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Connacht’s resources stretched to the limit for visit of in-form Munster

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IT may be the clash of the reigning Pro12 champions against the current league leaders when Connacht host Munster at the Sportsground (5:30pm) on New Year’s Eve but, as it stands, the home side’s match-day squad will cut a pale shadow of that which claimed the Pro12 trophy back in May.

Already in the throes of an injury crisis, Connacht’s plight has deepened further following injuries to influential quartet Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, John Muldoon and Danie Poolman in their 23-7 defeat to Ulster last Friday.

The latest injuries swell Connacht’s casualty list up to an astonishing 22 and, not surprisingly, has left them scrambling to secure cover for a number of positions ahead of their clash against Munster.

Bealham and Poolman (both head injuries), along with Dillane (ankle) and Muldoon (thigh), are being closely monitored this week and Lam had not given up hope that some of these players would play some part on Saturday.

Of Connacht’s 22 players receiving treatment, there are a number due back in training this week but Saturday’s fixture may just come too soon for them. These include Jake Heenan, Eoghan Masterson, Shane O’Leary, Peter Robb, Stacey Ili, Cian Kelleher and Josh Rowland.

Unfortunately, it will be well into the New Year before the likes of props Ronan Loughney (knee) and Conor Carey (foot), lock Andrew Browne (ankle), out-half Marnitz Boshoff (shoulder), centres Craig Ronaldson (thigh), Bundee Aki (ankle) and Eoin Griffin (chest muscle) and versatile back Darragh Leader (hand) will see action.

While a Champions Cup victory over Wasps a fortnight ago seemed to suggest that Connacht might finally have broken the back of their current crisis, the loss, in particular, of Aki to an ankle injury that required surgery last week was notably telling against Ulster.

It meant Lam was forced to juggle his resources once again, with Danie Poolman having to play at inside centre for the first time and, when he got injured, full-back Tiernan O’Halloran subsequently being deployed in that role – also for the first time.

Although Lam commended both on the job they did, he admitted Connacht had struggled without their first choice centres against Ulster. “There is no doubt if Bundee Aki was playing at 13 and Craig Ronaldson at 12 – and this is nothing against Danie or Rory (Parata) – they are learning as they go along – the tries Ulster got would never have been scored. It changes the whole game,” he stated.

In addition to defence, Lam said they also lost something going forward but, again, he said the challenge in filling these positions was akin to asking someone on the street to do a job that they had never done before.

Full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune

CITY TRIBUNE

City sides will fancy chances of advancing as champions face Corofin

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Bearna's James Kennedy hits the deck in Ballinasloe on Tuesday as Annaghdown's Frankie Burke and Darragh Meehan try to chase down possession. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

The battle for this year’s county Senior Gaelic football club title looks to be wide open after the quarter-final draw was made this week following the delayed conclusion of the group stages on Tuesday night.

Salthill/Knocknacarra, who finished second in group 2, have been handed a last eight tie with a Tuam Stars side that finished third in group 1; while St Michael’s, who topped Group 3, will face an Annaghdown side that nabbed the final quarter-final spot in dramatic fashion on Tuesday night.

They went into their game with Bearna knowing they needed to win by a minimum of 12points to pip Milltown to the final qualifying spot as the second best of the teams that finished third in the group stages.

They looked to be coming up just short until they were awarded a late free, which goalkeeper James Healy converted, to snatch that remaining quarter-final slot on socring difference form Milltown.

The 2020 champions, Moycullen, will take on Claregalway in the last eight; while the pick of the ties is undoubtedly the clash of defending champions, Mountbellew/Moylough, with a Corofin side that was denied the five-in-a-row by Moycullen two years ago.

At the other end of the equation, St James’ are in a relegation battle, and face a clash with An Spidéal in the preliminary play-offs. A win will secure their senior status for another year, but a defeat will see them join Oughterard, An Cheathru Rua, and the losers of the other preliminary play-off between Caherlistrane and Monivea/Abbey in a round robin league, with the bottom two sides in those play-offs dropping to the intermediate ranks next year.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Play-offs dress rehearsal facing Utd against Treaty

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Former Galway United player Enda Curran celebrates his recent hat-trick for Treaty United in their FAI Cup quarter-final win over UCD. The in-form Mervue native will be facing the Tribesmen in a First Division clash on Friday.

GALWAY United head to Limerick this Friday evening for what is looking like a dress rehearsal for the end-of-season play-offs as they take on Treaty United in the Markets Field (7.45pm).

This is United’s game-in-hand over league leaders, Cork City, and a win will see them close the gap on the Leesiders to four points with three games remaining, and while a win would give the slightest of hopes of a late challenge for league honours, it is more likely to serve as a further boost to confidence ahead of the protracted play-off series that kicks-off at the end of next month.

United need to win their final four games to have any hope of snatching the title, and given the goal difference between the sides, they also need to hope that City don’t pick up more than four points from their last three games, if they are to finish top of the pile.

United’s last three games after this weekend are at home to Athlone, away to Wexford, and home to Longford Town; while City are home to Wexford, away to Athlone, and home to Bray, the easier of the two run-ins, so for United it is all about building momentum ahead of the play-offs.

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.

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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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CITY TRIBUNE

Late points from Burke and Wall grab draw for Corofin

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Tuam Stars' Paul Collins tries to halt Ronan Steede of Corofin in his tracks during Sunday's Senior Football Group 1 encounter at Tuam Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Corofin 0-16

Tuam Stars 0-16

Eanna O’Reilly at Tuam Stadium

A late point from Corofin’s Ian Burke denied Tuam Stars a notable win over their close neighbours in an entertaining contest at Tuam Stadium on Sunday afternoon. In a closely fought contest, the Stars appeared to have done enough with two late points from Brian Mannion putting them ahead by 0-16 to 0-14 in the dying minutes of the second half.

In typically composed fashion however, Corofin refused to panic and used all of their experience to engineer two late scores, the first from Dylan Wall, before Burke held his nerve to convert a mark to give Corofin a share of the spoils.

The result means that both sides qualified for the quarter finals, after both finished the group stages with eight points. Corofin were drawn against defending champions Mountbellew/Moylough in a mouth-watering tie, while Tuam Stars will face Salthill/Knocknacara in another intriguing clash.

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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