Seamus Duke on sport – April 5th



Mayo silence critics with league win!


Even though both sides made loads of mistakes, Sunday’s Allianz NFL Division One final was a very enjoyable game. I have to say that I was totally wrong about Mayo. The night they were beaten by Galway I thought they were washed up and would go nowhere this year. How wrong I was. James Horan has tinkered and changed his squad around and he has found a number of new players who have improved them no end.

  Before last Sunday’s final I thought that the Kerry attack that we saw the previous Sunday in Dr. Hyde Park would be too good for the Mayo defence but the opposite was the case. ‘Player of the Year’ so far, Sean O’Shea, was bullied out of it by Lee Keegan and David Clifford and Tommy Walsh got very little change out of the Mayo backs. Only Stephen O’Brien made any real inroads in the Kerry attack. The Kerry midfield was beaten on the day too. Aidan O’Shea has been given a new lease of life out in the engine room along with young Ruane.

  For this young Kerry team it was a case of ‘welcome to the big time’. This Mayo team is far from finished, yet I am not so sure they are good enough to win the All-Ireland. They were by far the better side last Sunday yet they only won by a few points in the end and only for a spectacular save from Rob Hennelly in the dying minutes they might not have won at all, so there is still much work for James Horan to do. But make no mistake; Mayo will be a huge factor in this year’s championship. If Roscommon can get over the Leitrim hurdle in the opening round in Connacht, the trip to Castlebar will be as daunting as ever.

  Now that the league is over there are doubts about Dublin’s ability to win five titles in a row. However, I have a feeling that the champions will be firing on all cylinders when the championship comes around and they will be very hard to beat when the sun is high in the sky.


Leinster and Munster make semi-finals


I don’t think that I have ever seen a more intense game of top-class rugby than the one between Ulster and Leinster last Saturday at the Aviva Stadium. When the final whistle was blown there was hardly any player on either side that wasn’t showing the scars of battle. It was brutal stuff at times and Leinster were very lucky to have prevailed.

  Munster were also very fortunate to beat Edinburgh but the two brilliant tries that Keith Earls scored were the difference in the end. Munster will be up against it when they face Saracens in the semi-final. Leinster have home advantage against Toulouse but they will have to improve big style if they want to get to the final.

  I was very surprised with Andy Friend’s selection for Connacht in the Challenge Cup quarter-final on Friday night last against Sale. It would appear that he is putting all his eggs into the Pro14 basket and I hope it pays off for him. It was strange that they picked a second string side last Friday night and they paid the price.


League football is fairer and better!


The other two league finals were very entertaining games too. Leitrim gave a very good account of themselves against Derry and they kicked a cart load of wides during the match which would have had them closer. Roscommon should beat them in the championship, but they will be dangerous opposition on May 12th and they will come to Hyde Park with an extra spring in their step after being promoted.

  Donegal were fantastic in the second half against Meath led by Michael Murphy. Has there been a better Gaelic football player in the country over the past 10 years? I don’t think so. He was majestic again and Donegal have plenty to offer again this year, especially if Paddy McBrearty is back.

  The matches at the weekend underlined once again that in many ways the league is far better and fairer competition that the championship. Teams are playing other teams at their own level and the fare is excellent. How long more do we have to wait until the GAA at the top level see the light and introduce a two-tier championship?


Tiger Roll can go back-to-back!


The Aintree Grand National will take centre stage on Saturday and there will be huge Irish interest in Tiger Roll to see if he can put back-to-back wins together. He was brilliant in Cheltenham and looks good for Saturday but luck plays such a huge part in the Grand National. If he has a clear round he could do it again.


Liverpool’s luck may be in for title win!

We have one of the most exciting Premier League title run-ins for many years now. Along with playing well you have to have a bit of luck too and Liverpool appear to have had the rub of the green in recent games when they were not playing well. In the matches against Spurs and Everton they can thank the opposition goalkeepers for gifting them winners. But I have always said that whoever ends up on top of the table after the 38-game season definitely deserves to win the title because it is a nine-month slog.

  The odds have to favour Liverpool now simply because City have such a punishing schedule and are chasing trophies on three fronts. They have to trip up at some stage. After waiting for 30 years for a title this could be Liverpool’s year.

  There is also a lot of interest in the championship his year as Leeds United are really teasing their many Irish followers with their inconsistent form. Leeds have a huge Irish following and despite the fact that they are bitter rivals of Manchester United, I’d love to see them being promoted.


CBS can win another All-Ireland title!


I have very fond memories of my time playing football in Roscommon CBS. I wasn’t much good but the training with the likes of Val Carr, Domnick Twomey, the late Christy Hannon, Brother Kilkenny and others was great fun. In my Leaving Cert year we won the Connacht ‘B’ football championship and were beaten in the All-Ireland semi-final by Armagh CBS (a game we should have won). Incidentally, the hurling team got to the All-Ireland senior ‘B’ final that year too, the game was played in Croke Park and we were beaten by a school from Tipperary. I have always had a special place in my heart for Roscommon CBS and it is fantastic to see them doing so well.

  When Mick Fahey was in charge they had a fantastic team that should have won an All-Ireland ‘A’ title. In recent years the school has won the All-Ireland ‘B’ football title (in 2011) and then in 2015 they were just defeated by four points in the senior ‘A’ final.

  I have seen the 2019 team play twice live and they are a very talented bunch. They are well coached and well organised and hopefully they can go all the way now. The fact that they are facing a Kerry side means that they can take nothing for granted but I have a feeling that there will be another All-Ireland trophy back in Roscommon town on Saturday night. Downpatrick were a very good side and although they gave the CBS some problems in the semi-final, the Roscommon lads showed great character to emerge with a comfortable victory. A win would be great for the lads on the team and the school too but it would also be a huge boost to underage football in the county.