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Inside Track

Cats shade it at the death but Tipp looking real deal

John McIntyre

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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

Luckless Kenny needs breaks as Irish football in a bad state

John McIntyre

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Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny who is still seeking his first win after eight matches in charge.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

The past few years have been tough times for Irish football – on and off the field. The FAI, the sport’s beleaguered administrators (or should I say administrator given John Delaney’s long-time staggering grip on power) was something of a basket case as the Association stands rightfully accused of neglecting the game’s grassroots.

On the field, the Republic of Ireland have continued to suffer an unchecked decline in fortunes – highlighted by that 5-1 home humiliation against Denmark in the second leg of the World Cup play-off in November of 2017. They subsequently missed out on qualification for Euro 2020 when losing on penalties to Slovakia last October.

Ireland have plummeted down the world rankings – they are currently trailing in 42nd position, behind the likes of Algeria and Australia, with little prospect of a significant revival in the medium term. Who’d want to be their manager in such circumstances? Unfortunately, Stephen Kenny has drawn the short straw in this regard.

And because the Dubliner is a home-grown boss of the international team, he was never going to be cut the same slack as his immediate predecessors, Martin O’Neill, whose innate tactical conservatism and spikey manner did him no favours towards the end of his reign, and Mick McCarthy, whose latest managerial stint in Cyprus barely lasted a couple of months.

Delaney had conjured up a convoluted succession plan where Kenny would leave his Ireland U20 post to take over from McCarthy after the Euro qualifiers, but Covid intervened leaving Kenny to salvage the Republic’s campaign. Unfortunately, he can’t buy a break in the job and the pressure is mounting.

The coronavirus disrupted his team selection on several occasions, while injuries were no help either. The bare facts are that Kenny has been in charge of eight matches, but is still seeking his first victory. Furthermore, Ireland have only managed a solitary goal in that time which must be an all-time low.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Rugby’s modern-day brutality on show in bruising inter-pro battle

John McIntyre

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Connacht scrum half Caolin Blade leading this charge against Munster in Saturday's PRO14 encounter at the Sportsground. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

That was classic trench warfare at the Sportsground on Saturday night. In a no-holds barred physical contest, players from both Connacht and Leinster were out on their feet by the finish. With a heavy pitch contributing to extra collisions at the breakdown, this PRO14 battle was no place for the fainthearted.

Some of the hits absorbed were shuddering and several players didn’t make it to the end due to the punishment they had endured. This was not an evening for running rugby; instead, it was a raw and bruising struggle where the physicality of both teams was tested to the limit. At times, it didn’t make for edifying viewing.

Professional rugby continues to have an image problem. Bulked up players ploughing into each other is taking a toll on their overall well-being and how many individuals over the past five years have been forced to retire from the game prematurely? The current legal action by several former England and Welsh internationals over the impact of repeated concussions tells a stark story.

Ex-Irish International and TV pundit Donal Lenihan has voiced his fears over the direction rugby is going, in particular the sight of a heap of 20st-plus forwards being thrown into the fray in the final quarter of matches against fatigued opponents. He believes it’s a breeding ground for injuries – and some bad ones at that.

Take last Saturday, for instance. Connacht’s Sean O’Brien, who is just back from protracted injury problems, had to be escorted from the field in what seemed a dazed-like state. There were other players looking the worse for wear and while we all salute the bravery on show, some rugby players have become physical monsters and that is not good for the game.

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

Sporting world still upside down but there’s light at end of tunnel

John McIntyre

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John Cleary, on left, hands over the role of Portumna Golf Club Captain to his successor, Pat Quinlan.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THE optimists among us didn’t think last summer that Ireland would still be at the mercy of Covid-19 come the following spring. Some form of normality had returned last July and August as many businesses reopened and most sport resumed even if crowds were very limited.
Daily transmissions of the virus were nearly down to single figures and there were days on end when there were no recoded fatalities. Social distancing was still a way of life and hand sanitisers were everywhere, but the overall outlook was encouraging. Covid-19 was in retreat.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t turned out that way. Ireland like much of Europe and the USA is now in the grip of a third wave of the virus and we are currently in a lockdown which will at least continue until the end of January. Retail life with the exception of supermarkets is virtually extinguished, while only sport at elite level is allowed to continue.
There are lots of other restrictions which continue to turn our daily lives upside down. Depression and despair are widespread, while unemployment figures are soaring again. So many businesses have gone or will go to the wall. The days are long for many and boredom is crippling a big section of the population.
Leaving aside going to or participating in matches, look at all the other things we took for granted that we can no longer do. Restaurants and pubs are closed; so are hairdressers, cafes and fashion retailers. Swimming pools and gyms are off-limits as well, while you can only train on your own outside of elite sport.
Holidays to sun spots or the annual ski voyage are in the realms of pipedreams, while international travel is also seriously compromised. All the while, you are obliged to wear a mask indoors in any place that remain open. This is a completely foreign existence to us, but understandably governments and health authorities are not for turning.

 

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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