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Inside Track

A sporting season riddled with some highs and lows

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Galway hurler Cathal Mannion who had a memorable season in the maroon jersey in 2015.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

WHAT was the sporting year of 2015 like for you? On a personal level, there were some highs and lows, while the same could be said in a Galway context. Here are some events I will look back fondly on and others which I’d prefer to forget.

Among the positives were the emergence of Cathal Mannion and Jason Flynn as hurling forwards of the highest quality, with Conor Whelan also taking up that mantle later in the season. If Mannion had maintained his blistering scoring bursts in the Leinster and All-Ireland finals, the Ahascragh/Fohenagh clubman would have been a serious contender for Player of the Year.

Remember, it was Mannion’s early three-goal burst which had ignited Galway’s season in the Leinster championship replay against Dublin, while he was also a constant torment to Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final. Mannion covers ground much quicker than his languid style suggests and his form will be critical to the county team’s fortunes next year.

The somewhat more experienced Flynn landed many quality scores during the course of the championship, including an early second-half goal against Kilkenny in the Leinster decider, but none will top his wonder point at Croke Park last September when he brilliantly trapped Colm Callanan’s puck out under the Hogan Stand before rifling the sliotar through the Kilkenny posts.

Like Mannion, Flynn subsequently cut a fatigued figure in the local county championships, but the Tommy Larkins player was one of the unlucky ones not to have won an All Star this year. Whelan, only a minor in 2014, was thrown in at the deep end against Cork in Thurles, but he bagged a goal near the finish in that rout of the Rebels and his confidence soared to such an extent that he was the only Galway forward to really carry the fight to Kilkenny in the second-half of the All-Ireland final.

Flynn, Mannion and Whelan took some of the scoring pressure off Joe Canning during the championship, with their individual and collective fortunes set to have a major influence on Galway’s fate in 2016. And in spite of all the controversy over the heave against Anthony Cunningham, one expects the hurlers to be very competitive next year, especially if their young attacking guns are firing on all cylinders.

On the local hurling front, Sarsfields player/manager Cathal Murray mightn’t have thought it, but there was nothing in their formbook until the quarter-final against Pearses which suggested they had the scope and quality to claim the club’s first county title since 1997. They did come from nowhere but subsequently taking out champions Gort showed their achievement was no fluke. Sarsfields wouldn’t have won the replay without Joseph Cooney, but the team is back in the big time now and looking at some of their talented reserves in Pearse Stadium, they will hardly be one year hit wonders either.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Turlough’s thumping of title holders opens up the hurling championship

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St Thomas’ v Turloughmore Senior Hurling Championship game at Kenny Park, Athenry. Dara Whelan, Turloughmore and Victor Manso, St Thomas’

Inside Track with John McIntyre

TURLOUGHMORE blew the Galway senior hurling championship wide open with an unexpected thumping of title holders St Thomas’ at Kenny Park on Saturday. With questions to answer after fading badly in an earlier group tie against Clarinbridge, Franny Forde’s charges achieved a statement victory which must have sent shock waves throughout the county.

Having come up narrowly short in the 2020 decider against St Thomas’ in front of empty terraces in Athenry, Turlough looked like a team primed to exploit significant under-age success, but they had a blow-out in last year’s preliminary quarter-final when surrendering a 10-point lead to rank outsiders Kilnadeema/Leitrim.

That left the team with questions to answer heading into 2022, and that disappointing 0-24 to 0-17 loss to Clarinbridge in August appeared to confirm that Turloughmore were missing the level of substance and belief in their ranks which potential champions require. But all bets are off after last Saturday’s demolition job of St Thomas’.

Carrying the day by a scarcely believable 2-23 to 0-14 against an admittedly out-of-sorts champions must do wonders for the squad’s confidence, and with Seán Loftus continuing to hurl up a storm in the group stages – seven points of his 1-12 total came from play – Turloughmore are now serious contenders for title glory.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

McStay getting Mayo post means Galway must be wary about 2023

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Mountbellew-Moylough's Leo Donnellan and Mikey Culhane of Salthill Knocknacarra battling for possession during Sunday's Senior Football Champiomship tie at Tuam Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

Those of us who were thinking that a protracted period of dominance in the province lay ahead of the Galway footballers are probably revising that opinion in the light of Kevin McStay taking over the unluckiest team of all-time. When it comes to bad breaks, Mayo are in a league of their own.

Losing six All-Ireland finals – including the 2016 replay against Dublin – over the past decade has been gut wrenching for both players and supporters. There is only so much big-day misery a county can take, but Mayo remain the eternal optimists; their spirits unbroken. Football is their lifeblood, the pulse of everyday life up there.

Yet, even their most optimistic fans must have thought that the All-Ireland dream is finally over for Leer Keegan, Rob Hennelly, the O’Connors, Kevin McLaughlin and Aidan O’Shea after a tame quarter-final exit to Kerry this summer. Coming on the back of last year’s demoralising final defeat to Tyrone, the general presumption was that Mayo faced a significant period of transition.

It was no surprise when James Horan stood down as manager in the wake of the Kerry loss, with four candidates interested in filling the vacancy – McStay being joined in the race by Ray Dempsey, Mike Solan and Declan Shaw who all put together strong backroom teams with the likes of Armagh’s Oisín McConville and Sligo’s Eamon O’Hara seemingly willing to throw in their lot with Mayo.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Donoghue and Kelly join the list of outsiders hoping to work the oracle

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Ardrahan team manager Syl Dolan supported by his grandchildren Jack, Shay, Leo and PJ against Portumna in the county hurling championship in Gort last Saturday.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

Why is it that a majority of hurling counties regularly shun homegrown local managerial talent in favour of high-profile outsiders? Sure, such a scenario remains an anathema to the traditional powers of Kilkenny, Cork and Tipperary, but most of the rest regularly have their heads turned by non-natives.

The reality is that no county in nearly 25 years has lifted the McCarthy Cup with someone from beyond their borders in charge. Of course, Offaly are the one team which has benefited from having an outside influence, with Diarmuid Healy, Eamon Cregan and Galway’s own Michael Bond between them leading the Midlanders to All-Ireland glory on four different occasions.

But still the fad persists. Look at what’s ahead of us in 2023. A Galway man (Micheál Donoghue) taking over Dublin; another Galway man (Johnny Kelly) about to be installed as Offaly boss; a Tipperary man (Darragh Egan) in charge of Wexford; another Tipperary man (Darren Gleeson) still occupying the Antrim role; a Clare man (Davy Fitzgerald) back with Waterford, and the prospect of a Waterford man (Derek McGrath) filling the vacancy in Laois.

It has caught most Galway hurling observers by surprise that Donoghue is throwing in his lot with Dublin for a three-year term, especially as it’s only the Autumn of 2019 that he pulled the plug on his management of Galway, citing family reasons and a difficult working relationship with some local GAA officials.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

Continue Reading

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