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Connacht must use disappointment of defeats last season as motivation

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Connacht's Danie Poolman in action against the Dragons in the first game of the season. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Connacht returns to league action at home this weekend against Cardiff Blues following a three-week break since round 2.

The hype and excitement surrounding the ongoing World Cup in England and Wales should pique enough interest in the game of rugby locally to attract a few new faces in the crowd to the Sportsground this Saturday (kick-off, 5pm).

Connacht centre Robbie Henshaw has dominated the headlines this week with speculation about ‘will he, won’t he’ start this Sunday against Italy for Ireland’s crucial pool game.

He is the only player in head coach Joe Schmidt’s squad who has yet to taste World Cup action but that seems certain to change this weekend as the Athlone star trained fully on Tuesday.

Henshaw’s hamstring strain has cleared up and his is fighting fit and expected to be named at centre alongside Jared Payne. But back home in Galway, Connacht has a mini-crisis at centre in his absence.

With new signing Aiprana Pewhairangi still on the long-term injury list, Pat Lam also has to deal with fresh injuries to centres Dave McSharry and Shane O’Leary.

McSharry had surgery on Tuesday on a finger he broke while playing for UCD against Young Munster in the AIL on Saturday. It puts him out for about two months.

O’Leary, who slotted in at centre coming on as a substitute against Glasgow, is also ruled out with concussion sustained playing for Galwegians.

With those four centres unavailable, Pat Lam’s likely midfield will again be Bundee Aki and Australian-born Academy player, Rory Parata. This pairing has gelled reasonably well in the first two league games of the season, and the management will be hoping for no more injuries in this department.

Conor Finn may provide cover and Danie Poolman, more suited to the wing, is also more than capable of filling in at centre.

There was better news in the backs’ division with full-back Darragh Leader and winger Niyi Adeolokun returning to full training. Both are available this week, as is Eoin McKeon, who has been sidelined with a knee injury picked up against Dragons the first day out.

But it’s swings and roundabouts in the back-row because, although McKeon is fit, Eoghan Masterson has been ruled out with a hamstring strain. The team will be announced at noon on Friday.

Connacht already has six points in the bag from two games, and sit fourth in the league table. They will be targeting October as a month in which they can continue to climb up the table.

Of the four league games they have this month, three of them are at home and eminently winnable.

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

CITY TRIBUNE

Frustration for Galway as league victory left behind

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Galway’s John Daly breaking clear of Mayo’s Ryan O’Donoghue during Saturday's National Football League clash at MacHale Park. Photos: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Mayo 1-11

Galway 2-8

Pádraic Ó Ciardha aqt MacHale Park

IT will have been a frustrating journey home from Castlebar for Pádraic Joyce last Saturday night after Ryan O’Donoghue’s last-gasp point saw his side throw away an opening round victory against Mayo. It won’t just have been one thing annoying the Galway manager either.

First of all, Galway had let slip a precious away win in Division 1, and against Mayo of all sides. Secondly, it was a piece of sloppy Galway play which allowed O’Donoghue the opportunity to snatch the draw. You then had the manager’s frustrations with referee Joe McQuillan after a few questionable calls and, to compound matters, the sight of Rob Finnerty hopping onto the bus with a protective boot and crutches.

Now nearly a week later, it will probably be only the last of those issues that will be causing Joyce any concern. While Finnerty’s injury will be a big setback for Galway, there were plenty of positives to take from the Tribesmens’ performance in MacHale Park.

The final score and some instances of sloppy play certainly gave the hint that this was January football but there were also more than a few signs of play which saw Galway reach last year’s All-Ireland final.

Having named such a strong team, ten of those who started against Kerry in Croke Park lined out in Castlebar, it would have been cause for concern if Galway had looked miles off the pace but that wasn’t the case. Cillian McDaid, John Daly and Damien Comer, All-Star winners in 2022, continued their fine form in the maroon jersey with the likes of Paul Conroy and Seán Kelly showing why they were unlucky to miss out on those awards.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Cup winners UG Maree rally to take derby clash

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Maigh Cuilinn's James Connaire stretches to try and block the shot of UG Maree's Cathal Finn. Photo: Ed Shiel.

Maigh Cuilinn 65

UG Maree 77

MAIGH Cuilinn’s season-long failures on offence came back to haunt them once again on Saturday as their hopes of pulling off an ambush against the newly-crowned cup champions crumbled in the final 15 minutes.

Having shown the class to give their local rivals a guard of honour onto the court at the call-outs before the game – and make a presentation to the visitors at half-time to mark their cup success – John Cunningham’s side then overcame a slow start to put themselves in position for just a third win of the season, only to be outscored 30-15 down the stretch.

A hot hand from cup MVP Jarrett Haines had UG Maree 9-2 up early in the game, Haines hitting all but one of those points, but Maigh Cuilinn managed to reel back that deficit, and a 3-pointer from Joe Tummon at the end of the quarter had them trailing 16-15 at the first break.

The had got their noses in front by half-time, with Grant Olsson’s physicality causing UG Maree all kinds of trouble inside on his way to eight points, with the basement side full value for their 38-34 lead at half-time; and when Maigh Cuilinn opened the third quarter with back-to-back 3s from Mateo Dargam and James Connaire to stretch 10 clear, UG Maree looked in     trouble.

Kyle Cunningham threw in another bucket from outside the arc, and Maigh Cuilinn were 50-38 to the good at the mid-way point as the table-toppers struggled for a way back into the game, but they kept their composure and slowly clawed their way back into the game.

Cathal Finn had a massive second-half for Maree, hitting 10 points and doing a brilliant job on Olsson in defence, restricting the American to a single basket in the entire second-half. With that pipeline of scores shut-off to them, Maigh Cuilinn faltered, and a 17-4 run had Maree a point ahead, 55-54, at the end of the quarter.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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CITY TRIBUNE

Gavin named in Irish side to take on Wales in U-20 Six Nations

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Hugh Gavin in action last month in Donnybrook for the Ireland U-20 in a friendly against Leinster Development. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile.

By Ciarán Ó Flaithearta

The 2023 Six Nations gets underway this weekend in what is also a World Cup year, so there will be plenty of focus tomorrow and Sunday on the Millennium Stadium, Twickenham, and the Stadio Olimpico.

The weekend action gets underway this evening, however, when the U-20 Six Nations campaign gets underway, and the Irish squad named for the game sees two Connacht players in the starting XV, and another two on the bench.

John Devine of Corinthians has been named as inside centre, while Hugh Gavin of Galwegians has been named on the wing. Fiachna Barrett (Corinthians) and Harry West (Buccaneers) have both been named on the bench.

The 19-year-old Salthill native began playing rugby in Crowley Park at the age of six and from there on his love for the sport grew. He played the age group above his own for the first couple of years under coaches Mickey Sherlock, Gerry Lowry, and Gary Gilanders along with his father and former club captain, Barry Gavin, whom he credits for his success and that of his teammates.

“That coaching panel was really good for the club with so many of us going up and playing with the seniors and even playing provincial, it’s a real credit to the coaches.”

Gavin impressed at the underage level, earning himself a spot in the Connacht development squads before going to the next step representing the province in the U-17 squad when they played against Munster.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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