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Inside Track

Galway hurlers way off pace and lucky to get away with it

John McIntyre

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St Thomas camogie team

Inside Track with John McIntyre

Sometimes being forewarned makes little difference as Galway hurlers almost discovered to their huge cost in Portlaoise last Sunday. They would have headed to the midlands venue under no illusions about what lay ahead of them and the tactics the home team would employ, but the Tribesmen were still clueless in their attempts to counteract the opposition’s packed defensive lines in scraping into the Leinster semi-final.

Galway had just survived a similar ambush at the same venue 12 months earlier, so they knew what to expect in this repeat encounter against Laois only to blindly stumble their way to a fortunate victory despite making a terrific start against the influential elements. Ultimately, that unanswered burst of 1-3 saved them from being completely wiped out in the first half and a probable embarrassing defeat.

Goodness knows, it was bad enough anyway as a well drilled Laois outfit subsequently outscored their visitors by 16 points to four from there to the interval. Wind or no wind, this was a shocking indictment of Galway’s poor play and had Neil Foyle not spurned a clear-cut goal scoring opportunity in the 32nd minute, the maroon dam could have been burst completely.

Defending in numbers and cleverly freeing up their shooters to fire at the opposition posts, often from long range, Laois gave themselves a great platform to pull off the biggest upset in the championship in years. It was still a tantalising prospect heading into injury time but goalkeeper Eoin Reilly was unable to conjure up a Roy of the Rovers finale from a late 20m free. They deserved better as Galway struggled for long periods to match their hosts’ intensity and sheer heart.

Though Laois were facing into their fifth championship outing on consecutive weekends, they were clearly much sharper than sluggish opponents whose persistence in bombing high balls down on their full forward line in the second-half proved naive in the extreme. Galway were simply too one-dimensional and needed to mix it up, but they were impatient and found it difficult to produce the expected fluid team-work on the team’s championship debut.

For much of this contest, Galway were shambolic as poor defending, loose marking, a below average work ethic and flawed tactics ensured they more than flirted with a disastrous outcome. In the circumstances, it is to the team’s credit that they manage to survive thanks largely to a strong closing quarter surge as their greater technical ability finally becoming influential with substitute Jason Flynn proving his worth with three priceless points.

It was hard to imagine this Leinster quarter-final going down to the wire after Galway flew out of the blocks with points from Johnny Coen, David Burke and the tireless Padraig Breheny augmenting an admittedly scrappy goal from Jonathan Glynn in the third minute. It was a demoralising start for Laois, but heads never dropped and they went on to dominate the remainder of the opening half action with Joe Fitzpatrick, the impressive Tommy Fitzgerald, Willie Hyland, Tom Delaney and Foyle among those bombing over rousing points. At the other end, Conor Coney was the only Galway forward making a significant impact on a day Joe Canning was again extremely subdued.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Luckless Kenny needs breaks as Irish football in a bad state

John McIntyre

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Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny who is still seeking his first win after eight matches in charge.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

The past few years have been tough times for Irish football – on and off the field. The FAI, the sport’s beleaguered administrators (or should I say administrator given John Delaney’s long-time staggering grip on power) was something of a basket case as the Association stands rightfully accused of neglecting the game’s grassroots.

On the field, the Republic of Ireland have continued to suffer an unchecked decline in fortunes – highlighted by that 5-1 home humiliation against Denmark in the second leg of the World Cup play-off in November of 2017. They subsequently missed out on qualification for Euro 2020 when losing on penalties to Slovakia last October.

Ireland have plummeted down the world rankings – they are currently trailing in 42nd position, behind the likes of Algeria and Australia, with little prospect of a significant revival in the medium term. Who’d want to be their manager in such circumstances? Unfortunately, Stephen Kenny has drawn the short straw in this regard.

And because the Dubliner is a home-grown boss of the international team, he was never going to be cut the same slack as his immediate predecessors, Martin O’Neill, whose innate tactical conservatism and spikey manner did him no favours towards the end of his reign, and Mick McCarthy, whose latest managerial stint in Cyprus barely lasted a couple of months.

Delaney had conjured up a convoluted succession plan where Kenny would leave his Ireland U20 post to take over from McCarthy after the Euro qualifiers, but Covid intervened leaving Kenny to salvage the Republic’s campaign. Unfortunately, he can’t buy a break in the job and the pressure is mounting.

The coronavirus disrupted his team selection on several occasions, while injuries were no help either. The bare facts are that Kenny has been in charge of eight matches, but is still seeking his first victory. Furthermore, Ireland have only managed a solitary goal in that time which must be an all-time low.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Rugby’s modern-day brutality on show in bruising inter-pro battle

John McIntyre

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Connacht scrum half Caolin Blade leading this charge against Munster in Saturday's PRO14 encounter at the Sportsground. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

That was classic trench warfare at the Sportsground on Saturday night. In a no-holds barred physical contest, players from both Connacht and Leinster were out on their feet by the finish. With a heavy pitch contributing to extra collisions at the breakdown, this PRO14 battle was no place for the fainthearted.

Some of the hits absorbed were shuddering and several players didn’t make it to the end due to the punishment they had endured. This was not an evening for running rugby; instead, it was a raw and bruising struggle where the physicality of both teams was tested to the limit. At times, it didn’t make for edifying viewing.

Professional rugby continues to have an image problem. Bulked up players ploughing into each other is taking a toll on their overall well-being and how many individuals over the past five years have been forced to retire from the game prematurely? The current legal action by several former England and Welsh internationals over the impact of repeated concussions tells a stark story.

Ex-Irish International and TV pundit Donal Lenihan has voiced his fears over the direction rugby is going, in particular the sight of a heap of 20st-plus forwards being thrown into the fray in the final quarter of matches against fatigued opponents. He believes it’s a breeding ground for injuries – and some bad ones at that.

Take last Saturday, for instance. Connacht’s Sean O’Brien, who is just back from protracted injury problems, had to be escorted from the field in what seemed a dazed-like state. There were other players looking the worse for wear and while we all salute the bravery on show, some rugby players have become physical monsters and that is not good for the game.

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

Sporting world still upside down but there’s light at end of tunnel

John McIntyre

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John Cleary, on left, hands over the role of Portumna Golf Club Captain to his successor, Pat Quinlan.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THE optimists among us didn’t think last summer that Ireland would still be at the mercy of Covid-19 come the following spring. Some form of normality had returned last July and August as many businesses reopened and most sport resumed even if crowds were very limited.
Daily transmissions of the virus were nearly down to single figures and there were days on end when there were no recoded fatalities. Social distancing was still a way of life and hand sanitisers were everywhere, but the overall outlook was encouraging. Covid-19 was in retreat.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t turned out that way. Ireland like much of Europe and the USA is now in the grip of a third wave of the virus and we are currently in a lockdown which will at least continue until the end of January. Retail life with the exception of supermarkets is virtually extinguished, while only sport at elite level is allowed to continue.
There are lots of other restrictions which continue to turn our daily lives upside down. Depression and despair are widespread, while unemployment figures are soaring again. So many businesses have gone or will go to the wall. The days are long for many and boredom is crippling a big section of the population.
Leaving aside going to or participating in matches, look at all the other things we took for granted that we can no longer do. Restaurants and pubs are closed; so are hairdressers, cafes and fashion retailers. Swimming pools and gyms are off-limits as well, while you can only train on your own outside of elite sport.
Holidays to sun spots or the annual ski voyage are in the realms of pipedreams, while international travel is also seriously compromised. All the while, you are obliged to wear a mask indoors in any place that remain open. This is a completely foreign existence to us, but understandably governments and health authorities are not for turning.

 

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.

Continue Reading

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