Author: Micheal Faherty

Could Sligo’s concession of Connacht semi-final be a sign of things to come?

Sligo were this week forced to concede their Connacht SFC match with Galway due to a Covid-19 outbreak within the squad. This left Sligo with only 18-20 available players for this encounter leaving them unable to fulfil the fixture.

Many GAA folk have questioned the decision to call off this game, with Tomás O’ Sé being the most vocal on this matter. Sligo’s determination to play the game has been questioned, however, the Sligo county board has claimed these reports to be untrue. Stating that “all who could feasibly make themselves available wanted to play the game”.

Sligo have struggled in the last couple of seasons and this fixture would likely have resulted in a win for the Tribesmen. But that is no reason to believe Sligo did not want to play this game. Instead we should look at the GAA with some scrutiny following this decision not to re-fixture the game.

The Connacht final is due to be played the following weekend on November 15th, so any re-fixture would have a knock-on effect here. However, three weeks separate the Connacht final and the All-Ireland semi-final. Plenty of time to allow for a re-fixture. If both games were pushed back an extra week it would not upset any Connacht counties too much, as they would still have 2 weeks to prepare for the semi-final.

The GAA has since claimed that if Sligo were accommodated in this manner, where would they draw the line? And this approach could result in far more postponements over the coming weeks. 

The GAA is clearly trying to avoid a fixtures pile-up but Sligo were dismissed and effectively thrown out of the championship without the GAA batting an eyelid. Being one of the weaker counties, this decision has probably not affected how the Championship will play out. One must question what if an elite county finds themselves in the same situation? Would they be eliminated too?

Of course, nobody wants to see Covid outbreaks anywhere, but, what if Dublin or Kerry (or any elite county) were to be in this situation before their respective games this weekend? Would last year’s All-Ireland finalists have been eliminated without kicking a ball and blow the Championship wide open? I highly doubt it. In this case the GAA would have probably accommodated its prized possessions and provided a re-fixture. Even if it were Galway who were in this situation, I doubt that they would have been thrown out, allowing Sligo to progress instead.

From Galway’s perspective they will feel disappointed that this fixture was cancelled as they could really have done with a warm-up for a Connacht final. I’m sure if there was an option to push these games back a week both counties would have obliged.

In a few weeks I hope we will look back at a successful championship in which no further Covid-19 outbreaks occurred in squads and resulting in no more cancellations. But that seems unlikely, and it will be very interesting to see how the GAA will handle this matter going forward.

All-Ireland Football preview – Dark Horses, Top Scorer & Player of the year

After a year of uncertainty, and ‘what if’s’ here we are finally, the senior inter-county championships are upon us. We saw two fluid, high-scoring games of hurling this past weekend in Leinster and Munster. This has paved the way for what can be an exciting and unique championship in both codes. With the commencement of the Football championship to come this weekend, we take a preview of what is to come.

 

1) Top scorer 

Top scorer could go anywhere at this stage, so much depends how far each county progresses. With big teams set to meet early, there will be some big names taken out of the equation. However, keep an eye out for these players to shine.

  • Dave Clifford (Kerry) – This man needs no introduction at this stage. He has been scoring for fun over the last couple of years.
  • Sean O’ Shea (Kerry) – A very reliable free-taker and dangerous from open play, Sean O’ Shea is equally as crucial to Kerry’s scoring success as Clifford.
  • Dean Rock (Dublin) – Dublin’s newly crowned all-time top scorer has shown no signs of slowing down yet. With Dublin likely to put up some big scores in Leinster, expect Rock to lead the way for the Dubs.
  • Shane Walsh (Galway) – The top scorer in the National League. Simply put, Galway are a better team with Walsh on the field.
  • Darren McCurry (Tyrone) – Darren McCurry has been Tyrone’s top scorer in Cathal McShane’s absence.
  • Conor McManus (Monaghan) – Conor McManus has proven time-and-time again to be a handful for any defender.
  • Michael Murphy (Donegal) – Donegal’s top scorer in the league with 2-18. Much will depend on their opener with Tyrone.
  • Cillian O’ Connor (Mayo) – Mayo will be glad to have their free-taker back. He has been the top scorer in four previous championships and should contribute a lot of Mayo’s scores should they progress through a tricky Connacht championship.

 

2) Player of the year

Much depends on who wins the All-Ireland here, we could see many names added to this list depending on how things plan out. But here’s five to watch out for.

– Dave Clifford (Kerry)

– Ciaran Kilkenny (Dublin)

– Brian Fenton (Dublin)

– Shane Walsh (Galway)

– Michael Murphy (Donegal)

 

3) Dark horse?

In what is often a predictable championship, this year may present an opportunity for a dark horse to make a run.

  • Roscommon – The Connacht champions have a tough ask ahead of them to retain their title with the prospect of Mayo and Galway in the semi-final and final respectively. However, they have been in excellent form in division 2 and should they progress to an All-Ireland semi-final anything could happen.


  • Armagh – Armagh have found form in Division 2 which has eluded them for the past decade. This could be the year they challenge for the Ulster crown once again.


  • Cork – Quietly went about their business in Division 3 securing maximum points on their way to promotion. Cork seem to have turned a corner in the past 18 months and look to be on the up again. Hard to see them beating Kerry this year but don’t write off the rebels too quickly.

 

4) Provincial Championships betting

 

Connacht 

Galway 8/11 

Mayo 7/4

Roscommon 11/2

Sligo 80/1

Leitrim 150/1

Galway will avoid Mayo or Roscommon until the final which is probably why they are favourites. Connacht is a three-horse race but there may be money to be made on Roscommon. 

 

Leinster

Dublin 1/12

Meath 11/1

Kildare 14/1

Laois 66/1

Westmeath 80/1

Longford 150/1

Offaly 200/1

Wexford 250/1

Carlow, Wicklow, Louth 500/1

Please God can we have a competitive Leinster Championship for the first time in a decade?

 

Munster

Kerry 1/4

Cork 9/2

Tipperary 12/1

Clare 25/1

Limerick 50/1

Waterford 250/1

Cork may be worth a punt here, but much like Leinster, this is Kerry’s Championship to lose.

 

Ulster

Donegal 6/4

Monaghan 3/1

Tyrone 10/3

Armagh 15/2 

Down 16/1

Cavan 20/1

Derry 20/1

Fermanagh 50/1

Antrim 200/1

Donegal are big favourites in the bookie’s eyes. Monaghan, Tyrone and Armagh represent good value for money and have a very realistic chance at winning Ulster.