Latecomers Meath look good
Easter weekend it may have been - full of commemorations, colour parties, craic and about 4 lbs of chocolate each - but the sporting world carried on regardless.
In Gaelic games, the semi-finals of the National Football League were decided in two contrasting games. Perrennial league specialists Derry eased past Roscommon in a game the Connaught side will wish to forget. The Derrymen were never tested in a one-sided encounter and they now advance to face Meath in the final.
As reported in previous weeks, the Royal County had a poor start to their league campaign, losing to both Sligo and Fermanagh (no disrespect intended to either aforementioned county). They eventually qualified for the semi-finals by the margin of a superior scoring average over the luckless Sligo. This form continued on Sunday. After being outplayed for most of their clash with Kerry and finding themselves 7 points down during the second half, the All-Ireland Champions hit Kerry with a late goal blitz to take them through to the league final.
I may have said this previously, but I make no apology for repeating that this Meath team is showing all the signs of a great side. They have reached a league final using several fringe players and not altoghether playing that well. The strength in depth and resiliance of this panel must make them favourites to at least retain their Leinster crown this year.
There is one other GAA fixture that stands out this week. On Wednesday night, the Under 21 Footballers of Limerick will take on Westmeath in the All-Ireland Semi-Final. This is the first occasion the footballers of Limerick have reached such an advanced stage in this competition and they face an exceptionally talented Westmeath side, who defeated Meath in the Leinster Final. Whatever the outcome of Wednesday's match, it has been an outstanding year for the Limerick team and it bodes well for the promotion of football in one of the country's premier sporting counties.
Swail in snooker heaven
Over in Sheffield, the Embassy World Snooker Championships have been under way all week. Ex-champion Ken Doherty rather disappointingly went out in the second round when he seemed certain to advance. At the time of writing, the other Dubliner, Fergal O'Brien, has crashed out at the quarter-final stage to World Number one Mark Williams, by 13 frames to 5, but Belfast's Joe Swail is going from strength to strength.
Officially ranked 28th in the world before this tournament, he has now moved back into a coveted top 16 world ranking place and secured a place in the semi-finals in the process.
On Wednesday, Swail beat Dominic Dale by 13 frames to 9 to advance. We'll have our legs and fingers crossed for him.
Asians dominate lifting
As you are aware, this column has of late attempted to broaden its rather narrow focus. The most vital tool in accessing sports from further afield has been the Eurosport channel. Whether you need to know how things stand in the tractor racing from Trondheim or the mountain biking from Antwerp, Eurosport is the place to extract these sporting nuggets. This week I watched the Women's European Weightlifting Championships from the Universiada Hall, in Sofia.
This programme proved to be mine of information for anyone new to the sport of Women's Weightlifting. Apparently the forthcoming Olympics in Sydney are the first to include the women's competition. I was also surprised to learn that it is a sport that is totally dominated by women from Asian countries. I would have thought that the stronger nations competing would be the traditionally dominant Eastern European countries, but I was surprised to learn that in the past 12 World Championships, 100 of the 108 medals have gone to Asian competitors. The only European who seems likely to buck this trend is Bulgaria's Donka Mincheva, who took gold in last years World Championships in Athens. She looks to be Europe's best bet for honours in Sydney 2000, so this column will be monitoring her progress closely during the summer. You heard it here first!!
BY PADDY SWAINE