Seamus Duke on sport – January 18th



Reserving judgement on new rules!

Maybe those of us who were in Dr. Hyde Park last Sunday saw a game where the proposed new playing rules did not affect the game hardly at all and that was unusual but I will have to see a few more games before I make up my mind about them.

  The much-criticised three hand pass rule was only pulled for once in the game and Roscommon in particular played some great long kick-passes. It was obvious that both sides had been practicing the new rules in training. There were loads of kick-passes.

 The kick-out from the 20-metre line cost Sligo a goal in the first half but that was a very easy mistake to make. The only new rule that had a big impact on the game was the ‘offensive mark’. During the course of the game players claiming the marks scored six points (four to Sligo). After the game Anthony Cunningham stated that a couple of those ‘marks’ were very questionable and he is right when he says that that rule is very hard to police. Is the kicker outside or inside the ’45?

  All in all, the new rules did not really affect the game much and it was a high scoring and enjoyable affair but I wouldn’t like to make a judgement on just one game.

  I would be worried that the workload of referees would become intolerable if all these new rules come in. It’s easy to be blasé about the proposals at this time of the year but in the heat of a huge championship game it could be very different. We have heard loads of opinions from players, managers and pundits in recent weeks. We should hear from referees too. The GAA will be meeting to review the proposals next weekend. It will be interesting to see what they do.

A good start to Cunningham era

It was a good start to the Anthony Cunningham era last weekend given the circumstances. To score 2-18 against any opposition was very satisfying and there were 11 different scorers too. There were some very good displays and plenty to build on.

  However, I hope that the injury to Sean Mullooly is not a serious one. He is a vital part of this team. Roscommon will also have to improve at midfield. Sligo got the better of that duel last Sunday and that kept them in the game right to the finish.

  The standard of opposition in Division One will be several levels higher than what we saw last Sunday if anyone needed reminding but it’s good to have another competitive game to play next Sunday. Galway will provide a stiff test ahead of what will be a massive game in Castlebar on Saturday week.

Ole’s revolution continues at Old Trafford

With Liverpool making serious tracks towards their first Premier League title in 29 years the goings on at Manchester United are not much of a concern to them. However, the transformation under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer is continuing.

  Last Sunday’s win against Spurs was the first real test for the Norwegian and although I would have to admit that United were a little lucky to win the game (they can thank De Gea) it’s clear that the players are all playing for the new manager and they all look happy to be out on the field of play. It just goes to confirm what most people thought of the José Mourinho reign. It was all about him and no one else.

  In my humble opinion the United board should just get on with it now. Give the job to Solskjaer and start planning for next season. It may be a bit of a stretch to see them qualify for the Champions League but if you said that to anyone six weeks ago it would have been deemed impossible.

  At the top of the table Liverpool are going along well and the win against Brighton at the weekend was just the type of victory that a team who wins championships have at this time of the year. I was looking at Liverpool’s remaining games and save for an away game against Manchester United and a Merseyside Derby against Everton, every other game is winnable. Remember that they can afford to lose a game and still win the title.

  Manchester City, on the other hand, must win every one of their remaining games and hope for a slip-up. It is definitely looking good for Klopp’s men. City were middling against 10-man Wolves on Monday night. They are a super side but they are still involved in four competitions and that could take its toll.

Portlaoise boxer defends his crown

TJ Doheny from Portlaoise has been pretty much under the radar as an Irish sporting hero. However last August he became the IBF super bantamweight champion when he beat the reigning title holder (from Japan) in Tokyo. This coming Friday night he defends his title against another Japanese fighter, Ryohei Takahashi, at Madison Square Garden in New York. The fight will be shown live coast to coast in the USA and also on here Sky Sports and their coverage starts at 2 am Irish time. The Irishman is the very strong favourite to win.

‘No deal’ could affect racing industry!

Why would Brexit make it onto the sports pages? Well apparently if Britain crash out of the EU without any deal it could have immediate consequences for the horse racing industry. In the event of a ‘no deal’ the movement of live animals (which would include horses) would be directly affected and huge festivals such as Ascot, the Derby and all the other major classics would be affected. Just imagine if Gordon Elliott or Willie Mullins were not able to send their horses to Aintree or if Aidan O’Brien was not able to challenge for the classics this summer. It would also affect the show jumping and greyhound racing industry too…frightening stuff!

The future looks bright for Irish Rugby

It was another unbelievable weekend for Irish Rugby. There were four great wins for the four Irish teams against very strong opposition. We have never had so many really talented rugby players in this country as we have at this present time.

  Ulster’s win against Racing ’92 was fantastic. What a player Jacob Stockdale is. His two tries were of the highest quality. Then we had Joey Carbery putting on a master class for Munster against Gloucester. It was his best ever display in a major game and he is turning into a real class act and a super understudy to Johnny Sexton. At the RDS, Garry Ringrose was the star of the show as Leinster dismantled Toulouse. The centre was rampant as the champions won really well.

  Then in Galway Connacht held on to defeat Sale and now they are in with a great chance of a home quarter-finals in the Challenge Cup. It was also a very special day for Denis Buckley who made his 150th appearance for Connacht against Sale and he played really well too. There were some lovely photos going around on Saturday night of Denis and his mother Mary after the game. To play so many top class games is a great achievement.

  On a more serious note, Joe Schmidt must be licking his lips at the prospect of picking a squad for the Six Nations and World Cup. These are really exciting times for Irish Rugby.