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Sunday September 24, 2017

Paddy Durcan vows to battle back from disappointment

Mayo lost by the narrowest of margins, again

courtesy of RTE

There are moments as a sports journalist when it feels like you’re invading a personal tragedy and the decent thing to do would be to look away.

This was one of those times.

To his eternal credit, Paddy Durcan came out of the Mayo dressing room to face the media inquisition. He didn’t have to, it would have been easier to keep the head down and file onto the bus with his team mates.

No one would have blamed him.

But the job of a sports journalist at these times is to ask the questions, so the questions they were asked.

Durcan didn’t bat anything away and made no excuses, though his voice betrayed the emotion of the occasion and it seemed at times that he was close to tears – hardly surprising considering his team had lost a second All-Ireland by a point to Dublin in less than 12 months.

“Disappointment I suppose,” he offered. “We gave our best shot at it but in fairness we have to give credit to Dublin. They got over the line so credit has to go to them. It’s disappointing but credit to them in fairness.

“Preparation went good, we prepared as best we could for the three weeks and we were really looking forward to it.

“There’s always small margins between the teams and today proved that again. Just bitterly disappointing to come out on the wrong side of it, but that’s life. We’ll have to move forward.

“It’s been such a quick turnaround since after the game, so lads are doing their own bits and pieces in different places so it will probably take a while to settle in. Just disappointment I suppose.

“I suppose you have disappointment for a bit, but you have to move on too. Life goes on and it will go on, we were in the same place last year and suppose it’s a similar situation this year but the lads certainly won’t quit in the ambition we have,” said the talented 22-year-old defender from Castlebar.

“It will hurt for the while but we’ll get the heads down and come back again.”

 

It’s tougher to take when everything you have is put into a game. Mayo did put everything they had into this – they pushed Dublin, one of the greatest teams we’ve seen, all the way once again and came up just short.

That’s four All-Ireland final defeats this decade, three by a point – we know how agonising it has been for their fans so we can only imagine how painful it is for their players.

Durcan was prepared for an intense battle and along with his team mates Mayo delivered a serious performance.

“It was intense, we knew it would be,” he noted. “Both teams are similar, with pace and power in terms of attributes, so we knew it was going to be a fast game.

“That proved to be case and we gave as good as we got. We missed a few chances and that but it’s small margins, we knew it was going to come down to that but we’ll just have to look back on it and learn from it hopefully.

“We probably need to look back on tapes and stuff but we played some good stuff in the first half especially, possibly we maybe could have been a small bit further ahead but it’s tough out there too.

“You are under high pressure to try and deliver, so sometimes you are going to miss chances and stuff like that. We were happy with the position we were in and stuff like that, but we just tried to drive it on and unfortunately it wasn’t enough.”

Interview wrapped up in little more than three minutes. It was enough to get a hint of the empty feeling that Mayo footballers must be wresting with at the moment.

City and United primed for Champions League impact

courtesy of RTE

Liam Brady believes both Manchester clubs are the best equipped Premier League sides to go far in the Champions League this season, though expects the “usual suspects” to battle for silverware.

The 2017/18 group stages gets underway tonight where the main focus of attention will be in Glasgow where free-spending Paris Saint Germain take on Celtic.

Neymar and Kylian Mbappé have joined Dani Alves in Paris, and all three are expected to start at Celtic Park.

The home side will be hoping for a better start than last season, where they were humbled 7-0 at the Camp Nou, and Brendan Rodgers has urged his players not to be intimidated by their opponents.

RTÉ soccer analyst Brady is looking forward to the undoubted attacking prowess at manager Unai Emery’s disposal.

 

“They have two of the most prolific attackers in world football in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe,” he told RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland programme.

“Mbappe is probably the up-and-coming world superstar and is the real deal. It’s going to be interesting to see how Celtic can cope with them. It really is a lot of firepower.”

The €220m capture of Neymar and the signing of Mbappe (an initial loan and permanent deal next summer beliebed to be in the region of €180m) has made headlines, though that in itself will raise its own issues according to the former Ireland international.

“There is an awful lot of pressure spending that amount. Remember they were 4-0 up last year going to Barcelona and lost 6-1 in one of the most memorable games we have ever seen in the Champions League.

 

“I think there is a lot of pressure on them,” adding that serious question marks remain over their defensive capabilities.

Brady expects the “usual suspects” of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now PSG to be around at the business end of the season, and says that of the five Premier League sides, the Manchester clubs could make the biggest impact.

“United and City are best equipped…they have the best squads,” he says.

“Liverpool have a great forward line, but are not that great defensively. We will see how Chelsea can cope with retaining the league and Europe.

“I think all the English teams will make it to the next stage, though Spurs are in a group with Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, so there is a question mark whether they can get out of that group.

“They will certainly have to improve their results at Wembley.”

Katie Taylor will challenge for world title next month

Katie Taylor will challenge for a world title next month in Cardiff, promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed this afternoon.

The 2012 London gold medalist will take on two-weight world champion Anahi Sanchez for the WBA world lightweight crown on 28 October at the Principality Stadium.

The fight will be on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title defence against Kubrat Pulev.

She’s overcome six opponents without ever looking in trouble, defeating four by KO.

The Bray woman now faces Argentinian Sanchez, who defeated her compatriot Cecila Sofia Mena to take the the vacant WBA belt.

An experienced fighter with a record of 17-2-0, Sanchez undoubtedly poses a significant challenge to Taylor, who will take heart from the fact that her opponent has lost twice befre in Europe.

Kenny sees something special in young Dundalk attack

courtesy of RTE

Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny thinks his new crop of stars could take the Lilywhites back to the heights of last season after he witnessed another demolition of the opposition in Oriel Park last night.

Kenny’s men have scored 21 goals in their last five games and are displaying attacking qualities that several sides in the league are struggling to cope with.

Their latest signing, Dylan Connolly, caught the eye as the home side disposed of local rivals Drogheda United with a four-goal rout, with Michael Duffy, Brian Gartland and David McMillon also on target.

Kenny said: “I think a lot of our new signings have come in and they’re young players with a lot of pace. They have a lot of ability and you can really see they evolving as a team. They are showing their quality.

“That attacking four supporting David McMillan of Patrick McEleney, Robbie Benson, Dylan Connolly and Michael Duffy are all aged between 22-24 and it shows you they have a lot of talent. If we can keep the team together we could really push on again.”

Duffy’s goal inside five minutes meant it was always going to be a difficult night for Drogheda and yet again Dundalk booked their place in the last four.

The Dundalk boss admitted it set up an easy night for his players against struggling United: “The Louth derby is never going to be easy, especially in an FAI Cup quarter-final. The ideal start was Michael Duffy getting that goal after a couple of minutes.

“That set us up and it gave us great confidence. We created a lot of chances and scored two great goals. Michael Duffy and Dylan Connolly’s goals were really terrific strikes.

“That gave us the confidence to go on and win, we created a lot of chances and it was a comfortable win in the end”

With Cork on the verge of securing the title, and possibly in the fixture with Dundalk, live on RTÉ2 on Monday 25 September, Kenny wants to see his players keep up their current level of performances, and add two more trophies to an already golden era under his stewardship.

“We’re in the League Cup final next week. We’re in the FAI Cup semi-finals now. We’re second in the league and want to finish strong in every game. We want to have a level of consistency. We scored a lot of goals in recent weeks.

“We scored four against Derry home and away, six against St Patrick’s Athletic last week and another four here. We’re not relying on any individuals and clean sheets are coming consecutively.

“We haven’t got the biggest squad since Ciaran Kilduff and Paddy Barrett left in the window. We need to keep players fit.

“We have a lot of games coming up – four in nine days after next week with the refixed league games. That’s before the semi-final, so we have to make sure we’re ready.

“Dundalk have yet to get to three FAI Cup finals in a row in their history. It was amazing to win the Cup in the manner we did in 2015 with the double in the Aviva Stadium. Last year we flew back from Russia and went to extra-time where we lost with the last kick of the game.

“The players were magnificent last season. We want to get back there of course. It’s a great occasion. Nobody remembers beaten semi-finalists so we’ll have to see what the draw brings and get ourselves ready.”

Fitzgerald agrees to stay on with Wexford for 2018

courtesy of RTE

Davy Fitzgerald is staying on as manager of the Wexford senior hurling team for the 2018 season.

Following discussions with county board officials this week, the Clare native has agreed to a second year at the helm.

The news comes as a major boost to Wexford, who will operate in Division 1A of the Allianz Hurling League next year.

Remarkable progress was achieved during Fitzgerald’s first season at the helm.

As well as steering Wexford to promotion from Division 1B, in a group that also contained All-Ireland champions Galway and Limerick, he also masterminded an historic Leinster SHC semi-final victory over Kilkenny.

Wexford lost the provincial decider to Galway, before bowing out of the All-Ireland series at the quarter-final stage against Waterford.

But Fitzgerald believes that he can take Wexford even further – and has committed to another year in charge.

An official statement confirming the news is expected from the Wexford county board later today (THURS) – and Fitzgerald is expected to work with the same backroom team again.

This year, he was assisted by selectors JJ Doyle, Seoirse Bulfin and Páraic Fanning.

It is understood that Fitzgerald had some personal business to attend to before giving Wexford chiefs the green light.

Despite some recent speculation, he was not in the frame for posts in other counties.

Fitzgerald has indicated that the travel demands placed on him when travelling to and from his Sixmilebridge base to Wexford have taken a toll.

But he’s excited by the prospect of leading the team into Division 1A – and building on the 2017 championship progress.

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