Seamus Duke on sport – January 11th





Sligo up first as Seanie Mac departs



The Christmas decorations have been put away for another year and the GAA season is upon us once again, which is hard to believe. But one familiar face will be missing when Roscommon take the field against Sligo in the FBD League on Sunday and that’s Seanie McDermott. We knew that the Western Gaels man was thinking about retiring but he made it official on Sunday and by any standards he has had a remarkable career.

  He made his senior debut in 2005 against Leitrim and from that game until the game against Dublin in the Super 8s 13 years later, and just a couple of months ago, Seanie has been an ever-present for Roscommon. Over that period Seanie was very seldom if ever injured and was one of the few Roscommon players of the modern era who could lift the supporters out of their seats with his trademark bursts up the field and his elegant and tenacious defending. To play 178 top level games for any county team is an incredible record that few if any player will ever match again.

  Off the field Seanie was a gentleman and I had many dealings with him over the years and he was never less than totally co-operative and always a gentleman. On the few social occasions that we met he was such a lovely guy and great company.

  I wish him the very best in the future and have no doubt that he will be back in Roscommon football in some capacity in the future. There are very few Seanie McDermotts around. With two Connacht senior medals in his back pocket he is one of Roscommon’s best of the modern era.

  The show goes on and Roscommon step out in Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday to begin the Anthony Cunningham era when they face Sligo in the FBD League, and having met with the new manager last weekend there are a lot of players who were on the panel last year who won’t be available for this game or for the National League, which is a pity (I have a list elsewhere).

  Those absentees mean that there is a chance for others to stake a claim for a place and I am sure that Roscommon will be going all out for a win with the big league opener against Mayo just a couple of weeks away. It’s also a chance for Roscommon fans to see the proposed new rules in action.

  The Rossies will be warned by the performance of Leitrim who were very unlucky to lose to Mayo last Sunday in Carrick-on-Shannon. Sligo will come with all guns blazing.  It’s a new year and a new start and let’s see how it goes. The fans will have to be patient but a win is certainly the aim on Sunday next.

Title still Liverpool’s for the taking!

It’s been a momentous week in the Premier League and even after last weekend’s defeat Liverpool are still in the box seat with regard to the title race. As a neutral I really enjoyed last Thursday night’s clash of the top two. City were slightly the better team on the balance of play but Liverpool were unlucky. Their big chance in the first half hit the post and stayed out, City’s one in the second half hit the post and went in. That was the difference.

  I fancy Liverpool to go on and win it on one condition and that’s if Van Dijk stays fit. He is a magnificent defender and if he can stay away from the treatment table Liverpool can bridge that 29-year gap. 

  I have to say that I was surprised at Liverpool’s attitude to the FA Cup. For a club that has not won a trophy since 2010 they went out meekly to Wolves to Monday night. Maybe they are putting all their eggs in the Premier League basket which is fair enough – but risky.

  Further down the table, the change in the attitude of the Manchester United players in recent weeks has been astounding. I know that the opposition they have faced has been very weak but as a supporter it’s the first time in five years that I can actually sit down and enjoy watching them play. If they don’t win every game then so be it. United are still very weak at the back and will have to address that problem, and urgently too. We will know more about their revival this Sunday when they face Spurs at Wembley. A draw would be a fantastic result. But at least it is possible to watch them now which is a relief. Good riddance José!

Mayo fail to fire in FBD opener

Speaking of Mayo, they didn’t pull up any trees in their game against Leitrim last Sunday. I know they were short some regulars but the ‘second coming’ might not be as straightforward for James Horan as he thought – early days yet though!

  The penalty shootout made history although I think that a liberty was taken with the rules in this case as there was no extra-time played. I know it was a Connacht Council fixture so they could decide what way the game was to finish. There were a few very controversial issues arising from the new black card rule as well. It will be interesting to see if there is any controversy in Dr. Hyde Park or Tuam next weekend.

Padraig takes Ryder reins for 2020

There was another great sporting honour for Ireland this week with the announcement that Padraig Harrington is to captain the European Ryder Cup team in 2020. The Dubliner was a shoo-in for the job which is a mark of the respect in which he is held in the game.

  For a small country our record in sport at the top end is remarkable. This is the third Irishman to captain the Ryder Cup in the past seven years and he follows Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke. There is no one more suited to the role than Harrington and he will leave no stone unturned to retain that cup at Whistling Straits next September. It’s a great honour for him and for Irish sport too.

Creggs impress on and off the pitch

Last Saturday night I had my first chance to see the new facilities in place at Creggs Rugby Club, and while they still have work to do, it is a credit to them. The 4G pitch is one of the finest I have seen anywhere and when the surroundings are finished it will be one of the finest rugby club grounds in the country.  As was the case with the Club Rossie draw recently it goes to show what can be achieved if there are professional people involved in fundraising and development.

  On the field of play the Creggs junior team are flying it and they have a huge game coming up in a few weeks against Connemara which will decide the league title. Pat Cunningham and Ger Dowd are going a great job with this young and talented Creggs side. It could be a year to remember for the club.

Leinster with a point to prove?

The game of the weekend in the Champions’ Cup should be the clash of Leinster and Toulouse. The Irish side have a few question marks hanging over them since their controversial defeat against Munster and they will have to be at their very best to defeat a classy French side.

  Elsewhere, Munster are on an upward curve and they should account for Gloucester while Ulster will be up against it when they face Racing. Connacht have a very tough game against Sale who beat them earlier in the Challenge Cup. At The Sportsground they can confirm their play-off place with a win.