Seamus Duke on sport – March 16th

Rossies improve but concerns remain

Roscommon are shaping up nicely it has to be said and after scoring 2-19 and winning away from home it seems churlish to be looking at faults in the display but Roscommon seem to be losing concentration in games for short five and ten minute periods and it will cost them dearly against stronger teams down the line if it continues. But it has to be said that some of the attacking play we saw against Louth and Clare was super to watch. If Kevin McStay’s men put it together for 70 minutes any time soon then some team will be in for a thrashing.

  However, before we all get carried away there are still plenty of problems there. Roscommon are still vulnerable when a team runs straight at them and once again last Sunday Clare exploited that weakness and a score of 2-12 would be good enough to win most games.

  We are still experimenting at midfield and that is a worry. I know that the manager feels that there are a lot of players of the same standard who can come in and do a job but from now on is the time to start looking at a settled combination with the championship coming up.

  The games against Cavan and Cork will be ideal as they will be very intense and hard fought and just what’s needed at this stage of the league.         There are many who argue that Roscommon might be as well off to stay in Division Two for another year or two but the reality is that if Roscommon beat Cavan on Sunday it is very likely that they will be going back up to Division One for 2019. This game against the Breffni men should draw a huge crowd to Hyde Park on Sunday. Cavan know that a win will almost certainly put them back in Division One. They are a county much like ourselves with a huge passion for Gaelic football and a very big following. Roscommon have had the Indian sign over Cavan in recent years and at home I am expecting Roscommon to win. Tipperary are also in the promotion equation and I am not surprised at that. The picture will be much clearer by 4 o’clock next Sunday.

  The departure of Declan O’Keeffe as goalkeeping coach was confirmed by Kevin McStay last Sunday. These things happen and I suppose that a replacement will now have to be found. The honesty with which these things are handled by Kevin McStay is refreshing and his open and frank style is something that others in the same position could do well to copy.

Meanwhile in Division One…

Elsewhere in the league there were some very interesting games, not least the clash of Kerry and Dublin at Croke Park. It was a bit of an eye opener for those of us hoping that the Dubs might be losing the intensity that they have displayed over the past few years, If anything they are improving as they simply blew Kerry out of the water last Sunday. Look at this list of players: Michael Fitzsimons, Con O’Callaghan, Diarmuid Connolly, James McCarthy, Kevin McManamon, Paul Flynn, Eoghan O’Gara, Paul Mannion, Jack McCaffrey and Bernard Brogan. Those were the players who were either rested, are suspended or injured (Bernard Brogan). It’s frightening for the rest to be honest. Kerry are so far off the Dubs it’s not funny and it’s hard to see where any credible challenger will come from.

  With regard to the league, Mayo will probably survive again. They beat Kildare last Sunday and they will probably beat Tyrone on Saturday night too and that will be enough again to stay in the top flight for another year.

  Galway are still doing well but I am not sure that a league final against Dublin in Croke Park will be of much benefit to them. To get hammered a month before the championship game against Mayo is not really in their interest.

One game from the Grand Slam

It’s down to the final game for Ireland to secure just the third Grand Slam in the history of the country and the team are capable of winning it but they will have to play better than they have played in the championship up to now if they want to create history.

  Just 12 months ago England were in the exact same position coming to the Aviva and we all know what happened that day. England would dearly love to rain on the Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday. Under Joe Schmidt Ireland will be ready for the big day but it is such a big occasion it is hard to predict how players, and especially young players, will react to the pressure. The onus will be on the likes of Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, Rob Kearney, Rory Best, Devin Toner and Cian Healy to keep the young guys calm.

  Ireland have played well in this championship but they have never been spectacular. They will need to produce the performance of their lives but I have a feeling that they will do it. To beat England at Twickenhan to win the Grand Slam on St. Patrick’s Day, now if Carlsberg did sporting occasions…

Tiger roars ahead of Masters

The golf coverage at the weekend was superb with Tiger Woods back on top of the leaderboard. I thought he was going to win at one stage but the putts would not drop for him on Sunday night and he was beaten by just one shot in the end. But he is back playing his best golf and the rest of them can look out when it come to the Masters in Augusta in a few weeks’ time.

  I have a couple of quid on him each way at 40/1 and it looks a nice wager now as he is currently 10/1. He is playing again at Bay Hill this week and is sure to be in contention again. He is simply the biggest draw in sport and some of the figures with regard to TV audiences in the USA over the past few weeks he was playing are simply phenomenal. The final round coverage featured the biggest viewership figures in five years (since he last won) and the live attendance last weekend was up 35% on anything they have had since he last played. He is in action this weekend at Bay Hill and it’s the final preparation for Augusta. He is now third favourite to win the Masters. Incredible.

Our Duke for the Gold Cup?

There will be two days of Cheltenham left when the paper comes out this week and the Gold Cup is the big one on Friday. In the course of my work for the radio I spoke to Sloane Copper last Friday. He is part owner of Our Duke who is second favourite for the big race. He is a lovely man and he and his four brothers and one sister own the horse which has already won the Irish Grand National. Needless to say I will be backing Our Duke – sure with a name like that how could he lose?

Busy Paddy’s Day ahead!

This St. Patrick’s Day is one of the busiest of the year in terms of sport and apart from that Grand Slam match the club finals will take place in Croke Park. It is a pity that they are clashing directly with the rugby match as it will affect both the TV viewership and the live attendance on the day.

  I suggested in a weekend tweet that the GAA might move the starting times of the club finals. It didn’t go down too well in a lot of circles. However, as a sports fan, I would like to see the rugby game AND the club finals, and I am sure there are a lot of people in the same position. I would be a very strong GAA man but when Ireland have a chance to win a Grand Slam for only the third time in their history then it will be difficult not to tune in to the action from Twickenham. I have a feeling that Slaughtneil and Corofin will win for what it’s worth.