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Inside Track

All-Ireland Club Champs can have no complaints

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Inside Track with John McIntyre

In the space of 24 hours last weekend, the reigning Galway senior hurling and football champions fell by the wayside, but in vastly contrasting fashion.

St. Thomas’ eclipse was the big if hardly surprising news to emerge from the local GAA fields, although Salthill Knocknacarra footballers getting beating out the gate in Tuam Stadium possibly set even more tongues wagging.

In terms of national interest, the fall of the All-Ireland Club hurling champions at Kenny Park last Saturday would have led to widespread murmurs outside the county’s borders. St. Thomas’ had been lucky to survive their drawn semi-final encounter against Portumna the weekend previously, but the expectation was that they had the scope to step up on that uneven performance for the replay.

In fact, St. Thomas’ struggled even more. The early lost of defender Cathal Burke admittedly didn’t help them nor did the fact that Richie Murray still wasn’t fit enough to start, but the expected bounce and vibrancy in their ranks was again largely absent and only for two converted 21 yard frees by centre forward Conor Cooney, the title holders wouldn’t have remained in contention for so long.

With Sean Skehill a long term injury victim, St. Thomas’ resources were being stretched to the limit and, ultimately, they didn’t possess sufficient cover. Certainly, David Burke and company never gave up and it took a mighty catch from long serving full back Eugene McEntee in the dying moments to get Portumna over the line and, in the process, set up another final collision with old foes Loughrea.

A big crowd assembled in Athenry last Saturday in the expectation that there would be a greater edge to the exchanges than was the case in the drawn semi-final, but they were sorely disappointed. With referee Leonard Fay clearly intent on pulling for everything, the replay was largely a stop-start affair which never really ignited. When you contrast some of the tackling and heavy hits which went unpunished in the Tipperary final the following day, you’d be inclined to wonder are officials in Galway trying to sanitise hurling too much?

Regardless of how the match unfolded or was refereed, the over-riding impression was that Portumna were again the superior force. Sure, they struggled to put St. Thomas’ put away, didn’t raise a green flag for the third consecutive game and are no longer able to produce the sustained scoring bursts which typified to the team’s hey-day, but they remain a solid yardstick and any team which has Damien Hayes and Joe Canning leading the charge is always to take some beating.

Canning again lined out in midfield in perhaps a managerial indulgence that Portumna couldn’t afford. He was man-marked this time by Bernard Burke, who has been struggling to reach last year’s heights, and found it difficult to make a sustained influence. Canning moved to the edge of the square for the second-half and though he didn’t score from play, the former All Star caused panic in the St. Thomas’ defensive ranks while his haul of ten points from frees was critical to their win.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune

Connacht Tribune

Fearsome Limerick hit new high by tearing Tipperary rivals apart

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Galway’s Carrie Dolan breaking away from Laura Doherty of Westmeath during Saturday's All-Ireland camogie championship clash at Kenny Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

In the aftermath of a wonderful sporting achievement, it’s easy to get carried away and, perhaps, overrate what we have just seen at the expense of great deeds from the past. But even against that background, what Limerick hurlers achieved in the second-half of Sunday’s Munster Final was extraordinary.

They looked a beaten docket at half-time. Trailing by ten points to a Jason Forde inspired and a fiercely committed Tipperary, the All-Ireland champions were in serious trouble. They had conceded two goals directly from opposition puck-outs to Jake Morris and Bubbles O’Dwyer, and so many of their marquee players were off the pace.

In fact, Tipperary could have been ahead by more. With Dan McCormack playing deep to free up Brendan Maher as their sweeper, they created a world of chances with Forde – the most under-rated forward in the game – rifling over a series of points from all angles and distances. Limerick were all at sea and only Cian Lynch and Tom Morrissey were having a significant impact on the action.

But nobody could have envisaged the sensational turnaround in the third quarter. Within 18 minutes, a resurgent Limerick had gone a point ahead as reserves Aaron Gillane and Dan Morrissey added fresh vigour to their challenge at opposite ends of the field. It was like watching two different matches as Tipp were simply overwhelmed.

Their older generation really sagged in the unforgiving temperatures and by the time their management made changes, Limerick had already taking control. On the scoreboard, Tipp were still in it, but their players must have been in a state of shock over how a big lead had been so quickly and so ruthlessly wiped out. Limerick’s younger legs and sheer physical power were now dictating the terms of engagement.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Epic Portlaoise battle highlights what minor level is now missing

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Galway midfielder Kieran Hanrahan breaking away from Kilkenny’s Harry Shine during the 2020 All-Ireland Minor hurling final at O'Moore Park on Saturday evening. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

WHAT unfolded at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise last Saturday evening again puts a negative slant on the GAA’s decision at the 2016 Congress to reduce the age limit for minor competition from U18 to U17 and the U21 grade to U20.
Sure, there were issues with Leaving Cert exams and hold-ups in fixtures at senior level due to the previous under-age structures, but the competitiveness of the minor grade has been drastically impacted by restricting it to U17s, while the former U21 competition carried more prestige than the current U20 championship.
These were hardly intractable problems in the first place, but it is another example of the GAA’s continuous meddling with their competitions and the rule book. On the other hand, you sometimes wonder do Congress delegates sleepwalk their way through proceedings by not anticipating the impact of certain decisions at ground level until it’s too late.
Back to O’Moore Park. Due to Covid 19, the 2020 All-Ireland minor hurling championship was run off about a year behind schedule and the upshot was that many players had reached 18 by the time it came to enter combat. In effect, it was the way things used to be and the resulting increase in intensity and physicality was welcome.
Galway and Kilkenny locked horns in a gripping battle on Saturday evening and there was no holding back to the exchanges. You just don’t have that at U17 level because the players are not nearly as well physically developed. The minor grade is currently a pale imitation of its former glory.
That reality was confirmed in the delayed 2020 championship with the All-Ireland final serving up a compelling struggle for supremacy. Early on, it seemed Galway were about to overwhelm Kilkenny as they established a seven-point lead but, by the end of the game, they needed a brilliantly created goal from Liam Collins to carry the day.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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

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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

Hurlers are not a busted flush but long road now lies ahead

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Galway players, from left, Conor Slattery, Tiernan Leen, Michael Walsh and Shane Morgan celebrate after their 2020 All-Ireland minor hurling semi-final victory over Limerick at Cusack Park on Friday evening. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IT happens to even the best of teams, especially when they are lulled into a false sense of security. The Galway hurlers headed to Croke Park last Saturday expecting to win their Leinster semi-final against Dublin but, unfortunately, their match-day attitude bore the gait of a men who weren’t mentally prepared to really work for it.

In their own heads, Galway probably thought that no matter how the match unfolded, they would still have Dublin’s number. That backdrop feeds over-confidence and complacency, and when things started going horribly wrong for the Tribesmen, their response was disappointing with only a handful of players escaping the wreckage.

This was not a game Galway could ever take for granted. Having lost to the Dubs two years ago and with the U20s coming unstuck against the same opposition a fortnight ago, the anticipation was that they would be in the zone from the off. They had the early pressure, and chances, but poor decision-making was to come back and haunt them.

Though Galway ought to have quickly realised that they were in a battle, the required intensity was missing. When you see the way the Kilkenny and Wexford players tore strips off each other in the second-semi-final, it underlined just how much Shane O’Neill charges didn’t front up physically. Sure, players were trying but few maroon bodies were repeatedly laid on the line.

Galway were curiously impatient as well. Their lust for goals early on did them no favours, especially coming up against a goalkeeper in Alan Nolan, who was at the top of his game. The fact that Galway couldn’t counteract or work through Dublin’s flooded defensive lines also reflects poorly on their tactical awareness.

When you consider the huge scoring totals Galway ran up in the league, their miserly tally of 1-14 last Saturday comes as a shock to the system. True, they had an abundance of scoring chances, but you couldn’t argue that their hurling ever really flowed. So many players were below par and under pressure, Galway struggled to get on the front foot for any sustained length of time.

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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