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Inside Track

Connacht must seize the day for it may not happen again

John McIntyre

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Connacht scrum half Kieran Marmion who is set to renew rivalry with Glasgow Warriors' Finn Russell in Saturday's Guinness Pro12 semi-final at the Sportsground.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IN 131 years of competition, Connacht have never won anything; haven’t really come close to capturing silverware. Even in the old Inter-pro era of three games per season, the Westerners were generally out of their depth, making up numbers. The game trundled along in the province, rarely threatening to break free from the shackles of subservience.

Of course that didn’t stop Connacht from producing players of international class like Mick Molloy, Johnny Dooley, Ciaran Fitzgerald, Ray McLaughlin, John O’Driscoll, Noel Mannion and Eric Elwood over the years, but they never had enough of them at the same time to carry the fight to Ulster, Leinster and Munster on a consistent basis. There was the odd milestone win, but basically Connacht were perceived as also rans.

Initially, when the sport turned professional in the mid-nineties, the province’s lot remained largely unchanged. There were more games, but Connacht continued to struggle in terms of results. Their poverty on the field and, in financial terms, off it was no longer going unnoticed by the money bods in the IRFU and plans were drawn up to disband the province as a professional entity.

That proposed move sparked outrage among the rugby fraternity in the West of Ireland, leading to over a thousand of them marching on the offices of the IRFU in Dublin in January of 2003. The protest achieved its aim and sport’s governing body backed off. For years afterwards, Connacht remained the poor relation of the game in Ireland with insufficient funding and player resources, but local pride and a sense of belonging never diminished.

Gradually, Connacht began to stir as a more competitive force. Under Eric Elwood, they made genuine progress and occasional headlines – notably, that barnstorming triumph over Toulouse in the then Heineken Cup in December of 2013 – even if the win to loss ratio remained disappointing. His successor as Head Coach, Pat Lam, threw himself enthusiastically into the role; bringing fresh ideas and impetus to the Sportsground. He recruited beyond Connacht’s normal range and he led the squad to their highest ever placing of seventh in last season’s Guinness Pro12.

Still, at the start of this year’s campaign, nobody envisaged Connacht going where they are now. Unlucky not to reach the Challenge Cup semi-finals, they have been a breath of fresh air in the league, winning a remarkable 15 of their 22 matches, completing their first ever double over Munster, and only pipped at the top of the table by Leinster. The men in green have also been playing some breathtaking rugby along the way, earning rave reviews for their sense of adventure and superbly-honed offloading game.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

 

 

 

Connacht Tribune

All is not lost for footballers but Galway’s slump must end soon

John McIntyre

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VICTORY DELIGHT: Galway's Ailish O'Reilly, Niamh Hanniffy and Roisin Black celebrate their National Camogie League semi-final win over Cork at Nowlan Park last Sunday. Photo: ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

Inside Track with John McIntyre

PADRAIC Joyce must have been tearing his hair out as he watched the Galway footballers throw away their National League Division One League relegation battle against Monaghan in Clones on Sunday. No wonder he declined to face the press corps afterwards.

The outcome – a one-point extra-time defeat – was a disastrous one for a Galway team which badly needed to get a result in this pressure test ahead of the Connacht championship. Instead, the camp must be demoralised at letting such a golden opportunity slip through their fingers. It was carelessness in the extreme.

Five points ahead thanks largely to timely opening-half goals from Rob Finnerty and Paul Kelly, Galway had all the hard work done as they held a five-point advantage with only minutes remaining. A morale-boosting win seemed all but assured. Instead, the Tribesmen subsequently imploded.

For much of the match, Galway were winning the majority of the key battles but they were keeping Monaghan in the hunt through some sloppy finishing. In his hey-day as a player, Joyce would never have been so charitable, but his team lacked the necessary ruthlessness to kill off the Monaghan challenge.

There was a lot of poor decision making in front of the opposition posts as well, but Galway were in sight of preserving their Division One status only to blow it. To Monaghan’s credit, they never gave up and in substitute Jack McCarron they possessed the best finisher on the field.

Long serving players Darren Hughes and Colm McManus also came up with crucial late scores in normal time to help catch Galway and force the contest into extra time. Here again, Galway had their chances but the teams were still deadlocked when they gave away possession coming out of defence, presenting the accurate McCarron with the chance to land his fifth point from play. He didn’t miss.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Hurling we have a problem: there are too many scores in the game

John McIntyre

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Galway attacker Brian Concannon comes under pressure from Waterford’s Conor Prunty during Sunday's hurling league tie at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IT’S the summer of 2006 and a mistake-ridden Leinster hurling semi-final at Nowlan Park is unfolding. Two nervous teams chasing a big prize in a tight-marking, uninspiring battle for supremacy. In the end, Wexford somehow manage to stagger over the line despite only scoring a paltry nine points.

Imagine holding the opposition to a total score in single figures and still not winning the match. Unfortunately, I was the Offaly team manager that day and we were the ones who had to cope with that reality. Our tally only came to eight points and, in the process, a golden opportunity of victory had been spurned.

Between both teams only 17 points were registered and while that is an extreme example of when hurling was more defender friendly, what’s happening nowadays is arguably worse. There are just many scores in the game now – a scenario which reduces our appreciation of exceptional score-taking simply because they have become so frequent.

Sure, players have never been better conditioned, the sport’s stakeholders are much more tactically aware and the sliotar has become really user friendly, but spectators – If they were any! – are being turned off by this literally ‘score a minute’ phenomenon. It’s actually not unusual for three scores to be registered in just a minute.

God, I’d hate to be a defender these days with the ball whizzing all-round the place and your opponent never static. Grand, if you are a Calum Lyons or Ronan Maher who can bomb forward with impunity to fire over long-range points, but for most present-day back men, the game is nearly passing them by.

Teams have become so good at protecting possession, creating overlaps and isolating their shooters that opposition defences are left chasing shadows. An astonishing 58 scores were accumulated at Pearse Stadium last Sunday with eight players – Lyons, Dessie Hutchinson, Jack Prendergast, Joe Canning, Evan Niland, Conor Cooney, Conor Whelan and Brian Concannon all scoring at least three times from play.

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

Galway’s positive response to their Tralee trauma continues

John McIntyre

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Galway’s Peter Cooke gets his pass away against Dublin’s Sean McMahon during Sunday's National Football League encounter at Tuam Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

It’s barely three weeks since the Tralee thrashing and all the resulting criticism – much of it over the top and irrational – but Galway footballers have admirably rallied in the wake of that demoralising reversal and can now look forward to the upcoming Connacht championship with a certain sense of optimism.

Sure, nobody can disguise the reality that the Tribesmen have lost five of their last six competitive matches and are bound for a Division One league relegation battle against Monaghan, but Galway still showed a lot of promise in their weekend four-point loss to All-Ireland champions Dublin at Tuam Stadium.

The display built on their win over Roscommon the previous weekend and had Galway not bungled a great first-half goal-scoring opportunity, they would have shaken up the Dubs even more. Falling six points behind in the third quarter would really have tested the home team’s team mettle, but significantly heads never dropped.

Granted, Dublin were missing the likes of Stephen Cluxton, James McCarthy and Dean Rock, but the suggestion from a couple of pundits that they were only in ‘third gear’ in Tuam is a load of tosh. They were made to work hard for their victory with Cormac Costello, Con O’Callaghan and Ciaran Kilkenny achieving most to get them over the line.

Overall, Galway’s response to their heavy defeat against Kerry has been positive. There was no public blood-letting with management and players backing each other in their hour of need. That type of environment builds character and the manner in which they had a crack against the Dubs was heartening.

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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