Tomorrow (Saturday ) in McHale Park in Castlebar at 5pm Mayo will be expected to account for Fergal O’Donnell’s Roscommon and qualify for the 2009 Connacht final on July 19. Mayo have been operating at a higher level then Roscommon over the past few years and it is a steady and consistent Division 1 team facing a Division 3 outfit.
To prove that point, in their respective round seven games in the NFL this year, Roscommon were beaten 0-17 to 0-15 by Down in Hyde Park, whereas Mayo drew with Tyrone 1-11 to 0-14. Team managers and their players learn more about themselves and what needs to happen to improve playing the likes of Tyrone, Kerry, Dublin, and Derry rather than Longford and Limerick. Playing at a the top tier has significant advantages and, notwithstanding Antrim’s wonderful defeat of Donegal and Wicklow putting it up to Westmeath last weekend, a team that plays a few divisions over another should have the players, the ambition, and the experience to advance.
The Rossies have not beaten Mayo in championship since 2001 (Connacht final ) and the news that they will be without the likes of David Keenan, Seamus O’Neill, Cathal Cregg, and perhaps St Brigid’s star Senan Kilbride are major negatives for a county with limited resources.
Mayo have dominated proceedings between the two sides over the past few years and have won their last three championship meetings, and both sides have different objectives for the coming season. As Fergal O’Donnell pointed out during the week: “Winning a second game in the championship on the trot would be massive for us. We are at different levels but we are happy to be in the Connacht semi-final. That was an aim of ours and we are delighted to be here.” No doubt Roscommon will come to McHale Park with all guns blazing and any team with Fergal O’Donnell over them will be full of belief and ambition, however it is difficult to see them having sufficient bullets to shoot down the home team. Mayo are raging hot favourites at 2/9, with the visitors available for the brave-hearted at 9/2. The draw is 9/1. The game is being broadcast on RTÉ2 on the Saturday Game Live and on Radio 1.
Championship Man launched
Liam Horan is well known to many people who follow GAA from his extensive media work over the past 20 years and the Ballinrobe man is a bundle of energy and creativity. His recent creation Championship Man might describe him as “Some man for one man”.
Liam recently launched the CD of his Championship Man recordings which can be heard every Thursday on Drivetime Sport with Des Cahill between 6.30pm and 7pm. According to Cahill the Championship Man CD provides “real, on-the-button GAA humour. If you love Gaelic games, you'll love this. It gets to the heart of what the GAA is all about”.
Drivetime Sport has received an enormously positive reaction from the musings of Championship Man over the past two years and if you feel like having a sample of what is on the CD, you can log on to Championshipman.com to check out a few of the recordings for free. If you like what you hear or you know someone who would, you can buy the CD directly from Sideline.ie for €14.95. Go on, check it out. We can all do with a few laughs, some of them at ourselves the way things are around the place just now.
Unemployment for county footballers and hurlers becoming a massive problem
In the Sunday Times last weekend, Donegal wing-back Barry Dunnion outlined how over a third of the Donegal football panel are out of work and have little prospect of any work in the near future.
And in yesterday’s Irish Examiner Clare hurling captain Brian O’Donnell admitted that he may be forced to emigrate after the summer if he can’t find a job due to the economic slowdown. Unemployment is a major problem now for many county teams, for example, over a dozen members of the Clare panel who are in action on Sunday for their Munster SHC semi-final are out of work due to the economic downturn.
This isn’t only an issue for county set ups but also for the majority of clubs, the more rural, peripheral, areas will be the first and hardest hit. While not as obvious as the impact of unemployment itself, the uncertainty over many jobs has also led to a fall off in player numbers. Understandably, there are a growing number of players who are opting out of playing due to the risk of getting injured and the subsequent risk to their job. Some employers, already at the pin of his collar may not be in a position to hold a job for six to eight weeks for an employee with a broken leg or what self employed chippie is going to risk being out of work for a few weeks/months due to a sports injury?
There is an element of déjà vu to all this, where in the late eighties and nineties teams throughout the country lost valuable players through enforced emigration. While there is little the GAA can do to stem the economic downturn it will again be the focus of the local organisation at club and at county level to maintain their membership and become proactive in trying where possible to find employment be it full time or otherwise for those who are likely to have to give up the game in pursuit of a weekly wage.