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Inside Track

An epic climax but Galway need to push on in replay

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Inside Track with John McIntyre

Two things happened in Tullamore on Sunday which shook the hurling world and are probably without precedent – Kilkenny losing a ten point lead in the same number of minutes and Galway defying all the neat stereotyping about them in recovering from a seemingly hopeless position to force an unlikely Leinster semi-final replay.

Of course, these two unexpected events were inter-linked as a fluctuating match which had trundled along with no great spark and little separating the teams for over 50 minutes suddenly exploded as, initially, Kilkenny surged clear with an unanswered 1-8 only to be sucker-punched by a magnificent Galway comeback which saw the team rediscover its soul just in time against all the odds.

We can never remember Kilkenny losing a ten point advantage down the home stretch or, for that matter, Galway pulling a big game out of the fire in such sensational circumstances. It made for a terrific climax in Tullamore and you’d imagine that Galway, who finished with a more potent team on the field than the one which started, will be in much better heart for the replay at the same venue on Saturday evening.

Their heroic comeback certainly goes against the grain for Galway hurling teams and when Kilkenny cut the Tribesmen defence open to establish an apparently match-winning lead of 3-20 to 2-13 after 62 minutes, the prospect of a demoralising trimming for Anthony Cunningham’s squad was on the cards. It was impossible to see a way back for them, but Galway somehow summoned a recovery from nowhere, shooting 3-3 to two points in reply over the concluding ten minutes.

It represented a major psychological achievement for Galway and they now have no excuses for not driving on from here. The team has been largely in a rut since the drawn All-Ireland final in 2012, but Sunday’s extraordinary finale will have removed that protracted hangover in one swoop. Galway found inspiration when least expected with those three late goals from Conor Cooney (2) and Joe Canning (penalty) pulling the rug from under Kilkenny’s feet in a truly unprecedented manner.

The Noresiders dressing room after the game must have been a tormented place as players and mentors struggled to take in what had just happened. Brian Cody probably blew a gasket as something like this has never happened on his long watch before. For those of us who thought Kilkenny have been declining over the past 12 months, Sunday’s late capitulation confirms it. They are still a formidable team, but the aura of invincibility is gone, while the lack of pace in their rearguard was again eventually exposed.

Obviously, they will still take beating in the replay, but the momentum is now firmly with Galway. They will have returned to training on Tuesday night with a pep in their step and should be revelling in the challenges which the teams’ second collision in a week will bring. In a nutshell, Galway have turned a potentially heavy defeat into a great opportunity to finally build on their championship exploits of two years ago.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Superb St Thomas’ take dominance of Galway club hurling to new level

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St Thomas’ Victor Manso is about to pounce on this loose ball against Dylan Shaughnessy of Loughrea during Sunday's Galway Senior Hurling Final at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

Barely five minutes after Sunday’s thrilling Galway hurling final replay at Pearse Stadium, the clouds burst open – raining more misery on a Loughrea team which had covered themselves in glory for the second week running only to discover that their best wasn’t quite good enough.

Of course, Loughrea could have won both the drawn final and replay, and there were times where St Thomas’ were hanging on for dear life, but they were unable to close the deal. They weren’t let, for starters, as the champions enhanced their reputation for getting out of tight corners in Galway.

In the days between the two matches, you’re wondering what either finalist can do differently to give them an edge; what switches might be made; or what new tactical approach might they bring to the battlefield. Mark Caulfield would hardly have featured in any of that conjecture.

He’s a big unit but inexperienced at this level. He was promoted to centre back in the continued absence of Shane Cooney and was doing enough to stay on the team. Caulfield, however, only lasted until half-time last Sunday week and you sensed he was about to make way for the fit-again county defender.

Cooney, however, jarred a hamstring in training which ended that plan. Instead, St Thomas’ turned to former Galway captain David Burke to take over at centre back. If those on the outside had got wind of that, you’d be left thinking that there would be no place for Caulfield at all.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Loughrea’s standing is enhanced as champions pushed to the wire

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St Thomas' Victor Manso and Darragh Burke tussling for possession with Johnny Coen and Brian Keary of Loughrea during Sunday's County Hurling Final at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

EVEN the might Kilkenny hurlers couldn’t manage it in 2010 which underlines how difficult the challenge was for St Thomas’ to complete their own ‘Drive for Five’ at Pearse Stadium last Sunday. Breaking new ground is never easy for the best of teams, but at least the Galway champions will have a second crack at it.

They entered the 2022 county final as heavy favourites to capture a fifth consecutive Galway title despite five of their team – it would have been six only for James Regan’s injury – having started in the club’s historic triumph of ten years ago. It was their first appearance in a final and it heralded a period of unexpected domination which has resulted in six championships in a decade.

Having won every final they have featured in up to now, St Thomas’ have it down to a fine art in taking care of business on the big days that matter. But they were shaken to the core in Salthill and, at times in a great game, you felt their time at the top was about to come to an end. Four points down with eight minutes of normal time remaining. St Thomas’ had never previously faced such a crisis in a county final.

Typically, their response spoke volumes for the team’s resilience and talent. A late goal and two points from the outstanding Éanna Burke looked to have turned the tide in their favour, and they were seconds away from celebrating a milestone achievement – only done twice before by Castlegar and Turloughmore in Galway.

It would have represented the crowning glory for the glorious club careers of the Burke brothers, David, Cathal, Darragh and Éanna – a utilised sub in 2012 – Conor Cooney and Bernard Burke, but fairytales don’t happen as often in sport as some people would like to think. St Thomas’ have to do it all over again but, on the balance play last Sunday, they should be grateful for that opportunity.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

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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

Loughrea’s return to big stage can bring freshness to county final day

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Loughrea manager, Tommy Kelly, and team captain Ian Hanrahan, Liam Brady, Branch Manager, Brooks Timber and Building supplies (sponsors), and St Thomas’ captain Conor Cooney and manager, Kenneth Burke, attending the county senior hurling media event. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THERE was a time when 10,000-plus crowds regularly descended on Galway senior hurling finals, but those days are long gone. The temptation to largely blame that scenario on the near-annual lateness in completing the campaign is obvious, and though it is a factor, there are other more pertinent issues.

The live streaming of matches – a legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic – has hit attendances at GAA club championships, and Galway is no different, but an extra complication locally has been the jaundiced view of many hurling followers, notably in the east of the county, towards travelling to Pearse Stadium for big matches.

We have lost count of the number of hurling followers who can’t stomach the thought of crawling through city centre traffic to get to Salthill. Arriving on Galway’s eastern fringes is the easy part, but then getting across to Pearse Stadium can often prove a nightmare. Parking is another issue. And, of course, there is also the view that the weather is more often than not wet and windy at the county’s premier ground.

All of this is contributing to diminishing crowds at Pearse Stadium, especially for hurling matches. A modest crowd of over 4,000 turned up for the semi-finals last Sunday week and though it was a bleak day, the lack of atmosphere and excitement was plain to see. The ironic part is that the venue is equipped with substantial seating and no shortage of catering and toilet facilities.

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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