Seamus Duke on sport – December 7th



Pickford keeps Liverpool in the hunt

Now that the club GAA scene is finally dying down (still two league finals to be played this coming weekend) and the fact that a head cold had me indoors on Sunday, it was my first chance of the season to watch some live soccer from the English Premier League.

  The Arsenal v Spurs game was a cracker and one of the few games I have seen in recent times with a bit of an edge to it. Both sides played some outstanding stuff at various stages but it was the decision of the Arsenal manager Emery to put an extra striker on the pitch for the second half that won it for the Gunners. He (Emery) is making great strides with Arsenal and given time he will be a success.

  The second game between Liverpool and Everton was not nearly as exciting but Everton gave as good as they got until the 96th minute when Jordan Pickford made the kind of goalkeeping error that will be shown for many years to come. Quite what he was thinking of trying to catch that late high ball is anyone’s guess but it was one of the biggest howlers of all time at that level.

  Liverpool are keeping up their pursuit of  Manchester City at the top of the table but Klopp’s side have dipped in form in recent weeks which doesn’t augur well for the rest of the season.

Fury comeback is inspirational!

I didn’t get to see the Tyson Fury v Deontay Wilder fight last weekend but Fury’s story is a triumph for the human spirit and what is possible.

  Fury was washed up and a physical and mental wreck after being a world champion several years ago. He was taking drugs, drinking and was suffering from depression. He admits freely that he contemplated suicide on several occasions. But he got his act together and lost over 9 stone in weight and got back into shape and on Saturday night he came within an ace of causing one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.

  I am not a huge boxing fan but reading Fury’s story is a great tale of what can be achieved and how people can rise from the very bottom. I don’t know if he will get a rematch but surely he deserves one.

Will forum really help clubs?

This weekend the GAA will hold a club forum at Croke Park where the committee headed up by Elphin man Mick Rock will present their findings and listen to the concerns of clubs. This is certainly a welcome development but it didn’t take a whole lot of research to work out what the main problems facing clubs are. In rural areas it’s finance and falling numbers and in urban areas it’s finance and facilities.

  It will be interesting to see what comes out of this forum. There is a lot of lip service paid to the role of clubs in the GAA over the years but I know that Mick Rock would not be involved if he didn’t think that this venture was worthwhile so hopefully there will be a positive outcome from this initiative.

  We all know the marvellous work that’s going on in clubs throughout the country in every county village and town. It’s what keeps the association going. What the GAA at national level can do to help clubs out remains to be seen however.

Mick has the luck of the draw

The draw for the Euro 2020 finals worked out reasonably well for the Republic of Ireland but I am not so sure that it will be an easy campaign. We all saw what Denmark did to us in that World Cup play-off and Switzerland are certainly no pushovers. I know the bounce of having a new manager will mean that there will be an extra pep in their step but Ireland will still be up against it to qualify.

  The facts are that we have very few players of real quality and at the end of the day that will be the deciding factor. However, it’s a far more appetising prospect that having to face Holland and Germany!

Kerry and Kilkenny dominate club scene

Looking at the club championships in football and hurling at Intermediate and Junior level since those grades were introduced, it is very noticeable the number of provincial and All-Ireland titles that have been won by Kilkenny clubs in hurling and Kerry clubs in football.

  Last weekend, once again, Kilkenny won all three grades of provincial titles in Leinster and Kerry teams won all three Munster titles on offer this year.

  In addition, if you look up the roll of honour for the All-Ireland Intermediate and Junior hurling and football championships, the number of winners from both those counties are very marked.

  The best of luck to them, but is it that the standard of club hurling and football is so much higher in this counties or does the format of their championships mean that they have much stronger teams when it comes to the provincial competitions? It is something that could be worth looking into.

Could rule changes lead to chaos?

I was dismissing the arguments being made by the GPA over the proposed new rules in Gaelic football until I spoke to a number of player and coaches on the radio last week.  

  The proposals will be trialled in the forthcoming National League and for a lot of weaker counties the league is by far the most important competition they play in and they don’t want a raft of changes in the playing rules to be tried out in their number one competition and I can see their logic. A lot of these counties have no chance of winning a provincial title let alone an All-Ireland title so they put a huge effort into the league. 

  It was also interesting to read last Sunday’s Independent where on the same page Joe Brolly was vehemently against the three hand pass rule and Colm O’Rourke was passionately supporting the change. I hope that to introduce so many changes will not be a recipe for chaos and that’s entirely possible.

European club rugby returns this weekend

In rugby, Champions and Challenge Cups are back this weekend and it is coming down to the wire in terms of qualification for the knock-out stages.

  On Friday night, Ulster face a tricky tie away to Scarlets but it’s one that they are capable of winning. On Saturday, Bath will give Leinster plenty to think about but Leo Cullen’s men look unbeatable at the moment and with a host of internationals back on board they should win again.

  Munster are looking good and improving with every passing week. They have Castres at Thomond Park on Sunday and with Conor Murray back in the fold I expect them to win with a bit to spare.

  Paddy Jackson will be lining up with Perpignan when they visit Galway to take on Connacht n the Challenge Cup on Saturday at 3 pm. The French side are struggling in the Top 14 at present so anything other than a Connacht win would be a shock. It’s back to club fare now until the Six Nations and Joe Schmidt will be hoping for no more serious injuries.