Seamus Duke on sport – June 28th



It’s time for a two-tier championship!

There is a lot of ‘noise’ in recent weeks about the state of the football championship and whether a ‘two-tier’ system should be introduced. Watching the awful Leinster final last Sunday would mean that it’s a no-brainer but it’s not just as simple as addressing Dublin’s dominance.

  Some of Roscommon’s best ever days in GAA have been winning the Connacht championship and the joy it brings to players and fans alike is not to be dismissed. I know the excitement and anticipation in Cavan in the run-up to the Ulster final was absolutely massive and indeed we had a good Munster final between Kerry and Cork. So whatever format they come up with, they should leave the provincial championships as they are.

  As for Dublin, hopefully they won’t always be as strong as they are at the moment. But the bottom line is that there has to be a second tier championship to give the lower ranked teams a chance of being able to compete.

  Just look at the excitement last weekend when Leitrim and Sligo hurlers won in the Lory Meagher and Nicky Rackard Cups. Surely there are people in authority who can come up with a format that when the lower ranked teams are knocked out, they get a chance to compete against teams of a similar standard to themselves. Hopefully something positive will come out of that Central Council meeting this weekend.

  With regard to the Dublin dominance, the problem is not with the amount of funding they get from the GAA. There are many other factors too like their huge population, the ease of players getting to training with very little travel or hassle and the fact that almost everything young players need in terms of education and other facilities are on their doorstep. I am also of the firm opinion that Dublin have a very good set of players and a top class manager at the moment and it will not always be that way. Their period of dominance will pass.

Irish Derby at revamped Curragh

This Friday and Saturday the Irish Derby Festival of racing takes place at the re-furbished Curragh and the eyes of the world will be on the County Kildare venue. The re-vamp of the venue is reported to have cost €90 million, which seems like a fortune but I believe that the facilities are second to none.

  I’m not a huge racing fan but the industry is one of the very few where Ireland is a world leader and I would be hoping that the huge investment in The Curragh will be re-paid in terms investment from foreign parts.

  With regard to the big race, I see where Aidan O’Brien has four out of the top five in the betting so it looks like it will be his year again. There was a time when the Derby would attract 30,000 people but if they get half that figure at the weekend they will be lucky.

Sugrue wins British Amateur Championship

There have been many great sporting stories on the golfing scene this year but up there challenging for the performance of the year (in any sport) is the achievement of 20-year-old Mallow lad, James Sugrue, who last weekend won the British Amateur Championship at Portmarnock.

  It is the hardest championship to win in amateur golf and very few Irish men have ever done it. There may be no cash out of it but  what a benefit it is to young Sugrue. It means that he automatically qualifies for the British Open in Portrush in a few weeks’ time and he is also an automatic qualifier into the US Masters next April and the US Open in June. Watch out for his name in the coming years.

Rossies must wait for Super 8s opponents

As the Super 8s get closer interest in the qualifiers is growing among Roscommon supporters and while we know that Dublin are in our group we won’t have a clue who else we are playing until round 4 of the qualifiers are decided. It will be Cavan or a qualifier on day one and Cork or a qualifier on day three with Dublin in Croker in between. But we could end up playing any of the qualifiers including Mayo!

  There are a number of things that we can take out of last weekend’s action. Kerry are a very good side in attack but they have serious problems at the back; Cork were just not good enough to exploit those weaknesses but at least it was a competitive game. 

  Performance of the weekend came from Donegal. I know it’s early days but they look the team best able to throw down a challenge to Dublin later in the summer.

  Meath were just shocking in the Leinster Final. They are certainly a better team than they showed against Dublin but they will have a job to pick it up given the manner of their defeat.

  Cavan are in a similar position but at least they can point to their excellent total of 2-16 against Donegal.

  Mayo are motoring along nicely. They didn’t pull up any trees against Down but these qualifying matches are just about getting to the next round. Armagh will be a big test for James Horan’s men this coming weekend.

  The facts are now that Tyrone or Kildare and Armagh of Mayo will bow out of the championship on Saturday night. It also means that two teams out of Laois, Offaly, Westmeath and Clare will survive. There will be even more interest in Roscommon in round 4 of the qualfiers the weekend after next.


Championship Watch


Saturday, June 29th

All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers Round 3

Kildare v Tyrone in Newbridge
at 5 pm

This is no ‘gimme’ for Tyrone who won easily against Longford last weekend but were not impressive. Kildare put up a big score against Antrim and on their best day can test anyone. I am just siding with the street-wise championship know-how of Tyrone to edge it.

Prediction: Tyrone

Westmeath v Clare in Mullingar
at 6 pm

This is a marvellous opportunity for one of these teams to get into the final twelve in the country. Clare are often underestimated but at home Westmeath are dangerous. Clare look to have more firepower.

Prediction: Clare

Laois v Offaly in Portlaoise at 7 pm

A local derby that will see the experienced John Maughan pit his wits against an excellent young manager in John Sugrue. In these games all bets are off and anything can happen. But on paper Laois look to have the better players and at home they will be expecting to win by a few points.

Prediction: Laois

Mayo v Armagh in MacHale Park
at 7 pm

What a match this promises to be and there should be 20,000 people there to see it. Mayo came through without too much fuss against Down while Armagh were outstanding against Monaghan. I am very tempted to go for an Armagh win here but home advantage might just swing it in Mayo’s favour. I won’t be one bit surprised if Armagh cause a shock.

Prediction: Mayo

Sunday, June 30th

Munster SHC Final

Limerick v Tipperary in Limerick
at 2 pm

There was a bit of a phoney war a couple of weeks ago between the two that Tipp won, but this will be totally different. The two best teams in the hurling championship on display here. I have a feeling that it will be Limerick’s day.

Prediction: Limerick

Leinster SHC Final

Kilkenny v Wexford in Croke Park
at 4 pm

Another cracker in prospect here. Wexford will bring a huge crowd and they are certainly not without a chance. But Kilkenny are improving all the time and I expect that Cody will pull another narrow win out of the bag.

Prediction: Kilkenny