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Inside Track

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

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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

Lots of positivity around but Galway will now have target on their backs

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Owner Annette Mee with Monday’s Galway Festival bumper winner,This Songisforyou. Also included are Emmet Mullins, trainer, Laura Keir, and jockey Derek O'Connor. Photo: Patrick McCann/Racing Post.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

ALL around Ballybrit last week, the post All-Ireland football final verdict was virtually unanimous: Galway were unlucky against Kerry but had done the county proud. Naturally, the big focus was on the harsh free awarded against John Daly as he attempted to break out of defence late in the match.

Of all the varying opinions on the controversy doing the rounds at the races and in the media at large, former Donegal manager Jim McGuinness probably put it the most succinctly of all in Saturday’s edition of the Irish Times. He said anyone just focusing on the first part of the incident would award a free out to Daly, but those only seeing Killian Spillane’s arm being pulled in by the Galway number six would have sided with referee Seán Hurson’s call.

And that’s in a nutshell. The first foul was committed on Daly and that should have led to a crucial free out for Galway just seconds after Damien Comer had forced a terrific turnover. In that moment, however, Kerry got a break they weren’t entitled to, and the Munster champions weren’t slow in taking advantage.

Galway were that close to ending 21-years in the All-Ireland wastelands, but Padraic Joyce and his players don’t need any reminding that it’s a long way back to next year’s final. Sure, they have made huge progress over the past few months and their camp will now be stacked with belief, but there are no guarantees that they will enjoy another protracted run in 2023.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Nothing certain in 2023 but at least Galway won’t start from base camp

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Galway manager Pádraic Joyce and defender Kieran Molloy look on during the presentation of the Sam Maguire Cup to Kerry after Sunday's All-Ireland Football Final at Croke Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THE sense of anti-climax will be overwhelming for everybody associated with the Galway footballers this week. Homecomings are an understandable necessity of the All-Ireland final experience, but they can be a testing environment for deflated players and management. Within hours you’re going from great expectations to utter despair.

The fact that Galway could have ended a 21-year All-Ireland drought will only compound the disappointment, and though the Tribesmen have laid a great foundation for the seasons ahead, there is absolutely no guarantee that this group will even get back to Croke Park on finals day again.

First of all, Galway’s cover is well and truly blown which means the accompany rise in expectations is something of a double-edged sword. There will be extra pressure as well compared to 2021 when there was a ‘bonus feel’ to the team’s major progress in the championship. They kind of came in under the radar, but won’t have that luxury next year.

The other big issue is outside their control. Now that Kerry are finally back on top of the football tree and the accompanying weight lifted off their shoulders after an eight-year wait, it’s probable that the new champions will be even better in the foreseeable future. You couldn’t say that they were lucky to win on Sunday, but you’d know from their early profligacy especially that these Kerry players were feeling the pressure.

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

Magnificent Limerick show mettle of champions in epic showdown

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Attending the announcement of Sei Bella Hair Design, Oranmore's sponsorship of the Clarinbridge camogie senior team were: Audrey Craughwell, owner of Sei Bella Hair Design, Audrey Carr, Chairperson of Clarinbridge Camogie Club, with players, from left: Carrie Dolan, Rachel Bannon and Amy Hooban. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THIS was their crowning glory. For all Limerick hurlers have achieved over the past five years, they still needed one more thing on their CV – beating Kilkenny in an All-Ireland final. And the fact that achievement coincided with completing the three-in-a-row at Croke Park on Sunday confirms their reputation as an exceptional team.

True, Limerick had taken out the Cats in an epic championship quarter-final in Thurles on their way to long-awaited glory All-Ireland glory that same year, but they were turned over by Kilkenny in the 2019 semi-final and hadn’t encountered Brian Cody’s charges during their 15-match unbeaten run since.

But Sunday’s triumph after an enthralling battle was the final validation of Limerick’s greatness. The fact that they had to survive an unrelenting challenge from the Leinster champions makes it more memorable on a day Gearóid Hegarty delivered one of the truly outstanding displays ever seen on hurling’s biggest occasion.

This was a compelling, physical and hugely committed struggle for supremacy. Some of the point-taking was out of this world – for the first time ever all six half-backs scored from play in a final – and though Limerick forced the pace for long periods, they could never quite shake off the tenacious Kilkenny men. The Cats just don’t know how to give up.

The occasion was electrified by Hegarty’s brilliant early goal – his shot whizzing past Eoin Murphy from a tight angle into the roof of the net. The towering Limerick half-forward went on to pick off some wonderful points, and with Kyle Hayes, Seamus Flanagan and Aaron Gillane also quick to find the range, it left Kilkenny living off scraps.

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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