Seamus Duke on sport – July 19th

 

 

 

Rossies getting closer to leading lights

 

I drove home from the Roscommon v Tyrone match in Croke Park last year on my own and seldom have I been so disillusioned with what I had just seen. It was hard to see any positives as Tyrone had simply torn Roscommon to shreds. It didn’t take a genius to work out that evening that our season was well and truly over despite the fact that we had still two games to play in the Super 8s.

  But what a difference a year makes. The 18-point gap was down to four last Saturday, and we were unlucky to have lost at all.

  Roscommon looked out of their depth in the Super 8s last year. This year Roscommon are eminently capable of competing with the very best teams in the country. The game against Tyrone is analysed in detail elsewhere in the sports section this week, but a little more street-wise play and a little luck would have made all the difference on Saturday evening. It’s just a pity that we have to play Dublin next!

  We will all be shouting for Cork against Tyrone, however, I will be surprised if Mickey Harte’s men are beaten. Roscommon have made a serious amount of progress in such a short time and with several players to return to the panel in time for next year the future is looking bright. The players can now go to Dublin on Saturday evening and ‘have a cut’.

  Hyde Park was resplendent last Saturday: there was a huge crowd and it was a fine evening. It is a great venue for a big game and there was a super atmosphere, and despite the defeat, I was immensely proud of our players on Saturday evening.

  The other group doesn’t look quite as strong as ours. Kerry looked very good against Mayo although I wouldn’t be getting carried away with the Kerry performance like Joe Brolly did on The Sunday Game: I reckon they still have problems in defence.

  Mayo were very poor and look a spent force. I actually think that Meath will beat them in Croke Park next Sunday. The Royals were very impressive against Donegal and it was only in the last couple of minutes that Donegal pulled away.

  I am really looking forward to the clash of Donegal and Kerry. Michael Murphy, Paddy  McBrearty and Ryan McHugh would get on any team in Ireland and they can lead Donegal to a narrow win.

  In the hurling, what can you say about Brian Cody and Kilkenny that hasn’t already been said? I thought that Cork would be too strong for them but they pulled another fantastic championship win out of the bag. Limerick beware!

  Laois went out with their heads held high and they gave Tipperary plenty of problems in their quarter-final. The future is bright for Laois if they can hang on to Eddie Brennan. Tipp will fancy their chances against Wexford in the semi-final but they will have to improve.

Captain Morgan has Rossie connections

There’s always a Roscommon connection! There I was minding my own business on Monday evening when I got a call from no less a cricket fan than Fr. Liam Devine to tell me that the parents of the World Cup winning England captain, Dubliner Eoin Morgan, have a home in the Lisacul area! It’s a wonder that Hugh Lynn was beaten to the punch on that one! Maybe he can be recruited to play for Éire Óg!

 

Wimbledon final a game for the ages

I would never be classed as a tennis fan but when the hurling was over last Sunday I tuned in to the men’s final at Wimbledon and it was enthralling stuff as Djokovic and Federer battled it out for the title. The athleticism and skill displayed by both men was breathtaking as they slugged it out in the heat for more than five hours.

  The new rules meant that when they got to 12-all in the final set they had to have a tie-breaker for the title and it was probably just as well because if there wasn’t something like that they could be still there.

  Both those guys have more money than they would be able to spend in 20 lifetimes so it was not about the cash. That they can be so fit at well over 30 years of age (32 for Djokovic and 37 for Federer) is a credit to them. It was sport at it’s very best.

The pressure is on Rory in Portrush

By the time you read this the Open Championship will be underway at Royal Portrush. The championship is a sell-out for many months with 40,000 people expected to attend every day. I think that there is too much pressure on Rory McIlroy to perform on his home turf. I have a few euro each way on Shane Lowry, Tiger Woods and Ian Poulter. It is a fantastic sporting spectacular and hopefully there will be plenty of fireworks over the four days.

No blankets in junior semi-final!

Having been around the block a few times I thought I had seen most things in Gaelic football but I have never seen a match like the All-Ireland Junior semi-final between Galway and Meath in Dr. Hyde Park on Saturday. The final score was Galway 7-17 (38) Meath 5-22 (37). That was after extra-time, but remember that the game was just 60 minutes. 75 points, 51 scores and there were a few wides as well!  Twice Meath led by eight points but they ended up on the losing side! It was unbelievable stuff.

Tactics out the window in heat of battle

On Monday evening I was listening to ‘Game On’ on 2FM and Brian Carroll, the ex-Offaly hurling captain, was a guest.

  He said: “When you get into Croke Park for a big game all the tactics, stats and systems go out the window. You have to be ready for the battle and to win every ball. If you are not ready then all the systems in the world won’t make a blind bit of difference”.

  I totally agree. There is an industry of pundits and commentators out there making a good living out of complicating both hurling and football. Tactics make a small contribution but heart, determination and will-to-win are by far the most important ingredients in any team sport and that has not changed in decades.

 

Championship Watch

All-Ireland SFC Super 8s Series (Round Two)
– all games in Croke Park

 

Cork v Tyrone Saturday at 5 pm

Cork are a team re-born and showed scant regard for Dublin’s reputation last Saturday evening in Croke Park. They also put up big scoring totals against Limerick, Kerry and Laois and are much improved.

  Tyrone were glad to get out of Dr. Hyde Park with a win and would do well to take the Leesiders seriously. However, Mickey Harte’s men know that a win will almost certainly put them into the semi-finals. When the sides met in Portlaoise last year,Tyrone won by a cricket score. That won’t happen this weekend but they should still be good enough.

Prediction: Tyrone

 

Dublin v Roscommon on Saturday
at 7 pm

Previewed elsewhere this week.

Prediction: Dublin

 

Mayo v Meath on Sunday at 2 pm

This is a very interesting game indeed and the last chance saloon for both. Mayo were completely out of sorts against Kerry and it looks like this great team is running out of road.

  I was very impressed with Meath in Ballybofey. They were beaten by nine points but that was not a fair reflection of the play over the 70 minutes. I have a feeling that it could be the end of the line for Mayo.

Prediction: Meath

 

Donegal v Kerry on Sunday at 4 pm

Two of the teams that would lay claim to being number two to Dublin clash – and it should be a cracker! The Kerry attack looks lethal but Donegal are strong throughout the field and will want to put down a marker. I still think that Kerry are suspect in defence and Donegal can take advantage.

Prediction: Donegal