Coleman last Friday night in the Ireland v Wales game. I hope he recovers but the injury is so severe that it may well finish his career. It was a very poor game to look at with a nasty undercurrent all the way through although it was totally overshadowed by the tackle on Coleman.

  Ireland are in a good position now and they have a chance to qualify for the finals. I have a fear that Ireland will be without their captain though and Everton will be without their best player for at least 12 months.