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Inside Track

Heroic Irish rugby team is left in the pits of despair

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Inside Track with John McIntyre

In terms of gut-wrenching and sickening defeats, Ireland’s devastating injury time loss to the All-Blacks at the Aviva Stadium last Sunday is as bad as it gets. Moments away from a first ever victory over the New Zealanders, the Dublin venue was rocking as the heroic men in green stood on the cusp of wrecking the World champions’ dream season.

Unrecognisable from the team which had surrendered meekly to Australia the previous weekend, Ireland came agonisingly close to a milestone triumph over the All Blacks after an invigorating and stunning opening-half performance which was arguably the best we have ever seen from an Irish rugby team. Bodies were laid on the line, players drove themselves to exhaustion as Paul O’Connell and company cranked up the intensity levels.

Tries from the recalled Conor Murray, hooker Rory Best and Ron Kearney, after an 80 yards breakaway run, in the opening quarter powered Ireland into a scarcely believable 19-nil lead. The All Blacks were reeling and with the injured Dan Carter absent from the pivotal out half role, the crowd at the Aviva could smell blood. There was no holding back from the fired-up home team with the magnificent Sean O’Brien at the heart of a towering effort from the pack.

Few rugby realists had expected to see the All Blacks battered so much around the field. It was the tourists’ final test match of an admittedly long season, but they were endeavouring to become the first team in the professional era to go through an entire season with a 100/% record. Thirteen matches down and one to go  . . . against a side they had routed 60-nil in Hamilton in June of last year.

The bookmakers were giving Ireland a 20-point head start and it was difficult to digress. A lot of the optimism which had been generated by Joe Schmidt’s appointment as team coach had dissipated in the wake of the subdued and error-prone effort against the Aussies, while there was a growing feeling that great soldiers such as Gordon D’Arcy, Brian O’Driscoll, O’Connell and Best were now past it at the highest level.

To compound the sense of gloom, it appeared earlier last week that injuries would rule Jonny Sexton, Kearney and O’Driscoll out of All Blacks fixture and, not surprisingly, there were fears that the Irish would be wiped out in their final November international. After all, they had only pulled away from the woeful Samoans in the final quarter, while an admittedly improving Australia are still a long way behind their famed Southern Hemisphere neighbours.

But stung by the criticism of their poor display against Australia and with their injured contingent recovering in time, Ireland tore into the New Zealanders with a sustained fury and intensity which saw them surge into that early commanding lead. They were committing more bodies to the breakdown, while the line speed in shutting off All Blacks attacks was at a completely different level to the week previous.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Joyce is right – Galway better off to target league glory than muddle on

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Galway’s Matthew Tierney on the ball against Mayo’s Conor Loftus during Saturday's National Football League tie at MacHale Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

YOU could sympathise with Padraic Joyce’s frustration after Saturday evening’s rip-roaring National Football League clash at MacHale Park. Better game management in the closing minutes would have seen Galway over the line and dealt an early season blow to the new Kevin McStay led Mayo management.

In shades of their league tie against Monaghan in June of 2021 when Galway ended up being relegated after holding a winning hand, they were almost home, albeit clinging to a slender one-point advantage. Mayo were pressing desperately in trying to salvage a draw, but their hopes appeared dashed when Ryan O’Donoghue’s free from the left sideline dropped short.

Referee Joe McQuillan was about to blow the final whistle as Cathal Sweeney emerged with the ball only for the Salthill/Knocknacarra man to cough up possession by attempting a risky kick pass to a teammate. The delivery was over-hit, and the lively Donoghue pounced to bravely drive over the equaliser to send the Mayo fans in the big crowd of almost 14,000 into raptures.

Mayo’s second last point was also avoidable. Again, Galway had possession with Peter Cooke, who had just landed a mighty long-range free. Instead, however, of trying to force his way up the field, the Maigh Cuilinn player turned back towards his own posts, came under pressure, and ended up giving the ball away cheaply.  Galway players should remember that when under the cosh, the sideline is your friend.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway under a little pressure to stop Mayo’s early-season gallop

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Hall of Fame award winner Tommy Joe Gilmore with his daughter Olivia, his son Brian and daughter in-law Karen Monks at the Metronic Galway Sports Stars banquet in the Galway Bay Hotel on Friday night. Photo: Iain McDonald.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

We won’t even have reached the end of January and the paths of Connacht’s great footballing rivals will have already crossed twice, with the prospect of more clashes between Galway and Mayo before the end of the inter-county season in late July.

The early 2023 bragging rights have gone to Mayo manager Kevin McStay after their defeat of the Tribesmen in the semi-final of the FBD League – a competition they went on to win last weekend with a comfortable 0-13 to 0-9 victory over Roscommon in the Connacht Air Dome.

Though both teams were in understandably experimental mode, Mayo managed to secure this pre-season competition for the first time in a decade with late points from Cillian O’Connor and Conor Loftus sealing the deal. In the overall scheme of things, the FBD league doesn’t count for much but delivering some silverware so early into his tenure won’t do McStay’s management any harm.

Naturally, Mayo will be anxious to keep the momentum going in Saturday evening’s televised National League clash at MacHale Park, especially given that they narrowly failed to Galway in last year’s provincial championship. A first-half Johnny Heaney goal and some quality free-taking from Shane Walsh just about saw the Tribesmen through in the face of a late siege by the home team.

Galway boss Padraic Joyce kept a sense of perspective after that early season loss to Mayo a couple of weeks ago, but he was blunt enough in assessing the merits or otherwise of some of the players being trialled. Joyce is experienced in the post now and knows what he is looking for. And having led Galway to league promotion, the Connacht title and the All-Ireland final last year, he has earned that leverage to call it as he sees it.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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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

Early reality check might prove a good thing for Galway footballers

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Galway’s Johnny Heaney secures possession against Mayo’s Jack Coyne during Saturday's Connacht FBD League semi-final in Bekan. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IF the Galway footballers and team management needed any reminding that their substantial progress in 2022 offers no guarantees for the season ahead, they would have got in spades in Bekan on Saturday evening. Losing a FBD League semi-final to arch-rivals Mayo is no big deal in itself, but does underline the reality that the Tribesmen can’t take for granted building on last year’s achievements. And that may be no bad thing in the long run.

Naturally, Padraic Joyce would have preferred if Galway had got over the line at the weekend, especially in the context of preventing Mayo building up early season momentum under new manager Kevin McStay. In the end, he was probably grateful his team were only three points adrift after a difficult second quarter.

When Mayo went 2-10 to 0-5 ahead early in the second-half, it appeared Galway might suffer a hiding. Their goals came from Jordan Carr and Paul Towey, with Matthew Ruane and Jordan Flynn dominant around midfield. Mayo were also performing with the greater energy.

Gradually, however, Galway got to the pitch of the battle, thanks in no small way to the telling contribution of substitute Tomo Culhane, a player who didn’t make the match-day squad for last year’s All-Ireland final. The Salthill/Knocknacarra clubman scored 2-2 after coming on to revive the Tribesmen’s challenge

With Matthew Tierney also finding the opposition net, Galway were belatedly building up a head off steam. Mayo, however, just did enough to hold on with Towey, Aiden Orme and Bryan Walsh picking off some invaluable points, although it took Rory Byrne’s late save from Nathan Grainger to keep their noses in front.

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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