THE Donegal Junior League takes its Christmas break after this weekend’s series of games so it’s timely to take a look at how things stands in the respective divisions.
The League’s representative team meet Sligo/Leitrim in the Oscar Traynor Cup on Sunday and after a win and defeat in their two previous group matches they need a win if they are to progress to the latter stages of this year’s competition.
Most of the local action this weekend centres around the Downtown Cup on Saturday with a very limited number of league games pencilled in for Sunday although one of them – Castlefin Celtic v Keadue Rovers – is an important game on Sunday for both teams.
With a 100 per cent record after seven games, Castlefin lead the way, six clear of nearest rivals Lagan Harps with Keadue a point further back, although they do have a game in hand. A win on Sunday and three points from their extra game would move them to within just a point of Castlefin, while defeat this weekend would see them slip ten points off the pace which, even at this early stage, would be a substantial lead. The likes of Lagan and Kilmacrennan Celtic and one or two others will be hoping for a Keadue win to make things interesting in the New Year.
In the Premier League, St Catherine’s lead the way, also with a 100% record, after seven games. Cappry Rovers are second, four points behind, but they have played two games more, while Drumoghill lie eight behind the Killybegs men. Elsewhere, both Gweedore Celtic and Kildrum Tigers have a lot of ground to make up as they are 10 points off the pace.
Brian Dorrian’s Saints have already shown in their games to date that they’re going to be extremely hard to catch, having conceded just four goals in their opening seven games.
In Division Two, it appears to be a two-horse race between Convoy and Bonagee. Just a point separates the pair after eight games with the rest of the pack seven points adrift.
It’s still early days yet but the teams leading the way have already shown enough to suggest that they won’t be easily caught.
In Good company
It’s great to see Mark English, Seamus Coleman and Jason Smyth making the short-list for the RTE Sports Personality of the Year for 2014. The three lads from the North West are in the mix with the likes of Rory McIlroy, Katie Taylor and Johnny Sexton.
Paul McGinley has also been short-listed for the Manager of the Year award, one that he must be well placed to take given the way he led Europe to Ryder Cup success over the US at Gleneagles
Roisin Jordan has been elected as the 26th Chairperson of the Tyrone County Board – the first woman to ever hold the position – while Helen Reilly became the first female to be elected to the top level of referees in Irish Rugby. Her name will now be added to the IRFU National panel and, ultimately, she will soon be available to referee games at Pro12 and European Cup level.
It’s both progressive and a good step in the right direction for both GAA and rugby.
Long road back
You have to hand it to Pádraig Harrington. On Tuesday, he was walking about trying to work a way back into the world’s top 15 golfers to give himself a chance of representing Ireland at the 2016 Olympic Games.
Four tournament wins in the next 18 months should do it he suggested or, better still, a couple of major wins to add to the three he has already safely tucked up at home.
Last weekend there were three golf tournaments around the world, namely the Word Challenge in Florida, the South African Open and the Indonesian Open.
While two of the world’s brightest young stars Jordan Speith and Danny Willett were winning in Florida and South Africa respectively, Harrington was leading the field home in Indonesia.
Shane Lowry finished 11th in Sun City to move up to No 44 in the rankings while Harrington was winning his first 72-hole even since 2010.
Having taken a four-shot lead into the last round he started poorly and found himself two adrift before a rain delay allowed him to regroup and eventually win with two shots to spare. The victory moves him up 125 places to 250 in the world rankings, a far cry from the No3 spot he held after winning three majors in 13 months.
The prize-money on offer for winning was also a fraction of the cheque that Speith collected for winning in Florida but it’s not about the money for Harrington it’s all about trying to work his way back into the top 50 and gain entry to the major tournaments.
With McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry standing in his way he’ll be hard pressed to make the Ireland team for the 2016 Olympics. That said, Harrington insists that if he doesn’t make it then he’ll try again in 2020. That’s the sort of spirit which helped him win three majors. It will take him to get back to close to his best to achieve that goal. Here’s hoping.
How bad was that?
The big game in the Premiership this weekend is the meeting between Manchester United and Liverpool or is it?
On Monday night, United somehow moved into the top three following a win over Southampton having won only 8 of their opening 15 games. Liverpool are worse off, winning just six games as they languish back in ninth spot – 15 points behind leaders Chelsea – while Brendan Rodgers side also bowed out of the Champions League on Tuesday night after a 1-1 home draw with Basel, a result which demotes them to the Europa League.
Post-match Rodgers admitted that they simply weren’t good enough – one of the few things he got right on the night! He left four of his big money signings on the bench before making a couple of changes midway through the game which were difficult to fathom.
Liverpool managed to win just one of their six Champions League group games and are but a shadow of last year’s team.
Whatever happens on Sunday, Van Gael’s job appears to be safe but I’m not so sure about Rodgers as Liverpool need to improve and quick.