Every Friday, Caolán Conroy provides his take on three different sporting developments across the UK and Ireland, and shares his predictions for match-ups ahead. This week he looks at men’s Gaelic football, women’s soccer and rugby, and athletic games in London.
Armagh vs Tyrone: A game for the ages
I have to admit I was rather deflated when County Armagh were drawn against Tyrone ahead of this weekend’s All-Ireland football quarter-final. I was hoping Armagh would get Dublin. I thought a contest against Tyrone would be cagey and defensive, which would inevitably showcase the worst of Gaelic football.
However, as the days have gone by and the big match approaches the memories of the titanic battles that took place in the early 2000’s come flooding back.
My own earliest memory of an Armagh v Tyrone game is from 1994, when they played in the Ulster Championship quarter-final. It may even be my earliest memory of Gaelic football.
I remember that day for one reason: Tyrone’s Plunkett Donaghy. The tall, long blond-haired full forward put Armagh to the sword that day, and scored the decisive goal to beat our Orchard county. I remember how he incurred the wrath of the Armagh crowd for his showboating and general mercurial style. That was a day of awakening for a five-year-old. I didn’t fully know why, but I knew I wouldn’t warm to this player or his team.
We were spoilt for great games between these two sides after the millennium. The rivalry reached its peak in 2005 when they met three times in the championship; Tyrone won the all-important semi-final before going on to lift the Sam Maguire for the second time.
I don’t think we appreciated at the time just how good those games were; hopefully we’ll see a repeat of the great spectacles on Saturday. I also hope Armagh can repeat their performance against Kildare. To borrow an infamous quote from Kevin Keegan, “I would love it if we beat them!”
It’s a woman’s world
Next week sees the start of two major international sporting events, both to be hosted in Ireland.
2017’s UEFA Women’s Under-19 Championship kicks off on Tuesday, to be hosted at stadiums across the North for the next two weeks.
On Wednesday the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup will commence, with games to be held across Dublin and Belfast. The tournament is set to culminate in a final at Ulster’s Kingspan Stadium.
Ireland’s women’s rugby team have been dealt a blow with the loss of their captain Niamh Briggs through an Achilles injury. In her absence flanker Claire Molloy is set to take over as captain.
The Irish team face a daunting pool, playing Australia first, then Japan before their last group game against France.
Women’s Rugby in Ireland has come a long way in the last 10 years, but still lacks the profile that the women’s game receives in England and New Zealand. Both these nations are the standard bearers, and favourites to win the tournament.
Whatever happens throughout both tournaments, what’s important is that a legacy is created and more resources are awarded to women’s rugby and football throughout the four provinces.
World athletics in London
Tonight sees the start of the 2017 World Athletic Championships in London. I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on a ticket for Tuesday night’s session.
Looking forward to the 800 meter final, I think back to my school days: then, this was my event. Saying that, unlike the athletes that I’ll be watching next week, I used to jog the first 400 metres. On TV it looks like they are sprinting most of it!
It’s disappointing that world record-holder David Rudisha won’t be taking part due to injury, but it’s still gearing up for an open race – so what’s not to like?
In the 400 meter men’s final, current Olympic champion and world record holder Wayde van Niekerk will be running (provided he comes through the heats unscathed). Like many others, I’ll be watching with interest, hoping he’ll surpass his own record in the final and break the 43 second barrier.
Predictions for this weekend’s sport
Last week’s late Roscommon equaliser against Mayo denied me a clean sweep of correct predictions. How will I do this week?
All-Ireland Football quarter-final: Armagh v Tyrone: If Armagh can bring the same intensity and accuracy to this game as they did last week, I see no reason why they can’t win.
All Ireland Football quarter-final: Dublin v Monaghan – Dublin to win by 8 points
All Ireland Football quarter-final replay: Roscommon v Mayo – Mayo for the win, after another nervy and mistake-ridden game.
All-Ireland hurling semi-final: Galway v Tipperary – Galway
Women’s Rugby World Cup winners – England
English and Scottish soccer league season predictions
The English football leagues and Scottish Premier League will kick off tomorrow, here are my predictions for season;
English Football League Championship
Promotion: Fulham, Aston Villa
Relegated: QPR, Burton, Barnsley
English football: League 1
Winners: Blackburn (no bias whatsoever..!)
Promoted: Bradford, Bristol Rovers
English football: League 2
Promoted: Luton, Carlisle & Notts County
Scottish Premier League