Seamus Duke on sport – March 23rd



Fixtures chaos can’t happen again


The chaos with the GAA fixture list that was first highlighted in this column as far back as last October has now come to pass and even if there are no postponements for the rest of the year, there are serious problems ahead especially with regard to the club scene.

  It looks likely now that the league finals (which Roscommon will almost certainly be contesting) will not be played until the second weekend in April. So much for April being free for club action! Remember that there are two rounds of the club football championships down for April. The club managers are entitled to have access to their county players for two weeks before a championship game under rule so what will happen now? 

  There are counties who have three rounds of championship games down for decision in April. It’s some mess. It was utter madness to try to shoe-horn all these fixtures into a couple of months but it looks like it will be the clubs that will miss out once again.

  The GAA will have to sit down as quickly as they can, hold their hands up and admit they got it wrong and start again with a blank sheet. Paying lip service to the club scene is not going to cut it anymore. If we have to go back to playing three rounds of the National League before Christmas then let’s do that. What is going on this year simply cannot happen again.


Rossies squeeze past Cavan


Last Sunday’s win against Cavan was a mighty test of character for Roscommon and they came up with the goods. To win a tough game like that one was a major boost to the confidence and morale of the players, and to get out of a tight corner like Roscommon were in last Sunday and to come strong late on and win it is very satisfying.

  The argument about whether promotion is a good thing for the development of the squad is now redundant because promotion is almost a certainty now and big tests will lie ahead in 2019. But of more immediate concern is a league final in Croke Park and another big game in preparation for the championship. Well done to all concerned.

  Elsewhere, Mayo are now in big trouble and they now have to win in Ballybofey next Sunday or they will be relegated from Division One for the first time in 23 years. It would be a serious blow for Stephen Rochford’s men. I know it has been said many times in the past but is this great Mayo team on the way down?

  Dublin and Galway were involved in a very nasty game in Salthill. Galway wanted to put down a marker and Dublin were in no mood to accommodate them. It turned out to be a very poor advertisement for the game. The forthcoming league final will be interesting!


Golden era of Irish Rugby


When I was growing up the notion that the Irish rugby team would ever win a Grand Slam was fanciful in the extreme. It was seen as impossible to be honest. In the 80s, the two Triple Crowns we won were celebrated wildly throughout the country. Now we have seen two Grand Slams in the space of 9 years which is simply phenomenal.

  Last Saturday’s deciding game against England was over at half-time. It was incredible to behold. The tackling, determination, will to win, courage, bravery, discipline and clear thinking from all the players at Twickenham last Saturday was awesome and it was one of the greatest sporting performances we have ever seen from any Irish team. 

  I was especially glad for Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray. Two class players who have directed Ireland’s gameplan for most of the past decade and they finally got their reward. It was also so heart-warming to see so many young players on the team and with the likes of Ringrose, Larmour, Porter, Leavy, Stockdale, Carbery, to add to the more experienced guys the future sure looks good.

  Joe Schmidt has done a wonderful job with the team. he has found a style that suits them and has implemented it ruthlessly. It is vital that we kick on now and give the World Cup a real go next year. But this Irish team have really captured the imagination of the public. I have seldom seen as many people out celebrating any Irish sporting success as were out last Saturday and it was great to see. We should certainly enjoy this golden era of Irish Rugby. It probably won’t last.


Salah looks a real bargain now!


With all the sport that was on over the weekend the achievement of Mo Salah scoring four goals against Watford in the Premier League last Saturday is certainly worth a mention. With a quarter of the season left to go the Egyptian has scored an incredible 37 goals this season and 28 in the Premier League alone. With the way transfer fees have gone over the past couple of years the £42 million Liverpool paid for him is now a bargain. Would 125 million buy him now?

  He has been a sensational player for Liverpool and don’t rule out Salah playing a starring role when Liverpool meet Man City in the Champions League Quarter-finals in a couple of weeks’ time. I give Liverpool a great chance in that tie over two legs. And this is coming from a Man United fan!



Corofin a joy to behold


What a display Corofin put on in the All-Ireland club football final. The first twenty minutes was as fine a display as I have seen in a club final. The football they played was a pleasure to watch as they tore Nemo Rangers to shreds. Corofin play football the way it should be played. Clever running, long accurate kick passing, clever movement and superb score-taking. Their second goal was one of the best I have ever seen. The hurling final was interesting all the way without being a classic. It will be hard to separate them in the replay.

Rory McIlroy is coming into form ahead of The Masters at Augusta next month.



Exciting build-up to the Masters


The golf season is certainly coming nicely to the boil. Rory McIlroy made a great comeback to the winner’s enclosure last weekend at Bay Hill and not too far behind him was Tiger Woods who has shown that he is ready to compete for the big prizes now that he is recovering from his back troubles. It will be the most exciting build-up to The Masters in many years.

  Tiger does not qualify to play this weekend in the World Matchplay so his next appearance will be in Augusta. He has now moved up from a lowly 668th in the world rankings to 109 this week and heading towards the top 50. He will win again but whether he can win another major or two is the big question.


Irish dominate Cheltenham again


Cheltenham was another massive success for the Irish this year with 17 winners and it is amazing the way the tide has turned in recent years. There was a time when 5 or 6 winners was regarded as a major achievement but now with Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliot the top trainers and owners like JP McManus, Michael O’Leary and Rich Ricci investing huge amounts in top class horses, most of the big prizes are being won by Irish horses.  

  Horse racing wouldn’t be at the top of my sporting agenda but Cheltenham is always worth a look and it is great TV. But I always find it amusing to see the representatives of the big bookie forms giving tips on the TV and radio. Can anyone explain to me the reasoning behind that? Sure if the tipsters from the bookie firms were any good they would lose their jobs! It’s not in the interest of their employers for them to be giving out winners. I think it’s hilarious. The worst thing is that there are people who are listening and paying heed to them too!