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Talking Sport

Big hurling festival in Galway has strong international flavor

Stephen Glennon

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Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon

AS the International Hurling Festival, taking place in the city and county from September 18 to 21, draws closer, the final preparations are being put in place by Aer Lingus Senior Project Manager and former Galway coach Mattie Kenny for this unique showcase.

While the enormity of the Festival, which will see 16 teams from right around the world compete in the hurling tournament, may only be registering with local GAA enthusiasts now, it is quite a different story in other parts of the globe where the prospect of the forthcoming event is hitting fever pitch.

It is easy to see why. All of the teams are to be flown to Ireland by main sponsor Aer Lingus – or in the case of Australia by the Festival’s partner sponsor Etihad – while the players will also be accommodated and kitted out as part of the celebration.

It is a huge undertaking for Aer Lingus and Project Manager Kenny but, as he has done in both his playing days and coaching roles, the Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry clubman is bringing a vigour, enthusiasm and passion that should ensure the event will be an outstanding success.

For most of the players travelling – including 52 Galway natives – it is a welcome chance to return home and reunite with loved ones while for the non-Irish hurlers, of which there are many, it is a superb opportunity to visit the land of a sport they love, see the game played by the best at first hand, and sample Irish life.

Indeed, the arrival of teams like Buenos Aires in Argentina, Denver/Indianapolis, Europe Non-Irish and Barley House Wolves/Allentown (USA) provide some of the most interesting stories in the lead-up to the Festival.

For example, Barley House Wolves is backboned by American soldiers from ‘C’ Company – or Charlie Company – who fell in love with hurling on a layover in Shannon on their way to Iraq. Today, the Wolves are reigning North American Junior ‘C’ hurling champions.

In any event, for all those hurlers attending the Festival, this is a huge occasion for them. “Some of the testimonials coming through have noted that the Festival has invigorated their own championships because they are playing to get on the plane to come to Ireland,” remarks Kenny.

“A lot of them are emailing us in and saying they are so excited about it. So, it has really helped them to promote the game in these strongholds in Australia, North America and London, and also in the smaller places in Europe. I was at the European finals last month in Brussels and the interest that was there!”

Among those competing were ‘Non-Irish’ players – those from the continent who have taking up the game and learned it from scratch. “Those guys learning to play hurling now have the chance to come to Ireland to play in Pearse Stadium and watch the All-Stars playing,” says Kenny, alluding to the exhibition game that will take place involving some of Ireland’s top hurlers at Pearse Stadium on Saturday week.

“So, it has had a huge impact on players abroad and, in many respects, the Festival is probably a bigger attraction for the developing teams. The majority of those players have never been in Ireland so it is a huge trip for them. They want to get involved in coaching; they want to go and see Canning hurls; and they want to see the Cliffs of Moher. So, they are really looking forward to the experience.”

While a great deal of emphasis will be on the cultural aspect of the Festival, it is, after all, about hurling and Kenny highlights that every team that comes will have a different motive and agenda. Some will come for the coaching that is being offered; others will come to get a sense of the true meaning of hurling; and a few will come to compete . . . and compete hard.

“For the likes of St. Gabriels (London) coming over, there is no point offering them coaching assistance because they know more about the game than ourselves. However, for the likes of the developing teams, their reason for coming is a lot different,” says Kenny.

“So, there are different levels of interest. There are four or five teams coming to win the competition but, again, there are other teams coming to learn the game and experience the Irish culture, like the teams from Buenos Aires and Barley House Wolves/Allentown.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Connacht raise the roof again with magnificent late heroics

John McIntyre

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Claregalway's Dara Whelan, Conor Flaherty, Barry Callanan and Dylan Buckley with the Padraig Stephens Cup after their County U20 A Football Final victory over Salthill-Knocknacarra at Duggan Park on Saturday. Photo: Enda Noone.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THE dramatic finale at the Sportsground on Saturday ought to have made the RTE Six One News sporting headlines, but there wasn’t a mention of Connacht’s extraordinary late heroics against Gloucester which keeps the province’s hopes of reaching the European Champions Cup quarter-finals alive.

Instead, the rugby spotlight was on Munster’s away defeat to champions Saracens. Later during the sports segment on the Six One News, Connacht’s never-say-die comeback was relegated to the last match of the Champions Cup wrap up. RTE, in their wisdom, believed that Munster’s 15-6 loss and Leinster’s routing of a makeshift Northampton on the same day were somehow more meritorious.

If Leinster or Munster had achieved what Connacht did in the latest round of European pool matches, can you imagine how gushing RTE’s coverage would have been? When a Tipperary man with a strong GAA background starts taking offence over Connacht not getting the coverage they are entitled to, it does give an insight into why rugby in the West feels hard done by in terms of national acclaim.

For all that, last Saturday was another thumping experience on College Road. With their European Championship knock-out ambitions on the line, it was victory or bust for Caolin Blade and company. But when Connacht trailed by 24-13 with less than six minutes remaining, it was impossible to see how they could salvage a result.

A pragmatic Gloucester already had the four-try bonus point in the bag. They may have trailed 10-7 at the break having faced the elements, but  tries from Mark Atkinson (two) and captain Lewis Ludlow turned the game on its head. Connacht were remaining competitive but the breaks were going the way of a team they had never previously beaten.

The home fans in the crowd of 6,800 were understandably resigned to the worst. The yellow carding of Ludlow for a deliberate knock on meant Gloucester were reduced to 14 for the closing minutes, but nobody at the Sportsground thought much of it. Connacht were 11 points behind with time running out. They needed a miracle.

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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

Being backed into a corner could help to ignite the Galway hurlers

John McIntyre

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Galway full back Daithí Burke giving Wexford's Paul Morris no quarter during Sunday's Leinster hurling championship clash at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

MICHEÁL Donoghue faces the biggest challenge of his management career so far after Galway’s latest subdued display of 2019 at Pearse Stadium last Sunday. A lot of the same personnel are still there from the team’s magnificent All-Ireland triumph of two years, but the form of a number of influential players has nose-dived since last September’s championship loss to Limerick.

After a late collapse against Waterford in the National League quarter-final, Galway had some questions to answer ahead of their Leinster campaign and not withstanding their significant injury problems over the past few months, the Tribesmen’s stock has continued to decline judging by this month’s displays against both Carlow and Wexford.

Though it’s far from a full-blown crisis and we must keep a sense of perspective, there’s no point being wise after the event. On the evidence of what have seen to date this summer, Galway are dicing with an unexpected premature exit from the championship unless the squad can rediscover the hunger, intensity and quality which characterised many of their performances in 2017.

The continued absence of Joe Canning – and it is a mighty blow – can’t explain everything. Sure, Daithí Burke, Joseph Cooney, Jonathan Glynn, Adrian Tuohey and John Hanbury, an important introduction against Wexford, remain short of competitive action, but as a package, Galway should still be better than this.

Failing to find the net against either Carlow or Wexford, together with the lack of fluency and sharpness, has some local alarm bells ringing, leaving the team management with plenty to ponder on ahead of Sunday week’s big collision with Kilkenny. Lose that and Galway’s season will hang on getting a result at Parnell Park – an unforgiving venue at the best of times.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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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CITY TRIBUNE

St Thomas’ man behind the scenes typifies why club is going so strong

Stephen Glennon

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The St. Thomas' management celebrate after their county SHC final victory over Liam Mellows. Left to right: Kenneth Larkin, Claude Geoghegan, Kevin Lally and TJ Ryan.

Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon

WHAT was meant to be a few minutes of soundbite ahead of St. Thomas’ All-Ireland senior club hurling semi-final clash against Cushendall on Saturday has metamorphosed into a full-scale Talking Sport interview. Simply, because, Claude Geoghegan is an interesting guy.

For the past decade, Geoghegan has been the man behind the scenes and in his own inimitable way he has contributed just as much to St. Thomas’s success story as anybody else in Kilchreest and Peterswell. Perhaps, even more so.

As club secretary, he presided over St. Thomas’ historic county and All-Ireland club victories in the 2012/2013 season while, in the past three years, he has served as selector under managers John Burke and Kevin Lally, winning a county senior crown with each in 2016 and 2018 respectively. It is a proud record.

“I have held a few positions alright over the best part of a decade now — four or five years as secretary — and this is my third year involved now with the senior team. It is a way of life, I suppose, more than anything else,” begins the 31-year-old.

“When you are from a rural locality, it is what you are brought up with. It is what you know. If I wasn’t involved in the club in some capacity, I would feel I had a bit too much spare time on my hands. I would feel a bit odd without it, being honest.”

A history teacher at Presentation College, Athenry, Geoghegan explains his family are steeped in GAA tradition. His father Seamus hurled with the club before managing the intermediate team, as it was back then, while his older brother James has also done his duty as club secretary.

“Also, when the club amalgamated in 1968, my father was on the U14 team that won the county championship that year. We actually haven’t won the ‘A’ championship at U14 since. We have won plenty, but not that.”

Indeed, three SHC county titles in the last seven years would suggest that St. Thomas’ is a very special club but Geoghegan argues they are no different to any of the other clubs around. “Every other club is putting in the time that we are putting in. We are not special in any way in comparison to anyone else but we are incredibly fortunate to have a special group of players who have come together at one time.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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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