The Sporting Diary

with Sports Editor, Peter Campbell

The Sporting Diary

The West’s Awake

Just like Leicester in the English Premiership, Connacht reached their Promised Land on Saturday evening by winning the Pro12 final against Leinster. And what’s more they did it in style.

They were much more superior than the final 20-10 scoreline and their open, running style of rugby was just incredible to watch. The first half performance was one of the best 40 minutes of TV I have watched in a long time.

Their players certainly gave Irish manager, Joe Schmidt, something to think about. The back three Leinster players were all selected to tour South Africa, while their Connacht counterparts were not on his radar. But by the end of the game on Saturday evening, there seemed a gulf between those players and it was clearly on the side of the Connacht guys. It may well turn out that Matt Healy will get on the panel now that Luke Fitzgerald has picked up an injury, but is Rob Kearney better than Tiernan O’Halloran at the moment?

And what of Niyi Adeolokun? The Nigerian born 24-year-old was plucked from playing with Dublin University in Division 1B of the AIL and was just electric. Just like Jamie Vardy with Leicester.

It has been some year for the Connacht side and coach Pat Lam must take a bow. In an impressive interview afterwards with RTE Radio, Lam mentioned every county in Connacht and finished the interview with cúpla focal as gaeilge.

The west’s awake alright.

Thank God for Niall

Donegal needed something special on Sunday evening in Corrigan Park, Belfast, as they trailed Antrim by five points with just over ten minutes left. But then up stepped Niall O’Donnell to hit two goals, and the rest is history.

O’Donnell is a special talent and one of those players who should be nurtured. It is a good measure of the team that they were able to respond when the need was greatest, and to go on and win by four points.

They face a tougher test in the semi-final when they take on Monaghan. They have met the Farney county already in the Ulster Minor League semi-final and that game needed extra-time with O’Donnell contributing 0-13 in that two point win (0-23 to 0-21). Championship is much different and Donegal’s win on Sunday evening must be viewed in the background that they had to travel to Belfast and play Antrim in their own backyard.

They can improve from that and they will have more belief for the semi-final. Hopefully, they will be part of a double header with the seniors on Saturday, 25th June (possibly in Kingspan Breffni Park).

Brennan makes a case

I saw recently that Brian McEniff was putting a case for his clubman, Paul Brennan’s inclusion in the Donegal panel. After watching him on Saturday night last against Glenswilly, there was further evidence to warrant this. A former Leitrim player, Brennan was at his powerful best, driving forward from centre half-back. I know that Rory Gallagher did have a look at him last year, and it might be worth his while to take another look! Anyway, Donegal captain, Michael Murphy, was among the spectators on Saturday night and will surely be able to give the county manager an assessment.