JUST as we were feeling disappointed that the National League and the rollercoasters it provides had come to an end, the championship arrived with the biggest bang of all.
The first weekend of this year‘s championship produced two shocks that although mooted as possibilities, I don’t think anyone really believed that they could happen.
I will get to the Roscommon one shortly, but I think it’s only right to start off with the historic win at Gaelic Park in New York.
This is a massive win for the team, this one dates back years and I’m sure it brought a tear to the eyes of all the players, coaches and volunteers who have lined out for New York in the past.
For anyone lucky enough to have played in the States at any time during their career, you will see just how much our Gaelic games means to those communities in New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco or anywhere else that our game is played.
Those people who have emigrated for work use Gaelic games to tie themselves to home and to help make new friends and acquaintances in their new home cities.
When I was younger, my brother moved to America and lined out for New York in the championship, so growing up playing in the US was always something that I wanted to do.
Although I never lined out for New York, I’ve got to play in Gaelic Park, New York, Canton in Boston and Gaelic Park, Chicago, and those summers are some of the best memories that I have during my whole playing career.
Massive work goes into keeping our games alive in the US and Trojan work has been done at underage level in all of those cities, so it was only a matter of time before they took a big scalp in the championship, and that has now arrived.
I can see New York building on the success and perhaps attracting even more players to play for them in the future who are based in the States, but for now their journey continues as they prepare to face off against Sligo in the semi-final, which will be another historic occasion for the Connacht Championship.
The other big shock – and I don’t want to be disrespectful to Roscommon when I say that – but given Mayo’s form this season I don’t think anyone saw this coming.
Roscommon simply outfought and outplayed Mayo and were fully deserving of the victory and now it leaves Mayo back in underdog street again where they must build slowly and hope to get back to the business end of the season later down the line.
When we look back at Roscommon‘s National League form, I suppose the signs were there but Mayo’s strong finish to the league put an end to any talk of the possibility that Roscommon could win this one.
Great credit must go to the manager David Burke who has given them the freedom to express themselves while also instilling a strong belief that they fully deserve to be dining at the top table.
After Roscommon’s win against Mayo and their successful National League campaign, who would back against them at the stage of the competition?
When you look at Mayo, Galway and Roscommon there is no doubt that those three teams will feature heavily later down the line so Connacht football is in a very strong position at the minute.
Here in Ulster Armagh got their Ulster Championship off to a good start with a convincing win over Antrim and they now progress to the next stage of the competition.
That win was just what was needed for the Armagh panel after their disappointing National League campaign so I’m sure the message within the camp this week will be that now is when the business end of the season begins and the league is forgotten about.
Things should be a little tighter here this weekend with old rivals Monaghan and Tyrone facing off and Derry taking on Fermanagh.
At first glance you’d have to fancy Tyrone but with the way Monaghan finished off the spring, confidence levels will be high and I’m sure they will fancy their chances this weekend.
I’ll stick with my earlier predictions and go for wins for Derry and Tyrone.
Although if last weekend is anything to go by these games could go anyway!