Seamus Duke on sport – November 30th





Popular Farrell has big shoes to fill

It’s been a momentus week in Irish sport off the field with high profile managers leaving and being appointed. The decision of Joe Schmidt to bow out after the World Cup next year was not a huge surprise. The IRFU say that Andy Farrell will provide a seamless replacement, however that might be too much to hope for.


  Schmidt is the kind of manager and personality that comes along once in a lifetime. He has the X factor that only the likes of Alex Ferguson, Bob Paisley and Mick O’Dwyer had as team managers. Just look at his record in five and a half years. Three Six Nations championships including a Grand Slam, victory over South Africa on their soil for the first time, a series win in Australia, two wins against the All Blacks, number two in the world rankings and  this year we boast the World Player of the Year, World Coach of the Year and World Team of the Year.

  I understand that Andy Farrell is very popular with the Irish players and that’s great to hear but he will struggle to fill the boots of Schmidt. The only positive is that the New Zealander will be with Ireland for another year and we will have the Six Nations and World Cup to come. It has been an incredible year for Irish Rugby. It will be hard to follow in 2019. I know we have wonderful players but the management of Schmidt is the icing on the cake.

Delaney dodges bullet with appointments


I have a distinctly uneasy feeling about the way the succession to Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane has been handled by the FAI. I can’t work out why they were in such a hurry. They say that they wanted someone in place for the European Championships draw next Sunday. Why? The draw won’t change regardless of who is there to see it.

  Mick McCarthy is a good appointment but to limit his term to a little over 18 months could be a mistake. What happens if he does well and Ireland make the knockout stages of the Euros? There will be calls for him to stay on if that happens. It looks to me that the FAI have engaged in a major fudge to try to keep everyone happy. 

  I hope it all works out for Stephen Kenny. But they could have given him the main job in the first place. I dealt with him many times when he was manager of Longford Town and he is a lovely man. He will be a huge loss to Dundalk but the facts are that he is untried at the top level. Having said that, maybe he was worth a try.

  The FAI must have a new interest in the U-21 team because in the eight years that Noel King was in charge Ireland were very poor and the FAI did little to improve them.

  My central point is that a lot can happen in two years. I hope it works out but I have my doubts. It might have been more in the line of the FAI to have a look at their own administration structure.

  Was the haste that these appointments were made in anything to do with the desire of John Delaney to move the spotlight away from himself? I have a feeling that is closer to the truth than anything else. There are increasing calls for Delaney to step down and he will be hoping that these appointments will buy him a few more years.

Thynne the difference for Kilmessan

It was a pity that Four Roads did not win last Sunday’s All-Ireland Junior Camogie final for a number of reasons not least because of the bizarre decision to play the game in the back yard of their opponents Kilmessan. Adrian Tully and his team employed the siege mentality using the venue controversy to perfection and they almost pulled off a sensational win.

  The difference between the teams (again) was a young slightly built player for Kilmessan called Megan Thynne. I have seen her play on a number of occasions over the years and she is a supremely gifted player who would be a match winner for any side at any level. Put simply, if she was on the Four Roads team they would have won the final by ten points. But well done to Four Roads, they put up a mighty show.

Let’s wait and see how new rules work


There is no point running down the new rule changes in Gaelic football before we see them in action but already there are serious misgivings about some of them. The ‘three hand pass’ rule will be very hard to implement and to police. An attacking team might well need four or five hand passes to score a goal if they have an overlap. In that scenario we might see a point at best. It will penalise a quick attacking move. Over the weekend I was chatting to a coach who said that the underage team he was coaching were playing the fourth hand pass into the ground so they could start the three pass sequence once again!

  The kick-out from the 20 metre line is fine and the fact that sideline kicks must go forward is also fairly uncontroversial. But the mark inside the 45-metre line will also be very hard to police.

  Ten minutes in the sin bin for a black card is worth looking at but what will happen at club football matches when there are few officials there to keep an eye on when players should be coming back into the game after being in the bin?

  I know that referees get some stick here from time to time but I have great sympathy with them if all these new rules come in. It’s a difficult enough job as it is. It’s also interesting to note that over 90% of GPA members are against the changes being tried in the forthcoming league. There could be chaos.

  The really surprising vote from the weekend was that the Roscommon motion on the need for a fundamental fixtures review was voted down by a substantial majority. The situation with regard to club fixtures simply cannot continue as it is and it was very disappointing to see that counties do not see the need for a complete revamp of the fixtures calendar.

Mickelson wins…but at what cost?


The famous ‘golf match’ between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at the weekend was a crass, tacky event that was a betrayal of sport and an indication of just how far removed from reality the people at the top in professional sport are from the ordinary people.

  In the run-up to the event both players were pictured sitting on two chairs surrounded by the nine million dollars in cash which was the prize going to the winner (who was Mickelson). It was like something that Conor McGregor would do. Here we had two men who are both worth hundreds of millions of dollars playing a round of golf for nine million dollars.

  I fully realise that there is huge money involved in sport at the top level but I was surprised that both these men agreed to this shameless display of wealth and privilege. With all the inequality and poverty that is around it was needless and embarrassing. I love watching the golf on TV but if this kind of charade becomes the norm then I won’t be watching in the future.

Another golden era for Creggs?

Congratulations to Creggs on their latest win. I wasn’t able to get to The Green at the weekend but they have a really good senior team at the moment and the best they have had in at least twenty years. Their performances in recent weeks revive memories of a golden era for the club and the development work that they have engaged in over the past few years is a credit to them. I hope to get out to see them play soon.