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Inside Track

Gort must get up close and personal against Ballyhale

John McIntyre

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Young Mullagh fans Tiernan, Nessa and Senan Coen supporting the Galway champions in the All-Ireland Club Senior Camogie Semi-Final in Nenagh last Sunday. Photo: Lorraine O'Sullivan/Inpho.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

In three previous attempts, the All-Ireland Club hurling championship hasn’t been a lucky hunting ground for Gort – their most recent campaign ending in an unexpected semi-final loss to Coolderry of Offaly at the Limerick Gaelic Grounds in February of 2012. That defeat stung the South Galway men but now they have the chance to make amends.

Ironically, the closest Gort came to winning the Tommy Moore Cup was when they fell (1-10 to 0-7) to Saturday’s opponents Ballyhale Shamrocks of Kilkenny in the 1983/’84 final replay and though the Galway champions will head to Thurles with no shortage of motivation, the fact that they can be freely backed at 7/2 to carry the day reflects the extent of the challenge facing them.

To be honest, anyone who was in Kenny Park in late April of last year watching them stumble over Liam Mellows in a first round championship tie after falling well behind, couldn’t have imagined that Gort would end up in an All-Ireland semi-final the following February – to put it mildly, they have turned themselves inside out in the interim.

Mind you, Gort didn’t have to be any great shakes to overcome the respective challenges of Ardrahan and Beagh in the knock-out stages of the title race, but they certainly hit the ground running when overcoming reigning All-Ireland champions Portumna, who admittedly had to endure over two months of inactivity, in a belated Galway final in mid-December.

The challengers had wind advantage in the first-half and though the heavy surface militated against much open hurling, Gort were in a good position at the break when leading by 0-9 to 0-5. For much of the remaining action, they were just doing enough to stay in front until Kevin Hayes brilliantly first-timed to the net to draw the teams’ level in the 57th minute.

Portumna, however, had barely stopped celebrating when Gort immediately delivered a fatal blow thanks to Wayne Walsh’s goal not long after being introduced to the action. They hadn’t wilted when the title holders struck for a timely equaliser and, for good measure, added a second green flag from Albert Mullins before the end.

We all know that Portumna are no longer the electrifying force which ruthlessly dismantled opponents in their hey-day, but Gort’s triumph still represented a notable achievement with the likes of half backs Aidan Harte and Greg Lally, along with the back-in-form Richie Cummins, making big contributions to the club’s seventh county title. There were influential displays too from the likes of Paul Killilea, the Linnanes’, Michael Cummins, Mark McMahon and Jason Grealish, who understandably tired after a long injury lay off.

Gort teams have never lacked resolution or grit over the years, but if they are to have any hope of derailing the Shamrocks, those qualities will have to be evident in abundance in Semple Stadium on Saturday. Their backs will have to get up close and personal with the vaunted Ballyhale attack, while their ability to close down the Kilkenny men further out the field will be critical to the outcome as well.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune

 

Connacht Tribune

Inconsistent Covid restrictions just driving people up the walls

John McIntyre

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Galway WFC's Lynsey McKey in action against Paula Doran of Bohemians during Saturday's National League tie at Eamonn Deacy Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

OUR patience with Ireland’s ongoing battle against Covid-19 is running out. We are tired of the constant negative narrative, the scaremongering and regular qualification of any good news. The Government and NPHET continue to kill the morale of their own people with inconsistent coronavirus restrictions.

We can be in the middle of one wave of the virus and the prophets of doom are already warning about the next one. Caution has been taken to extremes and it’s only driving a large proportion of the population up the walls, especially those involved with sport. Some of the restrictions are now doing more harm than good.

The danger of sticking your head above the parapet is that you are immediately accused of not respecting or ignoring a public health emergency; that you are in some way complicit in keeping the virus on these shores longer than necessary; that you are indifferent to the suffering of thousands of families who have lost loved ones due to Covid-19.

I get that, but I am none of the above. I belong to a large cohort of people who are applying logic and common sense to what is going on. For instance, there is no earthly good reason why golf courses and tennis courts have to remain out of bounds until near the end of the month, or why team sport – at all levels – played outdoors isn’t also back up and running, at least in terms of training.

We are constantly told that being outdoors reduces the risk of virus transmissions significantly; that it is a much safer environment compared to indoor settings. Yet, the Government and NPHET are not helping us practice what they preach. There are thousands of young sports people all over the country who are being driven close to insanity; cooked up with little to do.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Boss Kenny can’t buy a break as dream job turns into a nightmare

John McIntyre

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Galway WFC's Therese Kinnevey and Shauna Brennan leading this charge against Cork City WFC during Saturday's National League tie at Eamonn Deacy Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

STEPHEN Kenny looked a tormented soul after the Republic of Ireland’s shock World Cup qualifying loss to the minnows of Luxembourg at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday night. The Dubliner is only a few months in charge of the team, but everything that could go wrong has gone wrong since he took over from Mick McCarthy.

After the reasonable promise of Ireland’s away defeat to Serbia the previous Wednesday, the visit of Luxembourg to Dublin was understandably tagged as a match Seamus Coleman and company simply had to win and, in the process, finally give some overdue momentum to Kenny’s tenure.

Unfortunately, Ireland just didn’t perform or deliver against the 98th rated team in the world. Instead, the match appeared to be trundling to a nil-all draw conclusion when Luxembourg stunned their hosts with a well-taken 85th winner from Gerson Rodrigues. Suddenly, a bad night had turned into a disastrous one.

With injuries again hitting Kenny’s selection plans – Galway’s Aaron Connolly was among the absentees – there was another youthful appeal to his line up, including a debut for 19-year-old goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, who did well in challenging circumstances. Unfortunately, the rest of the team were found wanting.

The reality now is that Ireland’s World Cup ambitions are already over after just two matches, a scenario which has cranked up the pressure on the team’s beleaguered boss. Kenny just can’t buy a break in the job. Between Covid, absentees and injuries, his time at the helm has been spent trying to cobble together teams to represent Ireland. He is constantly dealing with a compromised hand.

In those circumstances, any manager would struggle and though Kenny has a strong winning pedigree in League of Ireland football, this is a different world altogether and already, you get a sense that the vultures are circling, notwithstanding the FAI’s public vote of confidence expressed by Chairperson Ray Barrett in the wake of the Luxembourg defeat.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

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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

Brilliant duo Blackmore and De Bromhead rewrite record books

John McIntyre

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Galway amateur jockey Eoin Mahon and Beating The Odds (on right) clearing the last on their way to victory over Difficult Decision in the Leugh Handicap Hurdle at Thurles on Saturday. Photo: Caroline Norris.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

HEADING into last week’s Cheltenham National Hunt Festival, even the dogs on the street knew that the Irish raiders were in for a bonanza, but few anticipated such an unprecedented wipe out of the home challenge. It was getting embarrassing by the end of the fourth day as Irish horse after Irish horse stormed up the hill – often in glorious isolation.

Ultimately, the UK had to be content with a mere five winners over the 28-race programme with not a solitary success registered over hurdles – a truly astonishing scenario. Time and again, some of their supposedly big guns were found wanting in the Cotswolds, with only Nicky Henderson’s pair, the brilliant Shishkin and Chantry Horse, recording Grade One successes.

For Ireland to land 23 races at the Olympics of the sport underlines how much the balance of power has switched at Cheltenham in modern times. Only staying hurdler Galmoy had prevented an Irish whitewash in 1987 and ’88, while the raiding party returned empty-handed from the meeting in 1989.

Of course, Cheltenham was only a three-day festival back then, but the Irish dominance over the past few years is still remarkable. Sure, we have exceptional trainers in Willie Mullins, Henry De Bromhead and Gordon Elliott, and some wealthy individuals are splashing out on the best of thoroughbreds coming up for sale, but British National Hunt racing is on its knees in terms of quality after last week’s drubbing.

The poor prizemoney on offer in the UK is clearly a big factor in British based owners – like Cheverly Park – sending their horses across the Irish Sea to be trained, while some cross-channel trainers have already publicly questioned their own racing programme in the context of too many handicaps and not enough races at the top end level.

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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