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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

Galway under a little pressure to stop Mayo’s early-season gallop

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Hall of Fame award winner Tommy Joe Gilmore with his daughter Olivia, his son Brian and daughter in-law Karen Monks at the Metronic Galway Sports Stars banquet in the Galway Bay Hotel on Friday night. Photo: Iain McDonald.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

We won’t even have reached the end of January and the paths of Connacht’s great footballing rivals will have already crossed twice, with the prospect of more clashes between Galway and Mayo before the end of the inter-county season in late July.

The early 2023 bragging rights have gone to Mayo manager Kevin McStay after their defeat of the Tribesmen in the semi-final of the FBD League – a competition they went on to win last weekend with a comfortable 0-13 to 0-9 victory over Roscommon in the Connacht Air Dome.

Though both teams were in understandably experimental mode, Mayo managed to secure this pre-season competition for the first time in a decade with late points from Cillian O’Connor and Conor Loftus sealing the deal. In the overall scheme of things, the FBD league doesn’t count for much but delivering some silverware so early into his tenure won’t do McStay’s management any harm.

Naturally, Mayo will be anxious to keep the momentum going in Saturday evening’s televised National League clash at MacHale Park, especially given that they narrowly failed to Galway in last year’s provincial championship. A first-half Johnny Heaney goal and some quality free-taking from Shane Walsh just about saw the Tribesmen through in the face of a late siege by the home team.

Galway boss Padraic Joyce kept a sense of perspective after that early season loss to Mayo a couple of weeks ago, but he was blunt enough in assessing the merits or otherwise of some of the players being trialled. Joyce is experienced in the post now and knows what he is looking for. And having led Galway to league promotion, the Connacht title and the All-Ireland final last year, he has earned that leverage to call it as he sees it.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Early reality check might prove a good thing for Galway footballers

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Galway’s Johnny Heaney secures possession against Mayo’s Jack Coyne during Saturday's Connacht FBD League semi-final in Bekan. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IF the Galway footballers and team management needed any reminding that their substantial progress in 2022 offers no guarantees for the season ahead, they would have got in spades in Bekan on Saturday evening. Losing a FBD League semi-final to arch-rivals Mayo is no big deal in itself, but does underline the reality that the Tribesmen can’t take for granted building on last year’s achievements. And that may be no bad thing in the long run.

Naturally, Padraic Joyce would have preferred if Galway had got over the line at the weekend, especially in the context of preventing Mayo building up early season momentum under new manager Kevin McStay. In the end, he was probably grateful his team were only three points adrift after a difficult second quarter.

When Mayo went 2-10 to 0-5 ahead early in the second-half, it appeared Galway might suffer a hiding. Their goals came from Jordan Carr and Paul Towey, with Matthew Ruane and Jordan Flynn dominant around midfield. Mayo were also performing with the greater energy.

Gradually, however, Galway got to the pitch of the battle, thanks in no small way to the telling contribution of substitute Tomo Culhane, a player who didn’t make the match-day squad for last year’s All-Ireland final. The Salthill/Knocknacarra clubman scored 2-2 after coming on to revive the Tribesmen’s challenge

With Matthew Tierney also finding the opposition net, Galway were belatedly building up a head off steam. Mayo, however, just did enough to hold on with Towey, Aiden Orme and Bryan Walsh picking off some invaluable points, although it took Rory Byrne’s late save from Nathan Grainger to keep their noses in front.

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

Galway hurlers and footballers get the handy stuff out of the way first

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Maigh Cuilinn's Owen Gallagher is challenged by Conor Glass of Glen during Sunday's All-Ireland Club Senior Football semi-final at Croke Park. Photo: Daire Brennan/ Sportsfile.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

Well, that was the expected seamless start to the new GAA season for the Galway footballers and hurlers in their weekend tournament fixtures. Neither team endured too much hardship in assembling big winning margins over Leitrim and Westmeath respectively.

Padraic Joyce’s footballers were first into action in Bekan last Friday evening. Though they were only facing a Division Four outfit, the Tribesmen fielded a strong enough team, including recalled trio John Maher, Barry McHugh and Ian Burke. As expected, the result was never in doubt as Galway sauntered to a 3-21 to 1-13 win.

Their star man was Rob Finnerty, who finished the game with 2-7, including a haul of 1-4 from play. Ian Burke was also impressive on his return to the inter-county scene, with both Seán Fitzgerald and Billy Mannion putting in big shifts at the heart of the Galway defence. They will face a big rise in tempo and class in Saturday’s semi-final against Mayo at the same venue.

It’s been a challenging start for new Mayo boss Kevin McStay. Losing Oisín Mullin to Australian Rules was bad enough, but the news this week that Lee Keegan – surely the greatest footballer never to have won an All-Ireland senior medal – is hanging up the inter-county boots is an incalculable blow to Mayo’s prospects for the year ahead.

The 33-year-old has given his heart and soul to the county’s cause over a decade of sterling service. Keegan always kept coming back for more despite suffering the kind of big-day agony which would have broken most players. The former Footballer of the Year won five All-Stars awards and seven Connacht championships, but his team simply couldn’t get over the line in All-Ireland finals.

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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