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Healy heartache

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Nial Healy

GALWAY sharpshooter Niall Healy, who is sidelined for the rest of the year with a cruciate injury, believes his team-mates will have to be “wired to the moon” if they are to turn over Kilkenny in their Leinster semi-final at O’Connor Park, Tullamore on Sunday. That was the intense approach Galway adopted when conquering Kilkenny 2-21 to 2-11 in the 2012 Leinster decider – a game they had incredibly led 2-12 to 0-4 after a flawless first half. “That day against Kilkenny, they were wired to the moon going out,” says Healy. “I think they just have to get back to the same attitude as that. They just need to be wired up going out on Sunday, if they can. Whatever lads did two years ago, they have to get up to the same level. That is what they are going to need to do to beat Kilkenny.” Indeed, Galway have proven that they do have displays like that in their arsenal but the problem for the Tribesmen is that they have been unable to do produce these performances on a consistent basis. That has been the conundrum haunting Galway hurling since their last All-Ireland win in 1988. Healy, despite being to the forefront of Galway hurling for over a decade, is equally as perplexed by the mystery. “I don’t know. I suppose, there are guys on the panel who have had a lot of setbacks over the last few years and maybe that does be playing on the mind going out. It is hard to put your finger on it.” In any event, it’s doubtful any other inter-county hurler has been through the proverbial wringer as much as Galway’s 2004 minor captain when it comes to injuries over the last three years. In the darkest hours, the 29-year-old must wonder what he did to alienate the sporting gods. With hand and bicep injuries seriously disrupting his seasons in 2012 and ‘13 respectively, he could be forgiven for thinking the worst was behind him. However, a cruciate tear in a club game last month has cut short his playing year for club and county once again, much to the Craughwell man’s frustration. “It is very frustrating,” admits the former All-Ireland U-21 winner (2005). “If it happened in November, it mightn’t be too bad but it is just the time of the year. There is nothing better than going down to Kenny Park, training away on summer evenings, and it is very frustrating now not to be able to do that. “Things were going well for me but, I suppose, you can’t be feeling too sorry for yourself either. There are people worse off than me. I just have to get this operation done [with Ray Moran in Dublin] in two weeks’ time and then focus on getting ready for next year again.” For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Galway let 11-point slip in a thrilling minor battle

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Galway’s Colm Costello tries to fend off the challenge of Roscommon’s Ethan O’Reilly during Friday's Connacht minor football semi-final at Tuam Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Roscommon 1-16

Galway          2-12

IT would be a tad simplistic to dub what was a hugely entertaining Connacht minor football semi-final as a game of two halves, given that Galway led by 11 points at one stage before Roscommon stormed back to eventually claim a remarkable victory at Tuam Stadium last Saturday.

The reality is a little more nuanced, in that Galway, on their first outing of the year, impressively carved Roscommon’s defence apart with an array of stylish attacking play for a 20-minute spell while playing with the wind at their backs. Outside of that period, though, Galway would just manage to register a solitary point from play.

Roscommon also let four decent goal chances slip through their fingers before they eventually did raise a green flag, drawing two saves while also hitting the post. Critically they hit the last three points of the half to leave a slightly more manageable eight between the sides.

During Galway’s purple patch, pacy corner forwards Eanna Monaghan and Niall Mannion both left their markers chasing shadows, as Galway reeled off nine scores without reply having understandably started quite sluggishly. Goals by Sean Bermingham and Monaghan looked to have Alan Flynn’s side in the box seat, but Roscommon showed remarkable character to claw their way back despite a second half black card that threatened to stall their comeback.

However, when Robert Heneghan’s thunderous 47th minute shot hit the roof of the net while Roscommon were still a body short, the large travelling support rose the decibel levels another notch and their team responded magnificently.

Read full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Hurling

Difficult draw for champs St Thomas’ in senior title race

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COUNTY SHC champions St. Thomas’ will have it all to do to defend their crown after they were drawn in a group containing two heavy-hitters in Cappataggle and Liam Mellows – along with the team that last dumped them out of the senior championship in 2017, Killimordaly.

St. Thomas’ claimed a famous three-in-a-row last year when defeating a resurgent Turloughmore in the county decider and, while they have avoided the 2020 finalists, they have been pitted against last year’s semi-finalists Cappataggle and 2017 winners Liam Mellows.

Both Cappataggle and Liam Mellows have consistently competed at the business end of the championship in recent years, with Cappy pushing Thomas’ all the way in last year’s semi-final, with the champions just edging the contest on a 1-15 to 0-17 scoreline.

While St. Thomas’ also saw off Killimordaly by 1-23 to 2-16 in the quarter-final stage in 2020, they will still be wary of a Killimordaly outfit that dumped them out of the championship at the preliminary quarter-final stage in 2017.

In the aftermath of that defeat, Kevin Lally took over the managerial reins and in the ensuing three years St. Thomas’ cemented their status as one of the county’s top clubs with three senior championship title wins on the bounce.

Over the winter, however, there has been a change in management, with Lally and trainer TJ Ryan stepping down and former hurler Kenneth Burke, who has a growing reputation as a mentor and coach, taking over.

Burke is also a son of former manager John Burke and what he offers is a continuity from two previous managerial set-ups that have been hugely successful.

The 2021 senior and intermediate championships commence on the weekend of September 11 and 12 and, as always, they promise much.

See the full draw and analysis in Tribune Sport this week. The Connacht Tribune is now on sale in shops, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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CITY TRIBUNE

Weld rolls back the years as Coltor proves best in feature

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Trainer Dermot Weld in the winners' enclosure at Ballybrit on Monday evening after saddling Caltor to land the featured Connacht Hotel Amateur Handicap. Photo: Iain McDonald.

HE may be disposed as the ‘King of Ballybrit’, but Dermot Weld hasn’t lost his touch for training big-race winners at the Galway Summer Festival.

Monday’s feature – the €100,000 Connacht Hotel Amateur Handicap – saw a maximum field of 20 runners face the starter and through the stable currently dominant at Galway threw six darts at the bullseye, it was Weld who hit the target with 14/1 shot Coltor.

A second consecutive win for jockey Finian Maguire in the most prestigious event on the racing calendar for amateur riders, however, looked unlikely as one of Willie Mullins’ half-dozen challengers travelled by far the best of the field around the home turn.

The well-fancied Foveros and Aubrey McMahon had just picked off the lone UK challenger, the pace-setting Litterale Ci, leaving the six-year-old poised to give the Mullins yard a fourth win in the last five runnings of the two-mile contest.

Though hard at work on market drifter Coltor, Maguire finally got the penny to drop inside the final 100 yards and Weld’s challenger swooped close to the line to deny Foveros by the three quarters of a length.

It was Weld’s first win in Monday’s feature since the Jane Mangan partnered Midnight Music obliged in 2012, prior to which he had won the race three times in a row between 2007 and 2009. This was his eighth victory in the race as a trainer.

“It’s a lovely race to win, it has been a very lucky race for me as a trainer and I also won it four times as an amateur jockey, starting as a 15-year-old,” said Weld.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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