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Galwegians stretch their lead at top of table

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Galwegians consolidated their position at the summit of Division 1b with a 31-19 home win over Belfast Harlequins on Saturday.

For the second consecutive week, they made hard work of seeing off another Belfast side, this time Belfast Harlequins who currently occupy bottom spot in the table. Indeed Quins had to face a second consecutive trip to Galway having been away to Corinthians the previous week, and they will not be sorry to see the back of the city once more returning empty-handed.

Galwegians coach Matt Brown opted to rest some of his backline regulars, including the influential John Cleary, Brian Murphy and Gary O’Brien, with Rory Parata returning from injury to make his first UBL appearance since the opening game against Trinity.

Galwegians started the better and looked the more likely to score, but full-back Ciaran Gaffney was off target with a long-range early penalty attempt.

However, the visitors had strengthened their side from last week with some Ulster squad members in their side, including lock Neil McComb and centre Michael Allen. And having weathered, the early onslaught from their hosts, Harlequins eventually settled.

In fact, they took the lead in the 10th minute with their first meaningful attack of the game. Some poor handling by Wegians in their opponents’ half saw possession turned over, and following a good counter-attack, Quins full-back David McMaster was sent clear to touch down on the left, with out-half Mark Best converting for a 7-0 lead

This seemed to stun Galwegians who failed to heed the warning signs, and before the first quarter was even up, things went from bad to worse for the hosts. Some sloppy possession play once again cost them in midfield, and an excellent cross-kick by Best was fielded by right-wing Mark Glover, who evaded the attentions of two Galwegians defenders all to easily to charge down the touchline and dive over near the right corner for a second try.

Although the conversion was wide, a shock seemed well on the cards as the bottom-placed side held a 12-0 lead over the league leaders. However Galwegians have proven resilience and character, having already overcome 22-0 and 10-0 deficits against local rivals Buccaneers and Corinthians in this year’s campaign, and they finally roused from their slumber and upped the intensity in the second quarter.

They went on the offensive again and played a territorial game, and the pressure finally paid off when the recalled left-wing Matt Dever showed up on his opposite wing to collect a scoring pass and dive over for his side’s opening try, which was unconverted.

This energised the home team, and with self-belief restored a second try was soon to follow. Their dominant scrum was creating the platform and beginning to yield penalties. And following an excellent line-kick deep to the corner, a well-worked lineout maul resulted in lock Marty Cummins diving over for his first senior try for Galwegians. Gaffney was again wide with the conversion, giving the visitors a slender 12-10 lead at half-time.

Galwegians’ coaches Brown and John Muldoon clearly had strong words with their charges at the break, as they seriously upped the tempo in the second-half. They immediately took the game to their opponents, and following some patient build-up play, a great break from prop Doron McHugh and a deft offload fed the supporting Cummins who dived over near the posts for his second try. Gaffney finally found his range with the conversion, and the Blues had their noses in front for the first time in the game at 17-12.

It was a lead Galwegians would never relinquish as they went on to completely dominate the third quarter. Their pack was now clearly in the ascendancy, creating further opportunities for their potent backline, and just after the hour mark, an excellent break from deep by centre Jerome Harrimate brought play right up to the try-line.

With the defensive cover sucked in, a few phases later Galwegians substitute out-half Aidan Moynihan scampered over near the opposite corner to secure the bonus fourth try. The youngster then landed an excellent conversion himself to give his team a 12-point lead.

The visitors were not done, however, and they responded well going in search of something, only to meet a stern and resolute Blues defence who stoutly held their line and discipline. The game was made safe on 73 minutes when another excellent break from deep, this time by scrum-half Caolin Blade, saw him come within inches of scoring.

But the damage was done and Moynihan was once again the beneficiary as he cut through a gap in impressive and determined fashion to dive over for try number five, which he duly converted bringing his personal haul to 14 points.

The visitors did manage to get on the scoreboard late on when Michael Allen crossed for their third try, which Best converted to reduce the gap to 31-19. But it proved to be merely a consolation score as time ran out in their search of salvaging something from the game.

CITY TRIBUNE

Big boost for Connacht as dozen make Irish squads

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Former Galway minor hurler Shane Jennings who is one of six Connacht players named on the Irish U20 rugby squad for the upcoming Six Nations.

By Rob Murphy

THERE was some off season good news for Connacht this week with confirmation of 12 players from the Sportsground having made it into international squads at senior and U-20 level.

Six Connacht players were called into Andy Farrell’s 37-man senior international squad for next month’s two tests against Japan and USA. Three of those are looking to make their international debut in Tom Daly, Paul Boyle and Caolin Blade; while three more are looking to continue their progress with the Irish squad in Dave Heffernan (5 caps), Ultan Dillane (18 caps) and Finlay Bealham (14 caps).

For Daly, the progress from fringe starter to captaining Connacht has been a rapid one. The 27-years-old inside centre from Carlow is now a key part of Andy Friend’s plans having led the way in starts this season and his consistent form has clearly caught the eye of Farrell too, with the recent stand-out effort in the win over Munster at Thomond Park no doubt a key factor.

At 24, Boyle has already amassed 57 appearances in the green of Connacht having made his debut in 2017. He also has captained Connacht on multiple occasions and while he missed some of the end of season Rainbow Cup games, the Gorey native was a consistent almost ever present part of the back row during the PRO14 campaign.

Monivea man Blade is back in Ireland camp for the second season in a row and will hope to get his first cap this time around. The 27-years-old is being rewarded for another excellent season in the nine shirt for Connacht where he led the team in starts at scrum half and scored five tries in 20 appearances.

Ireland will play two games in the Aviva Stadium next month starting with a clash against Japan on July 3 before they host USA on July 10.

The Irish U-20s will be involved in Six Nations action, starting tomorrow against Scotland with the month-long tournament taking place entirely in Cardiff to help guarantee a safe environment for players.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway surrender top flight status after Clones collapse

Stephen Glennon

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Galway’s Robert Finnerty who scored 1-3 in their costly National League relegation play-off defeat to Monaghan in Clones on Sunday.

Monaghan 1-21

Galway 2-17

(After Extra-Time)

NO thermometer was required to take the temperature of those hundred or so die-hard Galway supporters who travelled to Clones last Sunday. With their side five points to the good and time almost up, they watched on in horror as a winning lead was blown.

The result: Galway beaten. The result: Galway are no longer a Division 1 county. The result: Galway now have just won one game in their last seven competitive outings. The result: Galway have gone from a side on the brink of something in spring of 2020 to an outfit that has regressed and have now been cast back to the land of mediocrity.

That Galway boss Padraic Joyce didn’t make himself available to the media afterwards to put some positive spin on the performance only compounded the result. By not offering some take, he left a dangerous void in which disgruntled supporters have begun to weave their own narrative about where Joyce’s Galway are at.

Ironically, with time almost up in Clones, it appeared the Tribesmen had turned the corner after a poor run of form. First half goals from Paul Kelly and Rob Finnerty saw Galway lead this thrilling relegation game by five points going down the home stretch, but in the five minutes plus of normal time injury-time, they came undone.

In hindsight, hauling off Galway’s two best forwards – Robert Finnerty and Shane Walsh (although he was nowhere near his best) – was a mistake as it not only blunted the point of attack but deprived it of the guile and experience that they needed to see this game out.

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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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway U20s set to make up for lost time in delayed final

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Conor Walsh who is a key member of the Galway U20 hurling team seeking Leinster final glory when they take on Dublin next Wednesday.

GALWAY’S U20 hurlers have a number of injury concerns ahead of their long overdue 2020 Leinster final clash against Dublin at O’Connor Park, Tullamore, next Wednesday evening, June 23. Throw-in 7:30pm.

Among them are Sarsfields midfielder Alex Connaire and Craughwell wing-forward Adrian Prendergast, both of whom scored in the Tribesmen’s victories over Laois and Kilkenny last December, but they now look set to miss the provincial decider with groin and pelvis injuries respectively.

“This game is just too early for them, it has just come too quick,” says Galway manager Jeffrey Lynskey, who says Connaire and Prendergast join an injury list that also includes long-term victims Mark Gill of Castlegar (metatarsal) and Conor Hynes of Liam Mellows (shoulder).

“We are lucky enough though that we have depth in the squad and can pull on lads who are performing and doing well (in training). They have trained well, in fairness to them, over the last five weeks.”

Indeed, Lynskey says the form is good in the camp, outlining the focus has been getting the players back up to speed with in-house and challenges games against the Galway development panel.

“In all the in-house and challenge games, they have performed really well. They are all looking forward to getting back. They have trained hard, really, over the last five weeks and they put a serious bloc of work in during the third lockdown. Gym-wise, they all came back in fantastic shape.

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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