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Inside Track

Galway provide hope for future but not there yet

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Sarsfields East Galway U10 A tournament winners after defeating Kilnadeema-Leitrim in the final. Back row, left to right: Adam Kyne, Cathal Ward, Darragh Donohue, John Cosgrove, Fearghus Deeley, Mark Tierney, Ethan Warde, Sean O'Neill, Nathan Cannon, Leon Connaire. Front row: Ross Keane, Dean Keane, Oisín Maher, Michael Keown, Paddy McCarty, Rian Earls, Ruairì Brogan.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

GALWAY got what they needed at McHale Park last Sunday – a performance, and some tangible hope for the future. Ending Mayo’s stranglehold on the provincial championship would have been another aspiration for the Tribesmen heading to Castlebar, but deep down they probably knew that challenge was always going to prove beyond them unless the champions had fallen into significant decline.

Certainly, Mayo’s league campaign had raised some concerns about possible deterioration among their followers, especially their failure to close out a couple of games they appeared to be in control of. The champions were no great shakes either in the Connacht semi-final against an under-rated Roscommon, but James Horan’s men remain a focused and talented squad who were always keeping their arch rivals at bay in Sunday’s showdown.

The fact that Galway put it up to their hosts, notably after half-time, and, more importantly, never died or threw in the towel after the concession of any of Mayo’s three goals shows that progress is being made. The team fought to the finish and though the result was inevitable for large tracts of the match, Galway managed to keep the title holders honest and have clearly improved compared to last year’s mauling at Pearse Stadium.

Of course, there is still a major bridge to be closed. Mayo won their fourth consecutive Connacht final apparently playing in their comfort zone; they were physically dominant and their far greater experience was evident too. Aidan O’Shea, who lined out on the forty, handled more ball than any other player on the field and such is his power that Galway found it difficult to curb him.

There had been high hopes that the youthful midfield pairing of Fiontán Ó Curraoin and Thomas Flynn, who were so impressive against Sligo, would really ask Mayo questions under the dropping ball, but Sunday represented a steep rise in class and they struggled to exert a major influence, although Flynn proved a useful link man at times. Furthermore, at this level, Galway needed to take the vast majority of their chances to have any hopes of causing an upset.

Facing the wind in the opening-half, they were first on the mark with a Shane Walsh free and though having no shortage of possession, Galway’s shooting left something to be desired with the hard-working Danny Cummins and Eddie Hoare’s radars completely on the blink as they contributed six wides between them. Mindful of the way Mayo had run through them last year, Galway set up defensively, with team captain Paul Conroy and Hoare, both selected in the full forward line, more often than not to be found around the middle of the field.

Undoubtedly, the tactic clogged up Mayo’s attacking avenues and after ten minutes the hosts had only two points on the board. Galway were hitting on the counter-attack but the required accuracy wasn’t there, with raiding wing back Gareth Bradshaw thumping a close range effort off the post near the interval when there was a possible goal scoring opportunity on. Alan Mulholland’s team came much closer, however, to rattling the Mayo net on several occasions in the second-half, not least when Walsh smashed the ball off the crossbar after a searing run in its opening seconds.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Dream year for Maigh Cuilinn ends with club’s first ever Connacht title

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Maigh Cuilinn's Michéal O’Reilly on the attack against Oisin Kennedy of Tourlestrane during Sunday's Connacht Club Senior Football Final at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

Watching Maigh Cuilinn dismantling Westport a few weeks ago, you could never imagine the Galway champions failing to score from play in a half-hour’s football as they chased an historic first ever Connacht title.  Perhaps, the warning signs were there in Maigh Cuilinn’s subsequent struggles against Strokestown in the provincial semi-final when they required extra-time and a terrific individual display from Seán Kelly, together with the accuracy of Owen Gallagher, to eventually fend off the Roscommon men.

After that scare, we presumed Maigh Cuilinn would cut a dash in last Sunday’s Connacht final, especially that they were back on their favourite hunting ground at Pearse Stadium and the opposition was being provided by the Sligo champions Tourlestrane.

But every game is different and with Fergal O’Donnell’s team setting up defensively on a cold December day and having the advantage of the wind in the opening half, Maigh Cuilinn had to be content with a paltry tally of four points – all from Dessie Conneely’s frees – up to the interval.

Compared to their free-scoring outing against Westport, Maigh Cuilinn were having to dig deep and be patient against teams adopting a conservative approach. Their players aren’t robots either and it’s been a long season for the Galway title holders, especially their swathe of county players.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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

Superb St Thomas’ take dominance of Galway club hurling to new level

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St Thomas’ Victor Manso is about to pounce on this loose ball against Dylan Shaughnessy of Loughrea during Sunday's Galway Senior Hurling Final at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

Barely five minutes after Sunday’s thrilling Galway hurling final replay at Pearse Stadium, the clouds burst open – raining more misery on a Loughrea team which had covered themselves in glory for the second week running only to discover that their best wasn’t quite good enough.

Of course, Loughrea could have won both the drawn final and replay, and there were times where St Thomas’ were hanging on for dear life, but they were unable to close the deal. They weren’t let, for starters, as the champions enhanced their reputation for getting out of tight corners in Galway.

In the days between the two matches, you’re wondering what either finalist can do differently to give them an edge; what switches might be made; or what new tactical approach might they bring to the battlefield. Mark Caulfield would hardly have featured in any of that conjecture.

He’s a big unit but inexperienced at this level. He was promoted to centre back in the continued absence of Shane Cooney and was doing enough to stay on the team. Caulfield, however, only lasted until half-time last Sunday week and you sensed he was about to make way for the fit-again county defender.

Cooney, however, jarred a hamstring in training which ended that plan. Instead, St Thomas’ turned to former Galway captain David Burke to take over at centre back. If those on the outside had got wind of that, you’d be left thinking that there would be no place for Caulfield at all.

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

Loughrea’s standing is enhanced as champions pushed to the wire

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St Thomas' Victor Manso and Darragh Burke tussling for possession with Johnny Coen and Brian Keary of Loughrea during Sunday's County Hurling Final at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

EVEN the might Kilkenny hurlers couldn’t manage it in 2010 which underlines how difficult the challenge was for St Thomas’ to complete their own ‘Drive for Five’ at Pearse Stadium last Sunday. Breaking new ground is never easy for the best of teams, but at least the Galway champions will have a second crack at it.

They entered the 2022 county final as heavy favourites to capture a fifth consecutive Galway title despite five of their team – it would have been six only for James Regan’s injury – having started in the club’s historic triumph of ten years ago. It was their first appearance in a final and it heralded a period of unexpected domination which has resulted in six championships in a decade.

Having won every final they have featured in up to now, St Thomas’ have it down to a fine art in taking care of business on the big days that matter. But they were shaken to the core in Salthill and, at times in a great game, you felt their time at the top was about to come to an end. Four points down with eight minutes of normal time remaining. St Thomas’ had never previously faced such a crisis in a county final.

Typically, their response spoke volumes for the team’s resilience and talent. A late goal and two points from the outstanding Éanna Burke looked to have turned the tide in their favour, and they were seconds away from celebrating a milestone achievement – only done twice before by Castlegar and Turloughmore in Galway.

It would have represented the crowning glory for the glorious club careers of the Burke brothers, David, Cathal, Darragh and Éanna – a utilised sub in 2012 – Conor Cooney and Bernard Burke, but fairytales don’t happen as often in sport as some people would like to think. St Thomas’ have to do it all over again but, on the balance play last Sunday, they should be grateful for that opportunity.

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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