Seamus Duke on sport – March 30th



Another great day for Roscommon football


Last Sunday was another great day for football in Roscommon. Whatever you say about the campaign overall, Roscommon will play in Division One in the spring of 2019 and it is a mouth-watering prospect.

  It didn’t look that way after three rounds. The lucky point against Meath in round one proved crucial in the end. Then when the team were six points down with as many minutes to go in Thurles, a relegation scrap looked more of a possibility than anything else but that sensational win against Tipperary gave Roscommon breathing space. It was just as well because the team were very poor against Down in the next round. However the last four games have been very good, and the team have been improving for sure.

  The most positive aspect is that now Roscommon have a strong panel of players. To be able to call on the likes of Cathal Cregg, Fintan Cregg, Niall Daly, Enda Smith and Ian Kilbride – to name just a few – over the past few games has proven vital. That’s not to mention the return from injury of Ultan Harney, and if he can stay injury-free and gets even sharper he will be a huge boost to the team at just the right time.

  Remember too that John McManus and Niall McInerney will also be returning soon, so the prospects look really good going forward. It is also good that Ciarán Lennon has developed into a really top class full-forward and that Diarmuid Murtagh is almost back to his best. With the championship coming up and a very tough Division One campaign on the way, we will need all the players that we have. But I must say that I am more optimistic than I have been in a long time about the future of this Roscommon team.

  However, before anyone, including me, gets carried away, Roscommon are giving the ball away far too often and the team has a tendency to switch off in the middle of games for five or ten minutes. If that continues then the championship campaign could be a short one. We simply have to be more consistent.  It’s something that will have to be worked on.

  But a big day out in Croke Park for the Division Two final is great, and perfect preparation for the forthcoming championship. Fair play to the players and the management, they have turned this campaign around and anyone who has ever been involved in team sport knows that momentum is so important. Well done to Kevin, his selectors and the players and everyone involved. Last Sunday was one of the really good days. Let’s hope there are more to come later this year.

Ref appointment raises eyebrows

Some eyebrows have been raised in Roscommon GAA circles at the news that Sean Hurson from Tyrone will referee Sunday’s Allianz National Football League Final between Roscommon and Cavan. The man in the middle hails from the same county as Cavan team manager Mattie McGleenan.  

  There was no comment from anyone in connection with the Roscommon team or management or the County Board but a number of supporters called on Wednesday to express their disquiet. They point out that Hurson is a very good referee, but that it is a strange appointment nevertheless.

Hyde a doubt for Connacht Final?

Now that the leagues are almost over our eyes will soon be turning to the championship and there is a cloud on the horizon if Galway beat Mayo and Sligo, and Roscommon are successful against New York or Leitrim.

  If Roscommon are to meet Galway in the Connacht Final, it is due to be held in Dr Hyde Park but it is fair to say at the moment there is a doubt that the game would be staged at the venue.

  My information is that the venue’s capacity is now restricted to 18,000, which is below what would be required for a provincial final. There is some remedial work needed at the venue to bring that capacity up to the required 23,000 and it is unclear whether that work will be carried out or what the nature of that work is. I do know that it involves new turnstiles and a capacity to segregate crowds attending on the day.

  I have spent a lot of time over the weekend speaking to various GAA people who would know what the situation is and County Board officials say they are confident that the final will be held in Roscommon if that’s the way the fixtures fall. I hope that’s the case because quite apart from the huge business implications, the Roscommon team would be at a serious disadvantage to have to concede home advantage to play in a provincial final.

  It is my understanding that a number of meetings have to take place in the coming month and the situation will be clearer after that. It is only fair that these matters are highlighted and I know that I won’t be thanked in some circles for raising this matter. Hopefully it can be sorted out if the situation arises.


Elsewhere last weekend…

You have to hand it to Mayo. I know that they are bitter rivals of Roscommon but they always find a way to survive in Division One. They were down and out in Ballybofey last Sunday yet they found three late points to get a draw and survive for the 23rd year in a row in the top division. Donegal must be devastated.

  In Roscommon’s division there was huge drama in Breffni Park when Cavan just edged out Tipperary to make it to Division One. It looks like Meath will be relegated now because Down must play Tipperary next Sunday and Tipp have nothing to play for. It’s a very unfair situation.

  Also next Sunday, Galway play Dublin in the Division One final at Croker. It will be interesting to see how Galway get on. When the sides met a few weeks ago there was skin and hair flying. The Dubs will want to put down a marker and they should do that.

  In the hurling semi-finals, Wexford v Kilkenny at Wexford Park will be some game. Davy Fitzgerald is working the oracle with Wexford and don’t rule out another big win for them.

  Tipperary and Limerick will also be a cracking game. Tipp look a very good side and are the justified favourites.

  Just a word too about the All-Ireland club hurling final replay, which was another classic. Fair play to Cuala they pulled it out of the bag. Con O’Callaghan was not really in the game until the last ten minutes but when they needed him he was majestic and he led by example. It was a great game to watch.