Seamus Duke on sport – November 8th




Roscommon champions face stern tests


It’s approaching the middle of November and all three Roscommon club football teams are still in the Connacht championship. However, this coming weekend will see a real test for all three.

  In the senior championship, Pádraig Pearses would do well to take heed of what almost happened to Clann na nGael last year when they played Tir Conaill Gaels in Dr. Hyde Park. The London champions came up just short on that occasion, and a year on and at home they will surely fancy their chances this time around. Pearses will have to play to their best to win it but the chance to get to a Connacht club final in their first year in the competition is surely incentive enough for Pat Flanagan’s men.

  I have not seen Oughterard in action but from what I have heard they are a very good side so Tulsk will have to be at their best to beat them on Saturday in Dr. Hyde Park. Gerry Lohan’s men did just enough to beat Leitrim Gaels last Saturday but that display will not be good enough this weekend. However, at Dr. Hyde Park they have to have a great chance of advancing.

  Ballinameen will have to travel to Castlebar to face Kilmaine and although it’s a daunting task the Mayo side were beaten by Castlebar Mitchels in the county final and Ballinameen have had three weeks to prepare so Charlie Ward and his team will be quietly confident of a win.


No craic at the All Star Awards!


I have always watched the All Stars programme on TV every year but it will be a while before I do so again. I watched the 2019 offering last Friday and it was like watching a wake. Hardly any of the players smiled at all and a lot of them looked like they wanted to be anywhere else. There was no joy, no craic, and no sense that what we were watching was important.

  It’s supposed to be an end of season celebration when the best players of the year are feted and honoured. Last Friday night it looked like those being presented with awards were on their way for root canal treatment with the dentist and not at a function where they were supposed to have some fun.

  Then we had to listen to Marty Morrissey once again. Is there any TV programme that he is not on at the moment?

  None of this takes away from Roscommon’s two nominees Conor Cox or Niall Daly, of course, who more than deserved their inclusion. 

  No more than the annual championship draws programme, which was scrapped, this should be consigned to history unless they can find a format that is appealing to the viewer.

  I was fortunate to have been able to attend the All Stars banquet on about ten occasions when it was held in the City West Hotel and it was a wonderful night full of craic and great memories, when the players genuinely enjoyed their big night out. Since PWC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) and the GPA (Gaelic Players Association) have taken over it has become boring.

  Also, the way the weaker counties are treated is a symptom of the new elitism in the GAA – which is a much bigger problem for the association – but that’s an issue to another day.


England’s Chariot crashes in Japan


Very few people saw what was coming in the Rugby World Cup Final last Saturday morning in Japan as South Africa hammered England in what turned out to be a one-sided decider.

  Hindsight is 20/20 but a major factor was that England had to peak for their game against the All Blacks which turned out to be their final and so they could not raise their game against the Springboks.

  By contrast, South Africa had a much easier passage to the final and they didn’t have to peak until they met England but fair play to them!

  The new four-year cycle will see many changes in teams around the world and especially here in Ireland where Andy Farrell will now take over as head coach and I presume there will be a number of retirements.

  Ireland are too dependent on results in the Six Nations and the focus of the national team is very rarely turned towards a World Cup challenge except in the few months in the run-up to the tournament. There has to be a reason why we do so poorly in every World Cup and that’s the only excuse that I can come up with. I don’t see that changing any time soon either.

  We will have to settle for the odd Six Nations Championship win and be happy with that. The likes of New Zealand, England and South Africa, on the other hand, plan for a World Cup at least two years in advance.


Rory on course to cap a great year


I know that he is not everyone’s cup of tea but Rory McIlroy has had a phenomenal year in 2019. He won four times but incredibly he has had eighteen top ten finishes which has ensured that he has amassed almost $8 million in prize money. I know he didn’t win any majors this year but he has been the most consistent golfer in the world over twelve months and he is not finished yet. Who would bet against him in Dubai the weekend after next?

  The Irish Open will be returning to Mount Juliet in 2020 and that’s a welcome development. It’s a magnificent course and hopefully the championship will draw a quality field.


Katie among Irish sporting greats


Katie Taylor deserves her place alongside the legends of Irish sport after her latest win last weekend. To think that the Bray woman was able to fill a 10,000-seater venue off her own bat is an indication of her pulling power and she is set to add to her fortune with a number of high profile pay-per-view bouts in the USA in 2020. She seems to be able to adapt to any fight conditions and she looks unbeatable at the moment. However at 33 she probably only has another year at the very top.


Hectic January for young footballers


This GAA season has not yet come to an end but I would like to draw attention to what is coming down the tracks in January 2020. 

  Firstly, there are the usual pre-season provincial tournaments like the FBD League, McKenna Cup etc. The Sigerson Cup is starting in the first week in January next year and will be completed by the final week of that month.

  Remember too that the National Football League starts on the last weekend in January so counties will be back in training, and the All-Ireland club semi-finals and finals are in January as well. When you add in the fact that the provincial U-20 competitions are starting in mid-February it means that those county teams will be training hard in January too. God help any talented young lad between the ages of 18 and 21 who is county standard!

  Remember too that traditionally the month of January is the worst month of the year in terms of weather. There may be no club fixtures in January but for that cohort of young  players it promises to be the busiest month of the whole year. It’s madness. Stand by for chaos and much weeping and gnashing of teeth…


Perfect time for Hyde Park works


After next weekend it’s unlikely that there will be any major games fixed for Dr. Hyde Park until 2020 so it’s an ideal time for the County Board to get started with the refurbishment work as agreed with the Connacht Council. It’s great to have a deadline date for the completion of works as it is likely that a Connacht semi-final of Roscommon v Mayo would be played in the second week of May assuming that Roscommon can beat London.

  While there are a number of refurbishments to be carried out, it should be possible to complete it all within the next six months and I wish everyone involved the very best of luck in their efforts.