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Inside Track

Galway show some grit in reaching league semis

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IT’S been an up and down National League campaign for the Galway hurlers, but they have at least achieved their basic objective in qualifying for the semi-finals of the competition after a notable 0-15 to 0-12 win over bogey team Waterford in their final Division 1A group outing at Walsh Park last Sunday. The pressure was on the men in maroon to deliver and they weren’t found wanting.

Galway were the stronger team by more than the final scoreline suggests – Joe Canning alone accounted for more than half a dozen wides – and the match, again fought out in bitterly cold conditions, hardly merited the frantic finish which saw Waterford striving for a match-saving goal. It should never have come to that, but the result is all that matters to Anthony Cunningham and his management team.

Fergal Moore and company had done the hard work in the opening half when facing the strong wind. With St. Thomas’ players, Conor Cooney and David Burke, back in their starting line, they produced a vigorous effort which was rewarded with an unexpected 0-8 to 0-3 interval advantage. Waterford hadn’t raised a solitary flag in the final 22 minutes of the half and lacked the winners’ penetration and range of scoring options.

Iarla Tannion, sprightly in the middle of the field, picked off two rousing points as did the returning Niall Burke, while the excellent Davy Glennon and Canning, again operating from the wing, were also on target. Galway could have been even further ahead but Shane O’Sullivan stopped a penalty from the Portumna ace midway through the half. It would have been premature to claim Galway had the match in the bag at the interval, but it was difficult to see a way back for Waterford.

The Tribesmen, however, have been struggling to put teams away so far in 2013 and with the home team raising their intensity levels considerably, together with getting a big benefit from the switching of Seamus Prendergast and Maurice Shanahan in the central positions up front, Waterford managed to reduce the deficit to three points on a couple of occasions without ever really looking like they were going to salvage a result.

Kevin Moran got on a lot of ball around midfield and with Prendergast’s strength difficult to counteract on the edge of the square, at least Galway had to display some resolve and commitment in keeping Waterford at bay. The defence stood up well to the test, however. The crisp striking David Collins impressed in the centre back role, while there was more dash in the play of youthful pair, Johnny Coen and Niall Donohue, as well.

Overall, you can hardly be critical of a rearguard which only concedes 12 points although goalkeeper Colm Callanan had to prove his measure when blocking a Shanahan 21 yards free in the third quarter, while full back Kevin Hynes made a timely intervention when expertly hooking Shanahan after a Moran effort had rebounded off the post in the 17th minute. In attack, Glennon was the main source of inspiration and, on this form, the Mullagh player is a certainty for championship promotion.

Galway had a goal harshly disallowed when David Burke skilfully diverted a Canning sideline cut to the net in the 62nd minute, but it was hardly a surprising decision in the context of referee Anthony Stapleton’s overall performance. The Laois official only liberally policed the action and he didn’t penalise some blatant fouls committed, especially by Waterford. Maybe, it was no harm for Galway to survive a rough and tumble affair, but what about the rulebook?

Reaching the league semi-finals had to be a priority for Galway ahead of the championship, especially as they have been virtually handed a free run into the Leinster final – it’s still hard to credit that Kilkenny, Dublin, Wexford and Offaly are all on the other half of the provincial draw – and though it’s hardly ideal they again must play Kilkenny, at least we can be guaranteed there will be no shadow boxing in over a fortnight’s time.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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.

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Loughrea’s return to big stage can bring freshness to county final day

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Loughrea manager, Tommy Kelly, and team captain Ian Hanrahan, Liam Brady, Branch Manager, Brooks Timber and Building supplies (sponsors), and St Thomas’ captain Conor Cooney and manager, Kenneth Burke, attending the county senior hurling media event. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THERE was a time when 10,000-plus crowds regularly descended on Galway senior hurling finals, but those days are long gone. The temptation to largely blame that scenario on the near-annual lateness in completing the campaign is obvious, and though it is a factor, there are other more pertinent issues.

The live streaming of matches – a legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic – has hit attendances at GAA club championships, and Galway is no different, but an extra complication locally has been the jaundiced view of many hurling followers, notably in the east of the county, towards travelling to Pearse Stadium for big matches.

We have lost count of the number of hurling followers who can’t stomach the thought of crawling through city centre traffic to get to Salthill. Arriving on Galway’s eastern fringes is the easy part, but then getting across to Pearse Stadium can often prove a nightmare. Parking is another issue. And, of course, there is also the view that the weather is more often than not wet and windy at the county’s premier ground.

All of this is contributing to diminishing crowds at Pearse Stadium, especially for hurling matches. A modest crowd of over 4,000 turned up for the semi-finals last Sunday week and though it was a bleak day, the lack of atmosphere and excitement was plain to see. The ironic part is that the venue is equipped with substantial seating and no shortage of catering and toilet facilities.

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 haven’t quite come from nowhere but are major force again

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Loughrea's Joe Mooney launching an attack against Seán Kilduff of Clarinbridge during Sunday's County Senior Hurling semi-final at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

We hadn’t seen Loughrea hurlers in the flesh for at least two years, leaving us open-minded about their title prospects. Reaching Sunday’s county semi-finals at Pearse Stadium with a 100% record was a statement in itself, but could Tommy Kelly’s charges take it to the next level?

To do that, Loughrea needed to turn the tables on Clarinbridge from last year’s knock-out defeat. The fact that they were the pre-match favourites to do so suggested ‘The Town’ had improved significantly over the past 12 months. What happened in Salthill at the weekend confirmed it.

There was a time when Loughrea were a frequent sight in county finals. Between 2003 and 2013, they appeared in seven of them, but only managed a lone triumph – that narrow 1-13 to 0-15 victory over Portumna in the 2006 controversial decider when much of the post-match focus was on an unsavoury incident involving Joe Canning.

It was a sweet success for Loughrea having lost to Portumna in the finals of 2003 and ’06, but they would also fall in two more deciders to the same opposition in 2009 and 2013, the last time they reached the county final. Loughrea also came off second best in a replay to Clarinbridge in 2010 and they also endured final-day misery against St Thomas’ two years later.

Three of their key players during that time – Greg Kennedy, Gavin Keary and Nigel Murray – are now serving as Kelly’s lieutenants on the sideline, while respected coach Shane Cusack is also involved. Loughrea have probably the biggest backroom team in the championship which indicates that they are throwing everything at this campaign.

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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