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Connacht’s injury crisis worsens ahead of return leg with Newcastle Falcons

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Connacht's Matt Healy is tackled by Allister Hogg of Newcastle Falcons during Friday night's European Challenge Cup tie at the Sportsground. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

IN a tale of two Connachts, it’s the worst of times and it’s the best of times.

As of midweek, just 21 players – two less than a full match day squad of 23 – were fit and available for selection in this Sunday’s European Challenge Cup return leg in Newcastle (3pm).

And just eight of those available are backs in what is undoubtedly the province’s worst injury crisis of the Pat Lam era. That’s the bad news. But the flip of that is, against such a bleak backdrop, wasn’t Connacht’s 25-10 victory over the Falcons last Friday night in the Sportsground sweet?

Ravaged by injuries to the ‘main men’, this was a team short on experience as six Connacht Academy players featured, including starters Rory Parata, Peter Robb, Ultan Dillane, Sean O’Brien, James Connolly and substitute Shane Delahunt.

Added to that, there was a new pairing in the pivotal half-back positions with scrum-half Caolin Blade partnering fly-half Jack Carty; and Robb and Parata combining in the centre for the first time.

Then there was the match-day disruption with captain Tiernan O’Halloran a late injury withdrawal meaning winger Matt Healy, who is now becoming a ‘Jack of all trades’, switching to the unfamiliar position of full-back. Then there were more injuries in the game – centre Dave McSharry was desperately unlucky to get concussed on his first appearance on returning from injury – and a sin-binning.

And still Connacht prevailed by 15 points, with Carty, in particular, confounding critics with a man-of-the-match performance that included six penalties and a conversion.

“It’s just the way this team is,” declared Lam. “That’s why I was so pleased after the game. Potentially it could have been a disaster for us. But it’s in line with a lot of things that have happened this year.”

Lam praised the young guns who stepped up on Friday and who will be asked to do so again.  “They are Academy by name. But I think the biggest thing is that they’ve been integrated well into the group and are very much part of the group.

“Most importantly, they have no fear because fear always comes from uncertainty or isolation. But they have real certainty about what the plan is because a lot of work by the coaches is being put into them. And then with the other senior players, certainly they are not isolated, they know the way we operate is as a team. They go out knowing ‘it’s not just me against this team, it’s me and my teammates’.”

Despite the injury gloom, including another set-back for Denis Buckley, who underwent ankle surgery Wednesday and will be out for two additional months, there are positives with Craig Ronaldson, Andrew Browne and Eoghan Masterson returning while Georgian-born Academy Saba Meunargia has been registered to play in the cup.

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

Connacht Tribune

Galway’s early season cheer thanks to FBD Final success

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Galway’s Matthew Tierney and Tony Gill leading this attack against Roscommon’s Aengus Lyons during Friday's FBD League Final in the Connacht Air Dome. Photos: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Galway 1-18

Roscomon 1-16

John McIntyre in Bekan

ONLY the second Friday in January and Galway footballers already have some silverware on the sideboard. How’s that for hitting the ground running in 2022.

Mind you, there were enough flaws in Galway’s erratic display in the Connacht FBD League Final to ensure everybody in the Tribesmen’s camp will be keeping a sense of perspective after the county’s tenth triumph in the competition.

Between a lethargic start and nervous finish, Galway made life difficult for themselves on their second visit to the new Connacht Air Dome in the space of a week. In the long run, it’s probably better anyway that they are not burning it up so early in the season.

Though Roscommon were short nearly two thirds of their regular team – largely due to the club commitments of the Pearses and St Faithleach’s contingents – they were significantly the sharper outfit in the first half and were unlucky to lead by only 0-10 to 1-6 at the interval.

That 23rd minute goal was badly needed by Galway and, typical of modern-day football when players are liable to pop up anywhere, it wasn’t the greatest surprise to see Patrick’s Kelly’s lofted pass across the square finished to the net by full back Seán Fitzgerald.

Playing only his second game at this level, the young Barna defender displayed a positive temperament in venturing so far up field as he was having some early difficulties on Donie Smith in front of the Galway posts.

It was symbolic of the winners’ initial defensive troubles. Conor Cox was an even bigger handful in the Roscommon inside line as he rattled over three points inside the opening four minutes after the accurate Rob Finnerty had got Galway off their mark in their first attack of the final.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Clarinbridge underline status as local hurling’s rising force

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Clarinbridge's Gavin Lee is chased by Kevin Grennan of Castlegar during Saturday's County U20 A hurling final at Duggan Park. Photos: Joe Keane.

Clarinbridge 0-20

Castlegar 0-14

Ivan Smyth at Duggan Park

CLARINBRIDGE’S dominance at underage level continues as they claimed the U20 A hurling title when overcoming a slow starting Castlegar outfit at Duggan Park on Saturday.

Gavin Lee fired over 12 points as he produced a Man of the Match display. His brother David chipped in with four scores, all from play, as Clarinbridge withstood their opponent’s best attempts at a comeback.

In what is the first year that the reduced age grade came into effect, it felt fitting that Clarinbridge were the side to claim the county title as they look set to become the next big force in Galway hurling.

The South Galway club claimed the Minor A crown last November when beating Oranmore-Maree on penalties. This gave them their fifth title at this age grade in seven years. This is their second title in four years at the U21/U20 grade. Add in the fact that, last October ,they became only the third Galway club to win the Féile Division One Hurling title and it is clear to see that the ‘Bridge are in a healthy position talent wise.

Clarinbridge led this game by 0-11 to no score after 26 minutes and although Castlegar managed to fire over seven points without reply either side of half time, they never managed to get within one score of their opponents.

When Castlegar look back on this final, their wastefulness in the opening half will be a source of frustration. They missed their first nine shots on goal with six wides and three dropping short. Over the course of the game, they created more scoring opportunities (29 to 28), but their shooting woes in the opening half meant they were always chasing the game.

Both sides looked nervous in the early exchanges, struggling to find the target. Despite a Gavin Lee free in the first minute, Clarinbridge found it tough to make their early dominance count as they struck four wides in the opening 10 minutes.

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 cut a sorry sight in Parnell Park horror show

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Galway goalkeeper Eanna Murphy who saved his team from an even heavier defeat against Dublin's in Sunday's one-sided Walsh Cup encounter at Parnell Park.

Dublin 3-29

Galway 0-19

John McIntyre at Parnell Park

IT’S only the middle of January and this was just a tournament fixture, but Sunday’s Walsh Cup encounter at Parnell Park proved a sobering experience for new Galway hurling manager Henry Shefflin.

After watching his charges fall to a crushing 19-point defeat against Dublin, Shefflin got an early insight into the scale of the challenge facing him in trying to make Galway serious championship challengers in 2022.

Their somewhat callow selection proved only cannon-fodder for a rampaging Dublin outfit whose superiority at times was embarrassing. In terms of physical power, craft, teamwork and working to a game plan, Mattie Kenny’s team was operating at a different level.

It proved a field day for Dónal Burke in particular. He ran amok in the Dublin half-forward line, scoring 18 points in total, including eight glorious efforts from play. Galway had no answer to him.

Dublin only scored one goal in the opening half, but they created a half-dozen clear-cut chances. Goalkeeper Eanna Murphy came to Galway’s rescue twice, some desperate defending denied Dublin a couple more, while Colin Currie missed a sitter when hitting the side-netting from point-blank range.

Unprepared for the intensity Dublin brought to the battle, Galway were quickly at sixes and sevens. Their defence was repeatedly cut to ribbons; midfield was under pressure; while their attack could make little headway against ravenous and sharp opponents.

It all made for unedifying viewing for Galway fans in the crowd of over 2,000. They trailed 1-16 to 0-8 at the break and despite a host of changes in personnel – including the introduction of the Mannion brothers, Padraic and Cathal – and positional changes, the trend of the game never altered.

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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