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Inside Track

Footballers must get bitter for big test against Mayo

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THERE was no hope a month ago, but there is some hope now – and, ironically, the change of mood among the local football fraternity has nothing to do with the Galway senior team itself. Instead, the shift in morale is the direct product of the county U21’s great deeds over the past few weeks when they made a mockery of pre-match opinion in overcoming the formidable challenges posed by both Kildare and Cork in do or die championship collisions.

Galway’s rising stars were a breath of fresh air; showing scant regard for the reputations of supposedly better equipped opposition on their way to All-Ireland glory. Apart from the team’s natural footballing expertise, they were willing to lay their bodies on the line to get the job done. Talent alone is rarely enough to achieve championship glory, but the young Tribesmen backed it up with a tremendous work ethic which proved too much of a combination for Sligo, Mayo, Roscommon, Kildare and Cork in turn.

Only four of that successful squad, team captain Fintán Ó Curraoin, Tomas Flynn, Shane Walsh and goalkeeper Thomas Healy are involved with the Galway seniors, but the feel-good factor around the county’s footballing heartlands ahead of Sunday’s big Connacht championship showdown at Pearse Stadium shouldn’t be under-estimated. Title holders Mayo are understandably strong favourites, reached last year’s All-Ireland final and have a largely settled line up, but it’s still difficult to entirely trust them.

They suffered an honourable defeat (2-16 to 0-16) to Dublin in the recent National League semi-final and have plenty of experienced performers in the likes of goalkeeper David Clarke, the O’Shea brothers, Donal Vaughan, Kevin McLoughlin, Cillian O’Connor, Alan Dillon, poised to return after several months out with a groin injury, but the Connacht semi-final is likely to come too soon for Andy Moran and his absence would leave them somewhat more predictable in front of the opposition posts.

Undoubtedly, a Mayo outfit which is chasing a third consecutive provincial title represents a major obstacle for Galway to overcome on recent form alone, particularly as the home team continue to have well chronicled problems in bringing some stability to its central spine. The midfield sector largely remains a disaster zone and Galway’s chronic inability to secure primary possession is proving a killer at this level.

Nobody can accuse Alan Mulholland and his management team of not scanning through enough options during the Division Two league campaign, but some square pegs didn’t fit into round holes, leaving a lot of uncertainty around about what will be the formation of the Galway line up. Juggling around the same players hasn’t been serving the Tribesmen well of late and will hardly do so on Sunday either. The team also needs to stop playing in fits and starts.

The Galway players, at this stage, must be fed up of having their bottle and resilience repeatedly questioned. They are also regularly told that their confidence must be brittle and that they tend to go hiding when the going gets tough. That level of negative commentary makes it a difficult environment for players in which to progress, but it’s about time that the squad finally stood up inside the four white lines to defend their own reputations.

I have seen this group of Galway footballers train in the past and there is no shortage of commitment or ambition among them. They are proud young men too who respect the county’s tradition and the responsibility it places on their shoulders. What Michael Meehan, for instance, has gone through to be even playing at this level is nothing short of extraordinary. He has bucked medical opinion that his badly damaged ankle would end his football career prematurely and has slavishly worked to overcome an injury which must be, privately, soul-destroying.

Now don’t tell me that Meehan doesn’t care about Galway’s standing in Gaelic football. All it would take is one big win in a knock out match to change the overall dynamic, but for that to happen Galway are going to have to empty the energy locker, be prepared to be hurt for the maroon jersey on Sunday, and draw some inspiration from the deeds of the county U21s. Get angry and bitter, too, lads and, in the process, you might give the critics an overdue stuffing.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

When it’s all said and done there was no show like the Joe show!

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Joe Canning with the Liam McCarthy Cup and his nephew Jack Canning holding the Irish Press Cup after Galway completed the senior and minor All-Ireland double at Croke Park in September of 2017. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

WITH Galway supporters still coming to terms with Joe Canning’s retirement from inter-county hurling last week, we wonder will it lead to an explosion of interest in Portumna’s county championship campaigns over the coming years?

That scenario would be partially the legacy of Covid-19, bearing in mind that for the past 18 months the Galway hurlers have been playing, for the most part, behind closed doors. Sure, there might have been a couple of thousand fans witnessing the team’s recent championship exit to Waterford in Thurles, but basically Canning and the Tribesmen have been operating in front of empty stands.

It meant supporters were denied the opportunity of watching a sporting legend in the flesh as his inter-county career reached a conclusion– a player who was already established as a hurling immortal through his extraordinary deeds since bursting on the scene at elite level in 2008.

Canning is arguably the highest profile player in the game over the past 20 years. Henry Shefflin won a lot more with Kilkenny, notably a staggering 10 All-Ireland senior medals, but there was probably greater fascination in his sharpshooting counterpart from Galway who will be 33 in October.

Long before he almost beat Cork single-handedly in an All-Ireland qualifier in Thurles in 2008, we knew something special had emerged from the townland of Gortanumera. He had already won two All-Ireland minor medals and that Autumn would collect his third senior championship with Portumna.

Read the full column in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Cool the jets – let’s give Galway sideline supremos a fair hearing

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Mayo's Aidan O'Shea feels the strain against Galway's Cathal Sweeney and Seán Mulkerrin during Sunday's Connacht Football Final at Croke Park. Photo: Ray McManus /Sportsfile.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IN all my years (more like decades) involved in hurling, I have never seen a team play the game at a faster pace than what Waterford did for 55 minutes in Thurles last Saturday. They were like Olympic sprinters and Galway simply couldn’t keep up with them in the open expanses of Semple Stadium.

Galway hurlers have often plumbed the depths when least expected, but trailing by 16 points after three quarters of Saturday’s knock-out clash was a total shock to the system. We know the Tribesmen have a terrible record against Waterford, but this was embarrassing and unacceptable for a team which had been touted as Limerick’s chief threat.

Though Galway are understandably getting some credit for their grandstand finish, it’s only papering over the cracks and, let’s be honest, there would probably have been no comeback at all only for Waterford being reduced to 14 players for the entire second-half. And then having whittled the deficit down from 16 points to three and all the momentum behind them with over six minutes still left to be played, they were found wanting again.

After substitute Jason Flynn’s first goal, there were five more scores and Waterford got four of them. That alone tells you that Liam Cahill’s men had more of what it takes to succeed at this level. Waterford were in disarray but somehow were able to find the inspiration to get over the line.

Meeting Galway supporters before the game, we shared the same concerns about the men in maroon jerseys. Eyebrows were raised by the team chosen and some of the positions players were picked in. Having failed to raise much of a gallop against Dublin, Galway should have been straining at the leash to achieve some redemption. Instead, they were worse; swept aside by a ravenous Waterford team which had everything their opponents didn’t

Though leaving Daithí Burke at centre-back didn’t cost Galway the game, it was still stubborn of the team management to stick to their guns when his zealous patrolling of the square continued to be so blatantly missed. Keeping faith with the unrelated Cooneys’, Joseph and Conor, also attracted criticism.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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

Fearsome Limerick hit new high by tearing Tipperary rivals apart

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Galway’s Carrie Dolan breaking away from Laura Doherty of Westmeath during Saturday's All-Ireland camogie championship clash at Kenny Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

In the aftermath of a wonderful sporting achievement, it’s easy to get carried away and, perhaps, overrate what we have just seen at the expense of great deeds from the past. But even against that background, what Limerick hurlers achieved in the second-half of Sunday’s Munster Final was extraordinary.

They looked a beaten docket at half-time. Trailing by ten points to a Jason Forde inspired and a fiercely committed Tipperary, the All-Ireland champions were in serious trouble. They had conceded two goals directly from opposition puck-outs to Jake Morris and Bubbles O’Dwyer, and so many of their marquee players were off the pace.

In fact, Tipperary could have been ahead by more. With Dan McCormack playing deep to free up Brendan Maher as their sweeper, they created a world of chances with Forde – the most under-rated forward in the game – rifling over a series of points from all angles and distances. Limerick were all at sea and only Cian Lynch and Tom Morrissey were having a significant impact on the action.

But nobody could have envisaged the sensational turnaround in the third quarter. Within 18 minutes, a resurgent Limerick had gone a point ahead as reserves Aaron Gillane and Dan Morrissey added fresh vigour to their challenge at opposite ends of the field. It was like watching two different matches as Tipp were simply overwhelmed.

Their older generation really sagged in the unforgiving temperatures and by the time their management made changes, Limerick had already taking control. On the scoreboard, Tipp were still in it, but their players must have been in a state of shock over how a big lead had been so quickly and so ruthlessly wiped out. Limerick’s younger legs and sheer physical power were now dictating the terms of engagement.

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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