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Inside Track

Cats shade it at the death but Tipp looking real deal

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Inside Track with John McIntyre

WHEN Kilkenny were removed from last year’s championship by the Rebels – very prematurely by their standards – the logical conclusion was that the Cats were a force in serious decline.

Having already lost a replay to Dublin in the provincial title race and completing their campaign without even playing in Croke Park, it was undoubtedly the county’s worst summer under Brian Cody.

That day against Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-final in Thurles, Kilkenny looked a battle weary outfit even if the dismissal of Henry Shefflin on a second yellow card conspired heavily against them. Earlier in the year, Cody had to take a backseat from team preparations due to health issues, leading to intense speculation last autumn that he would step down as Kilkenny boss after occupying  the role since 1999.

The future of long serving players such as Shefflin, JJ Delaney, Jackie Tyrell, Brian Hogan, Eoin Larkin, Aidan Fogarty and Tommy Walsh was also a source of debate, especially as new champions Clare were all about pace and movement. There must have been some private agonising about the wisdom of continuing on but, like their manager, they have all returned for at least one more campaign. A stubborn bunch these Kilkenny fellas!

Of course, we have long known that this Kilkenny team doesn’t conspire to normal standards. Nine All-Ireland titles in 13 years, including a notable four-in-a row, it’s understandable why Cody and Shefflin in particular aren’t letting go when in sight of a record-breaking ten championship triumphs. It’s admittedly a tantalising prospect and a once in a lifetime opportunity to push the boundaries of hurling achievement to a scarcely believable level.

It can be done too as Kilkenny have regrouped rapidly from last year’s championship woes judging by their third consecutive National League success in Thurles last Sunday. Against bitter rivals Tipperary, they achieved an unlikely extra time win despite the home county doing most of the enterprising hurling and possessing the more influential individuals. It was a victory somewhat achieved against the head, but that’s what Kilkenny do – they are hard to put away and know how to win.

If you were told beforehand that of their six starting forwards, Shefflin, Mark Kelly, and TJ Reid would fail to score from play in normal time and that another two, Colin Fennelly, a disputed effort, and Richie Power, would only raise a solitary white flag each, you’d find it difficult to credit that it was Tipperary who were forced to pull all the stops to force extra time. For large tracts of the match, Kilkenny were struggling to keep tabs on Eamon O’Shea’s men but, typically, they managed to hang in there.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Galway show guts of champions in a terrific camogie final triumph

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Galway players Aoife Donohue and Siobhan Gardiner with young fan Aine Rohan from Beagh after defeating Cork in Sunday's All-Ireland senior camogie final at Croke Park. Photo: INPHO Evan Treacy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THEY are a credit to the county. All the tributes flowing the way of the Galway camogie team this week are richly deserved after their storming finish floored the Rebels at Croke Park on Sunday. It was defiance of the highest order.

Team managers regularly demand of their players in all sports to be ‘carried out on your shield’, but it rarely happens. Too much tension; too much at stake; too much pressure. Well, these remarkable Tribeswomen were in no mood for compromise even when defeat was staring them in the face.

In my near 41-years in the Tribune, it’s doubtful if I have ever seen a Galway team in an All-Ireland final find such reserves of character and sheer heart when the gun was put to their heads. All day, they had hunted in packs but still found themselves three points down with ten minutes remaining in a thrilling showdown.

What more had they left to give? They had thrown everything at Cork from the off and still couldn’t protect their early established lead. It would have been easy to falter physically and mentally, but from somewhere Galway found the necessary resolve to carry the day.

It made for compelling viewing. Cathal Murray’s team were just not prepared to surrender. Instead, they were the ones who exhibited the qualities of champions in pulling the All-Ireland out of the fire. Cork, the most successful county in the history of the sport, was the team to flinch.

Galway’s triumph – their fourth All-Ireland ever – must rank as their greatest of them all. It wasn’t just the fact that it came after a terrific spectacle, but also in the manner of their victory. They had come to GAA headquarters to win and there was no turning back.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Even the laws of averages are on Mayo’s side against Tyrone

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Mayo's Tommy Conroy celebrates after landing a crucial point in their All-Ireland semi-final victory over champions Dublin at Croke Park last month.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

WHEN Mayo suffered their latest All-Ireland football final heartache in December of last year, most of us thought that was the end of them. They had put up a spirited first half display against Dublin, but the champions upped the ante on the resumption in going on to achieve a record breaking sixth championship triumph on the trot.

Gallant as ever, Mayo were left to grieve over a demoralising 12th consecutive All-Ireland final defeat, including the replays of 1996 and 2016, since they last took the Sam Maguire Cup home in 1951. Despite some changing of the guard, they had come up short again on the sport’s biggest occasion. It was little consolation to them that the greatest football force in the history of Gaelic football continued to pile on the misery.

After that defeat, great servants like David Clarke and Keith Higgins departed the scene. Donal Vaughan, Seamus O’Shea, Andy Moran and Tom Parsons were gone too. So close to scaling the summit on so much many occasions, they had given everything for the Mayo cause, but the passage of time had caught up with them.

Unlike previous big clashes against Dublin, there was little drama in Croke Park last December. Mayo again gave an honourable account of themselves, but Ciaran Kilkenny and company knew that they had the title in safe keeping with ten minutes to go. The fact the final was played behind closed doors might have been a blessing in disguise – after all, Mayo fans have suffered enough despair.

Of course, springtime generally brings fresh hope, and one thing Mayo footballers have never lacked for is resilience. Yet when Cillian O’Connor suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury against Clare in a league match in Ennis, the omens looked particularly grim for the championship. Sure, James Horan was building a relatively new team, but they could ill afford to be without their ace marksman.

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

Tenacious Tyrone tear up script in flooring hyped-up Kerry outfit

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Galway's Niamh Kilkenny is chased by Tipperary's Karen Kennedy during Sunday's All-Ireland camogie semi-final at Croke Park. Photo: INPHO/James Crombie.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

ALL summer we were being primed for an All-Ireland football final between the sport’s dominant forces. The prospect of Kerry trying to halt Dublin’s quest for a record-breaking seventh consecutive championship triumph took on a life of its own over the past few months with the chances of every other title contender hardly meriting a second look.

Even though Dublin laboured through Leinster and Kerry were involved in a three turkey shoots in Munster, few digressed from the general assumption that Dessie Farrell and Peter Keane would be patrolling the sideline on All-Ireland Final Day in 2001. After all, Donegal’s progress had stalled in Ulster, while the nearly team of Mayo were in transition.

Furthermore, the odds of a bolter from the pack appeared remote. Monaghan, for all their resilience, continue to fall short in the key matches; Tyrone had been hit for six goals by Kerry in a Division One league semi-final in Killarney as recently as June; while Galway were struggling to build any momentum and, into the bargain, suffered league demotion to Division Two.

Against that background, the script for the latest anticipated showdown between Kerry and Dublin looked solid, but lo and behold we are instead facing into an All-Ireland final without either of the big two for the first time in nine years. The occasion will be all the better for it too as Mayo and Tyrone will take centre stage at Croke Park on Saturday week.

Ahead of the weekend’s second semi-final, Mayo had already brought Dublin’s six-year championship winning run to an end after extra-time. That result alone ought to have put Kerry on their guard but after Covid ripped through the Tyrone camp and forced a postponement of their semi-final battle for a fortnight, the assumption was that the Ulster champions would be drained of their normal reserves of energy.

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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