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Inside Track

Connacht would have better opportunity in the Amlin Cup

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Inside Track with John McIntyre

ON the surface, virtually everything is falling into place for Connacht rugby next season. With new Head Coach Pat Lam already in situ at the Sportsgrounds, former New Zealand U20 captain Jake Heenan winging his way West and a third consecutive Heineken Cup campaign looming, the province’s flagship team is unrecognisable in almost every positive sense compared to just a decade ago.

With vastly improved facilities at the College Road venue, season ticket sales surging, a continuing enhanced profile and increased competitiveness on the playing field, the Connacht brand is now well established and they are undoubtedly the ‘in team’ when it comes to attracting support on the terraces in Galway. To be honest, I never thought we’d see the day when people wearing Connacht jerseys would be a familiar sight around town, particularly in the lead up to match days.

The night-time action at the Sportsground, during the winter months especially, provides a compelling atmosphere and local heroes like John Muldoon, Tiernan O’Halloran, Eoin Griffin and Robbie Henshaw have developed a passionate following similar to that of Joe Canning with the Galway hurlers. Connacht have admirably worked hard, on and off the field, from humble beginnings to establish themselves as a force in the professional era.

With what at times still appears begrudging and qualified financial support from the IRFU, Connacht have made such significant strides against the odds that the team has really cornered the city sporting fan base, a scenario which will make it even more difficult for any version of the proposed new Galway United soccer outfit to attract decent crowds to Deacy Park if, and when, the club finally gets back into the League of Ireland

With one of the three French rugby giants, new Heineken Cup champions, Toulon, Clermont or Toulouse, bound for Galway next season in Europe’s premier club competition, the hype about Connacht is going to be at least maintained in the short to medium term. The sport has never been more popular locally as underlined by the sight of seemingly hundreds of juveniles going through their paces at Corinthian Park and in Galwegians on Saturday mornings.

Furthermore, in another endorsement of what is happening at the Sportsground, scrum half Kieran Marmion and full back Henshaw have been recently called up to the Irish squad for the summer tour of the USA and Canada, while Eoin McKeon, Griffin and O’Halloran have been included in the Emerging Ireland squad which will compete in the upcoming Tbilisi Cup in Georgia. Ireland’s international coaches can no longer be accused of ignoring emerging talent in the West.

The departure of indigenous heroes, Eric Elwood and Johnny O’Connor, may rob Connacht of two of its greatest ever servants and most familiar faces going forward, but CEO Tom Sears and his staff have already kicked on. Lam has a strong and experienced coaching pedigree and the Kiwi’s arrival is bound to give the existing squad of players a fresh impetus. He will bring his own tactical style and the fact that individuals will have to prove their worth to Lam should ensure some vigorous performances during the early part of the new Head Coach’s tenure.

But there is a rider to all of this positive commentary – Connacht will again be playing in the wrong European competition. Sure, all the glamour is associated with the Heineken Cup, the capacity of the Sportsground will be tested next season and the players would naturally want to be participating against Europe’s top teams but, on all known form, they haven’t a prayer of reaching the knock-out stages.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Brolly goes too far in his mocking of Mayo after latest final reversal

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Cortoon Shamrocks' David Warde is challenged by Eoin Finnerty of St James’ during Saturday's senior football championship clash at Kenny Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy

Inside Track with John McIntyre

KICKING a player and his team when they are at their lowest ebb is at its best insensitive and, at its worst, offensive. Sunday independent columnist Joe Brolly has never been a great fan of Mayo footballers or Aidan O’Shea and he again lowered the blade in the wake of the county’s latest All-Ireland final defeat.

We are all guilty of trying to justify our opinions and attitudes, but there is a time and place for everything. Brolly, an All-Ireland medal winner with Derry in 1993, perceives Mayo as serial losers and has never been slow to twist the knife when they continue to come up short on the days it most counts.

Given that the county has lost 11 All-Ireland finals plus two replays since last triumphant in 1951, Brolly has no shortage of hard evidence for backing up his claim that countless Mayo teams didn’t possess a sufficient hard edge to get the job done. The longer the title famine goes on, the more Mayo are open to accusations of lacking the bottle to get over the line.

Brolly’s withering assessment of Mayo’s disappointing loss to Tyrone last Saturday week leaves no one in any doubt about the disdain he holds for them. “Mayo is full of cliques and favourites as culture will not change under Horan who made Tyrone’s job easy.

“Time wasters. A lot of other counties would give their right arms to be here. The people of Mayo put their heart and soul into their team. And this is what they get? A manager on the sideline making choices based on political considerations. A protected captain who does not lead and never will.”

The former Sunday Game pundit didn’t hold back and probably feels his continuous personalised put downs of Mayo are justified given that they have yet to crack the All-Ireland code. Brolly, however, has gone too far this time, overstepping the mark of fair comment.

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 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.

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

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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