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Inside Track

Big sporting injustice just avoided in titanic hurling final

John McIntyre

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Inside Track with John McIntyre

IT was a game from the ages and for the life of me, I still don’t know how Clare weren’t crowned All-Ireland senior hurling champions for only the fourth time in the county’s history at Croke Park last Sunday. They did so much right and performed with such unrelenting quality and verve, and yet had to engineer a dramatic injury-time point to force a replay.

In another epic final which left the near-capacity crowd breathless, the fact that Clare had to rely on a last-gasp equaliser from raiding corner back Domhnall O’Donovan, of all players, summed up the admirable economy of a Cork team which was living off scraps for much of the final. On three or four occasions, the Rebels were in danger of being swamped by fierce Banner surges, but each time they somehow found a way to survive the crisis.

As a spectacle, Sunday’s showdown will take some beating. The atmosphere was electric even before the action got underway, but what subsequently unfolded simply had the attendance throbbing. Spectacular scoring, brilliant individual feats, a multitude of talking points and enough twists and turns to have done justice to any best-selling Agatha Christie crime thriller.

With two youthful teams setting a furious pace from the start and Clare pulling a tactical surprise by opting for an orthodox formation even if their half forwards operated deep and hardly stood still for a moment, there was drama almost from the off. Darach Honan had the opening point in the third minute and Cork never led until Pat Horgan sent over a classic score in injury time – typical of the Rebels, the inferior team for much of a great struggle for supremacy, but now on the brink of poaching an unlikely triumph.

That scenario would have represented the GAA sporting injustice of the year and though Clare must have been sickened to the guts when Horgan split the posts, they had been responding magnificently each time Cork dealt them sucker-blows and kept their composure again to manufacture O’Donovan’s superb equaliser. Loose talk of a fair result permeated all round Croke Park but, in reality, Clare were significantly the better outfit, had dominated large tracts of the match and should never have found themselves in a position where a tremendous team performance was about to go unrewarded.

It is to their immense credit, however, that Clare survived the concession of three second-half goals. Each time Cork found the net, Davy Fitzgerald’s men simply drove up the field to try and undo the damage. Their players never blinked, stayed remarkably focused and maintained a ferocious work ethic even in the most trying of circumstances. It represented a huge endorsement of the team’s character and temperament. Clare obviously have exceptional hurlers, but equally possess men of great fortitude.

Of course, you could also describe Cork in the same effusive tones. On the ropes for long periods of the final, losing most of the individual battles and with half of their forward making little or no impact, it amply reflects the quality of their finishing – the men in red only registered three wides – that they managed to earn a second chance when other teams in their predicament might have been well beaten. The Rebels don’t do panic and possess such a level of inner-belief, particularly on the big stage, that you just can never write them off.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Galway square up to Limerick a little earlier than we anticipated

John McIntyre

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Galway’s Padraic Mannion breaking away from Tipperary’s Paul Flynn during Saturday's All-Ireland hurling quarter-final at the Gaelic Grounds. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

After the initial skirmishes in the hurling championship, the widespread perception was that Limerick and Galway were the two best teams out there, leading to an anticipation that next month’s final would end being a repeat pairing of the 2018 decider.

Of course, that assumption was premised on both teams staying winning, but after Galway were caught napping by Kilkenny in the Leinster Final all bets were off. Now as it transpires Galway and Limerick will be meeting after all except it will be earlier than expected – a semi-final instead of a final.

From the outset, Galway have been burdened with the mantle of being the only team which has the capacity to stand up to Limerick physically. It’s a fair assessment when you shift through the imposing figures on the Tribesmen team, notably Daithí Burke, Joseph Cooney, Fintan Burke, Gearóid McInerney, Joe Canning and Conor Cooney.

They have several other six footers plus as well and given the vast experience in their ranks, it’s probably accurate to suggest that if Galway can’t stop Limerick no team can. But how good are Limerick? I for one don’t think they are quite as formidable as some commentators would have us believe.

If we go back to the 2018 final, remember Galway had come into that game possibly fatigued after being taken to replays by both Kilkenny and Clare. They conceded three goals from turnovers; were eight points down after 68 minutes, and were still only beaten by a point as the Shannonsiders staggered over the line.

Furthermore, they were taken out in last year’s semi-final by an average Kilkenny team – granted their average is higher than everybody else’s – which ended up losing the final by 14 points to Tipperary. More recently, they had a lot of troubled passages in their Munster Final triumph over Waterford.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Missing out on the opportunities that lay ahead will haunt Galway

John McIntyre

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Galway football manager Padraic Joyce digests their Connacht final defeat to Mayo at Pearse Stadium on Sunday with members of his backroom team, Cian Breathnach and Michael Comer. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

NOBODY needed to tell Padraic Joyce the consequences of their narrow defeat to Mayo at a near-deserted Pearse Stadium last Sunday. Losing Connacht’s showpiece match was bad enough, but the real pain was realising that the Tribesmen’s enticing pathway to a first All-Ireland final appearance in 19 years had been completely closed off.

With an All-Ireland semi-final date against either Cork or Tipperary the reward for the winners of the Connacht title, there was a lot more at stake in Salthill than provincial glory. Had Galway got the better of Mayo, they would have fancied their chances against either of those opponents. Suddenly, they would be preparing for an All-Ireland final.

And Galway are one of those teams whose tradition suggests that they would be capable of anything in that environment. Sadly, they are now denied that prospect after a muddling performance against their arch Western foes. Yes, Mayo were the better team and spurned two goal chances, but it was still a match the home team could have won.

Though some of the officiating didn’t do the hosts any favour, it was Galway’s carelessness in possession which must really haunt them. Some of their players were turned over too easily, while their decision making going forward in the opening quarter also left a lot to be desired. Nobody could question the team’s spirit or desire, but they needed to mind ball much better.

Given their injury woes, together with no competitive championship prep for the final and the recent trauma of that league trouncing by Mayo, the hosts’ preparations were far from ideal but Joyce wasn’t inclined to go down the excuses road. He was understandably more frustrated with Galway’s own inadequacies and mistakes, along with the team’s modest scoring haul of 13 points.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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

Galway hurlers must be careful but footballers have to go for it

John McIntyre

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Galway’s Rebecca Hennelly in the swing against Cork’s Laura Treacy during the All-Ireland senior camogie championship clash at Pearse Stadium on Sunday. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

BASING a team’s worth and probable fortunes on one match alone has led many astray – look at the transformation in Cork hurlers in the space of a week – which means there has to be a certain amount of caution in assessing Galway’s chances against Kilkenny in Saturday evening’s provincial decider at Croke Park.

In contrast to the Rebels, the Tribesmen really hit the ground running in their opening championship outing by dismantling Wexford in a one-sided Leinster semi-final. On the evening, Galway were a revelation in sauntering to a 13-point victory. Getting their match-ups right and performing with admirable purpose, Shane O’Neill’s squad looked close to their All-Ireland winning form of 2017.

But are Galway that good? We will certainly know a lot more after their latest tussle with the Cats who are bound to provide a far more searching test than Wexford despite their staggering second-half collapse against Dublin in the Leinster semi-final. Losing a 16-point lead is unheard off in the Brian Cody era and their defence struggled badly when ran at.

Kilkenny’s second-half woes, however, guarantee that they will be really up for the Galway match. Can you imagine the grief Cody has given the players in the interim? Remember too, when Kilkenny have a cause – like in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final against Limerick – they bring an extra manic desire to the battleground. Galway need to be braced for that.

Yet, they remain hugely dependent on the inspirational TJ Reid to weave his magic up front, but he’s not getting any younger and one wonders will Galway hand the versatile Joseph Cooney the brief of not letting the Ballyhale clubman out of his sights. Obviously, Colin Fennelly is a danger too with his direct style of running, while the Tribesmen won’t need any reminding of the damage Walter Walsh can cause if on a going day.

For more, read this week’s Connacht 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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