Seamus Duke on sport – March 29th



Rossies back to Division Two for 2020


I have to say that while it is extremely disappointing that Roscommon were relegated from Division One of the league last Sunday, I wasn’t surprised. Kerry needed to get a draw or a win, and having watched them a couple of times this year, they are a really good young side. It wasn’t last Sunday that Roscommon lost their place in the top tier. The damage was done before then. I know that many people have been talking about the controversial incident that cost Roscommon a point against Tyrone, but Galway and Cavan were where this campaign was lost.

  The Roscommon players and management have put in a huge effort and there were a number of heart-warming and very impressive performances during the campaign but Roscommon were simply found wanting in a number of areas.

  There was certainly a harder edge to Roscommon’s play, but despite the perception that Anthony Cunningham’s men were much stronger defensively, the team had by far the worst record in the division, which was surprising to note. Problems persist at midfield, and too much of a reliance on Conor Cox up front were also factors in this league.

  We will look back in more detail at the campaign over the next week or two but there are a number of positives as well.

  Sean Mullooly is playing well and he will solve our problem at full-back. It was also good to see Diarmuid Murtagh back in the Roscommon attack. We need a fit and firing Diarmuid Murtagh for the championship. Ciaráin Murtagh was a huge loss for the league as well. To lose our two top scorers hurt the team a lot and we need a number of scoring forwards if we hope to beat Leitrim and certainly have any chance of beating Mayo in Castlebar.

  Either way it’s Division Two football for Roscommon in 2020. It might be a better way to progress allowing the management to look at players and not to have to put as much into trying to survive like you have to do in the top division.

  The disappointment last Sunday was also somewhat lessened by the opportunity to see that Kerry forward line in action. David Clifford and Sean O’Shea are class players and a joy to watch but Stephen O’Brien was the star of the show. He turned in an unbelievable performance and covered every blade of grass on the field.

  Are Kerry good enough to win the All-Ireland? I’m not so sure about their defence to be able to answer that question in the affirmative but they have the best attack in the game, much better than Dublin’s. Remember too that James O’Donoghue and Paul Geaney have yet to come back into that Kerry attack which is a frightening prospect for any opposition. But they may just be caught out at the back. Either way it was a pleasure to watch these young Kerry stars in action. If they don’t win the All-Ireland this year then it is only a matter of time.

  For Roscommon, it’s May 12th now and a clash with a Leitrim team on the crest of a wave after their Division Four campaign. But Elvery’s MacHale Park on May 25th is where the big story will unfold.

A refreshing final pairing this Sunday!

I have nothing against the Dubs but it is refreshing to see two ‘new’ teams contesting the league final on Sunday. Mayo v Kerry should be a great game of football but I am expecting Kerry to win it. I am really looking forward to seeing that Kerry attack in the wide open spaces of Croke Park. I am expecting Kerry to win by four or five points.

  In the hurling final it would be great to see Waterford winning a national title but Limerick look a really top class side and they can make it two major trophies in a row. 

  On Saturday, there will probably be even more excitement as Leitrim supporters will come in their thousands to headquarters for the Division Four final against Derry. It’s the first time the county have played there since 2006 (Roscommon minors won an All-Ireland semi-final that day) and they will be hoping to win the title although Derry look too strong.  

  There will be a high-quality contest in Division Two when Donegal take on Meath, but I suspect that it may be more of an exhibition type game as both counties are just delighted to be back in the top division.

Delaney’s ‘step-over’ is farcical!

You have to hand it to John Delaney. When his position came under pressure last week he resigned, but promptly stepped into another position manufactured by himself and his cronies. He is one of the highest paid administrators in world football and was even able to loan his employers €100,000 when they were strapped for cash. This happened in a year when the FAI turned over €47 million as well!

  Despite this whole farce it was remarkable to hear the strong support that there is for Delaney among a lot of the grassroots people in the game. On the radio on Monday I listened to people who are lifelong volunteers who would swear by Delaney. It is true that he wielded so much power in the association that he was able to go around the country giving grants to a number of small local organisations and clubs.

  The reality is that while Delaney was earning a telephone number salary, League of Ireland clubs have been struggling desperately. The prize money for winning the season-long SSE Airtricity League Premier Division in 2017 was €110,000, less than a third of the salary that the FAI were giving to John Delaney. 

  The bottom line is that the finances of the FAI will have to be examined from top to bottom. They get millions of euro in taxpayers’ money every year and they will have to reveal what is going on and Delaney’s role in all of this.

  The grassroots game of soccer is strong in some areas but the evidence on the ground in rural counties like Roscommon is that rugby and the GAA are miles ahead in terms of coaching and looking after young players. Coaching and games development costs money. The FAI will have to start spending money further down the food chain. At the moment it’s the senior international team or nothing.

Carty and Connacht set for European action

The Champions Cup quarter-finals will take centre stage this weekend. Leinster should be too good for Ulster in the all-Irish clash and Munster will be very strongly fancied to account for Edinburgh.

  There will be huge local interest in the Challenge Cup quarter-final between Sale Sharks and Connacht. The English side were one of the teams who were too good for Connacht earlier in the competition so this is a really tough game for Andy Friend’s side. Jack Carty is now such a key man for Connacht. He is playing the best rugby of his career and followed up his Ireland debut with a brilliant cameo appearance off the bench last weekend scoring ten points to become Connacht’s record scorer in the Pro14. It will be tough but I am expecting Connacht to get to the last four.

Plenty of positives for Creggs Rugby


Creggs RFC have had a fantastic season. It’s just a pity that they have found one team too good for them on the field of play. But despite the losses in the league and cup to the Connemara Blacks, there is much to be positive about.

  Off the field, the developments at The Green have been spectacular and now Pat Cunningham, Ger Dowd and the coaches are developing a fine young team. It’s not much consolation this week but another season in the J1A League and in the Connacht Junior Cup might be exactly what this team needs and they will be ready to embrace success and a possible place in the AIL when it comes along.