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Inside Track

Galway can’t back off now ahead of the ultimate test

John McIntyre

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OLD FOES: Rival team managers Anthony Cunningham and Brian Cody shake hands after the drawn All-Ireland final between Galway and Kilkenny in 2012.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THE image is impossible to shift from the memory bank and it underlines Kilkenny’s zero tolerance of players who are not prepared to put their bodies on the line in pursuit of victory. It happened in the first half of the All-Ireland semi-final against Waterford and the individual in question was Ger Aylward.

Remember, this a young player from the Glenmore club who scored a staggering 3-5 on his championship debut against Wexford in June, before notching three points in their subsequent Leinster final win over Galway . . . but that counted for nothing when Aylward failed to prevent a delivery in his direction going wide against Waterford.

The body language of team manager Brian Cody on the sideline was that of a man none too pleased with his corner forward’s commitment in that tussle for possession. His enforcer – not that Cody needs one – Michael Dempsey, the team’s long serving trainer, was immediately dispatched in Aylward’s direction to remind him of his responsibilities to the black and amber jersey.

That incident sums up Kilkenny’s philosophy. Their players are expected to work harder and display greater intensity than any opponent. That has been the cornerstone of the county’s unparalleled dominance of hurling over the past 15 years, together with innate skills levels and some of the outstanding individuals who have ever graced the sport.

Cody has been at the helm for it all and his own hunger and drive admirably remains undiminished. It might be stretching things to suggest there is an environment of fear in the Kilkenny camp, but these men are ‘warrior-like’ in their pursuit of victory. They don’t do compromise and teams which fail to match their work ethic have zero hope of beating them.

The prospect of winning 11 All-Ireland titles in 16 seasons at Croke Park on Sunday leaves no room for ambiguity about the greatest era for any county in the history of the GAA. Kilkenny have become a sporting freak of nature and they clearly have no intention of letting their standards slip. You can rest assured they will be in the zone again on Sunday.

This is the type of unrelenting force that Galway will have to overcome: defenders who hit hard and live on the edge when it comes to tackling; physically powerful midfielders; and the most self-sufficient attack in the game when it comes to winning their own ball. It’s a powerful cocktail and has made them a model of consistency in the championship.

But Kilkenny are not unbeatable. Tipperary had them on the rack in last year’s drawn All-Ireland final, while the likely absence of Jackie Tyrell (foot stress fracture) and Richie Power, though he could still be a viable substitute in a year in which he has yet to play a single minute for the Cats due to a knee injury, leaves them more vulnerable than normal. In addition, they will be meeting a team from the West arriving in Croke Park with serious momentum and confidence in their ranks.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Hurling we have a problem: there are too many scores in the game

John McIntyre

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Galway attacker Brian Concannon comes under pressure from Waterford’s Conor Prunty during Sunday's hurling league tie at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IT’S the summer of 2006 and a mistake-ridden Leinster hurling semi-final at Nowlan Park is unfolding. Two nervous teams chasing a big prize in a tight-marking, uninspiring battle for supremacy. In the end, Wexford somehow manage to stagger over the line despite only scoring a paltry nine points.

Imagine holding the opposition to a total score in single figures and still not winning the match. Unfortunately, I was the Offaly team manager that day and we were the ones who had to cope with that reality. Our tally only came to eight points and, in the process, a golden opportunity of victory had been spurned.

Between both teams only 17 points were registered and while that is an extreme example of when hurling was more defender friendly, what’s happening nowadays is arguably worse. There are just many scores in the game now – a scenario which reduces our appreciation of exceptional score-taking simply because they have become so frequent.

Sure, players have never been better conditioned, the sport’s stakeholders are much more tactically aware and the sliotar has become really user friendly, but spectators – If they were any! – are being turned off by this literally ‘score a minute’ phenomenon. It’s actually not unusual for three scores to be registered in just a minute.

God, I’d hate to be a defender these days with the ball whizzing all-round the place and your opponent never static. Grand, if you are a Calum Lyons or Ronan Maher who can bomb forward with impunity to fire over long-range points, but for most present-day back men, the game is nearly passing them by.

Teams have become so good at protecting possession, creating overlaps and isolating their shooters that opposition defences are left chasing shadows. An astonishing 58 scores were accumulated at Pearse Stadium last Sunday with eight players – Lyons, Dessie Hutchinson, Jack Prendergast, Joe Canning, Evan Niland, Conor Cooney, Conor Whelan and Brian Concannon all scoring at least three times from play.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway’s positive response to their Tralee trauma continues

John McIntyre

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Galway’s Peter Cooke gets his pass away against Dublin’s Sean McMahon during Sunday's National Football League encounter at Tuam Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

It’s barely three weeks since the Tralee thrashing and all the resulting criticism – much of it over the top and irrational – but Galway footballers have admirably rallied in the wake of that demoralising reversal and can now look forward to the upcoming Connacht championship with a certain sense of optimism.

Sure, nobody can disguise the reality that the Tribesmen have lost five of their last six competitive matches and are bound for a Division One league relegation battle against Monaghan, but Galway still showed a lot of promise in their weekend four-point loss to All-Ireland champions Dublin at Tuam Stadium.

The display built on their win over Roscommon the previous weekend and had Galway not bungled a great first-half goal-scoring opportunity, they would have shaken up the Dubs even more. Falling six points behind in the third quarter would really have tested the home team’s team mettle, but significantly heads never dropped.

Granted, Dublin were missing the likes of Stephen Cluxton, James McCarthy and Dean Rock, but the suggestion from a couple of pundits that they were only in ‘third gear’ in Tuam is a load of tosh. They were made to work hard for their victory with Cormac Costello, Con O’Callaghan and Ciaran Kilkenny achieving most to get them over the line.

Overall, Galway’s response to their heavy defeat against Kerry has been positive. There was no public blood-letting with management and players backing each other in their hour of need. That type of environment builds character and the manner in which they had a crack against the Dubs was heartening.

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

Post-Covid normality will have a very different feel

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin announcing the easing of restrictions.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

No sooner does one crisis come to an end in politics, but – before you can draw breath or pat yourself on the back – a new one is coming down the track. On the upside, we’re reaching the end of the lockdown. Last weekend’s good weather gave us a small preview of the kind of summer we will have, once the shackles of all the restrictions have been thrown away.

A weight will be lifted off our shoulders; problem is that somebody somewhere will come up with a brand new weights.

It reminds me of a joke from the great American comedian Jerry Seinfeld. He talked about going on a family holiday and the hassle and stress of packing the car with luggage, holiday paraphernalia and rowdy kids, and the prospect of a long hot drive in August bank holiday traffic.

This was his pay off line. “So you finally get the last item into your trunk (boot) and close it. You know the walk between the trunk and the driver’s door? You might not realise it but that in fact is your holiday.”

The point of all that is that the transition back to normality is not going to be a seamless affair. The first question is – what is normal going to look like?

For sure, it’s not going to be like the status quo ante. Sure, reopening is happening at a scale and a pace that nobody anticipated. Hotels and guesthouses are already open. By next Monday we will have outdoor hospitality and the return of many amenities including cinemas

By July there will be outdoor gigs, hundreds of spectators at sporting events, indoor dining and drinking, and even the return of international travel.

I was surprised that the normally conservative National Public Health Emergency Team agreed to the changes. When I spoke to a Minister last week, I asked what kind of resistance NPHET had put up to the proposed reopening. I was not expecting the response.

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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