Super 8s format needs to be reviewed
The concept of the Super 8s will be reviewed after next year’s championship and there are a number of things about this format that require instant attention.
The fixing of the ‘neutral’ round of games for Croke Park cannot continue. During the first half of the Tyrone v Cork game the atmosphere was so dead that you could hear clearly what the mentors were shouting to the players on the field. Then during the Roscommon game, save for an odd chant from Hill 16, all you could hear was the chatter of the people in the stands as the game went on. There would be a better atmosphere in a morgue.
The reality is that there was a very small Roscommon crowd there last Saturday night and who would blame them for not travelling? I am not suggesting for one minute that Roscommon would have beaten Dublin at another venue but if the game was in Tullamore or Portlaoise at least there would have been a reasonable crowd and atmosphere.
The official crowd was given as 36,000 people on Saturday night. I couldn’t see where they were. Maybe that number included all the Tyrone people and the two or three hundred that were there from Cork that left when the first game was over.
The fact that Roscommon and Cork are out mean that they will have to play what is a totally meaningless game in Pairc Uí Rinn next weekend. We have heard a lot of chat about money in recent times, I would presume that it will cost a lot of money to bring our senior team down to Cork for a game that makes no difference to anyone. I suppose that there is pride at stake but in a month’s time no one will remember who finished third and fourth in the Super 8 groups.
It’s a disappointing way to end what was a great summer for Roscommon regardless of what happened last Saturday. The team gave great entertainment to Roscommon people in the Connacht championship. I am looking forward already to 2020 and I know that further progress can be made.
However, as far as I can see, Dublin are untouchable at the moment. I am convinced that they are much better than they were last year. I don’t think the pick of the teams that are left will beat them.
I enjoyed the Cork v Tyrone game and Cork were looking good at half-time but Tyrone simply pushed up the field by about 10 metres and they stopped Cork’s running game. Tyrone finished very strongly and Mattie Donnelly was once again majestic. But can they challenge Dublin? In a word: no.
Kerry and Donegal provided us with the game of the year on Sunday. A draw was a fair result but it was Gaelic football as it should be played.
Mayo are hanging in there but I fear that they will find Donegal too good for them in round three. But what an occasion it promises to be at MacHale Park. Meath battled hard all the way through but they were just not able to perform at the very highest level.
A Super Sunday at Esker Hills!
Last Saturday evening coming out of Croke Park, I got a call from the sports editor in Midlands103 to ask me would I be able to go to Esker Hills Golf Club on Sunday to do some live broadcasting, as Shane Lowry was looking good at that stage in The Open Championship. It meant missing the live action from Croke Park on the TV but this was a once-in-a-lifetime event and it was great to be a part of it.
The Molloy family (Course directors) have been synonymous with Esker Hills since it was opened in the 1990s. It’s about half-way between Tullamore and Clara. It’s an excellent course and a tough track for the ordinary golfer. It’s where Shane Lowry learned how to play golf.
I have to say that spending the day at Esker Hills last Sunday was one of the most emotional and electrifying days that I have experienced since I started doing this job.
The place was packed and there was a nervous tension there for most of the way as the members watched their hero battle it out with the best players in the world. But as the holes ran out, it became clear that Lowry would be the champion. Every shot, every putt, every grimace and every smile was cheered to the echo. When Lowry birdied the 15th a chorus of ‘The Offaly Rover’ broke out and people had tears in their eyes. It was the first of many renditions that day and night. The locals couldn’t believe that this kid that they know so well from down the road was winning the biggest golf tournament in the world, and in style too.
I almost choked up myself as Lowry strode up the 18th hole, the winner of the Open. I have met Shane a few times and he is the most down to earth guy you could wish to encounter. No airs or graces at all. But he is blessed with a very rare talent and he will win again and again, take it from me.
A good friend of mine was in Dublin on Monday afternoon and met Shane for a few beers in The Boar’s Head in Capel Street. He had the Claret Jug on the counter beside him and stood in for photos and chatted to everyone. That’s why Lowry is such a popular winner. He is an ordinary guy with an extraordinary talent. He was also a great price at 66/1 and 50/1 but he will never be that price again!
After the disappointment of Croke Park on Saturday night it was fantastic to experience the joy that I witnessed in Esker Hills on Sunday. I heard someone say that it was one of the greatest Irish sporting performances in history. To win the Open Championship by six shots? It’s certainly up there. It was a fantastic tournament and the crowds broke all records.
All-Ireland SHC Semi-Finals (Both in Croke Park)
Limerick v Kilkenny on Saturday at 6 pm
It’s remarkable that Kilkenny are still in this championship and they are there on merit. They have battled back after their Leinster final defeat and they were very impressive against Cork. No one likes a challenge better than Brian Cody and he will surely get one here.
Limerick are adding to their reputation with every game they play and if they could retain their Liam MacCarthy Cup title it would mark them out as a really great team. I know it’s foolish to write off Kilkenny but Limerick look to have all the aces.
Tipperary v Wexford on Sunday at 3.30 pm
What a battle this promises to be. The capacity of Croke Park will be tested as these two teams have a huge following. Tipp will be very anxious to get another rattle at Limerick but I wouldn’t be writing off Davy Fitz and Wexford. Looking at both teams, Tipp look just that little bit stronger up front and I give them a hesitant vote to edge it.
Note: The All-Ireland MHC semi-finals and MFC quarter-finals are this weekend and the U-20 football semi-finals will be played too.
English Premier League set to return
It’s going to creep up on us like a thief in the night…the soccer season is about to start again with all the excesses that we have become used to in recent years. Today I read where David De Gea will sign a new deal at Manchester United worth €400,000 per week. It’s absolute madness. However, I suppose if you consider that Alexis Sanchez has been earning 500,000 per week for the past two years and is not able to kick the ball out of his way De Gea’s money might make sense.
But all this madness will be set aside as Liverpool, Manchester City, United, Arsenal and all the rest swing into action again and people (like me) who have absolutely no ties to any club (or reason to follow them) will be getting carried away on a weekly basis. When you think about it logically, it makes no sense at all!