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Inside Track

Hurlers blow it but footballers show some bottle

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Inside Track with John McIntyre

AS the matches which formed Sunday’s National League double bill at Pearse Stadium drifted into the final quarter respectively, it was difficult to escape the conclusion that the Galway hurlers were certainties to beat Cork and the footballers were in big trouble against Wexford. The Salthill venue, however, threw up unexpected finishes to both matches on a biting cold day when the strong wind didn’t have the expected influence on the action.

The hurlers may have finished level with Cork, but that outcome will have felt like a defeat after they had established a four point lead midway through the second-half with the elements behind them. In contrast, the Galway footballers defied the wind in their faces to finish in a blaze of glory to win by a hardly imaginable eight points, having found themselves in some difficulty when going 0-11 to 0-10 behind 16 minutes from the end.

At present in the county’s GAA strongholds, there is more thought of the Galway hurlers than the footballers, but it was Alan Mulholland’s team which displayed the greater resolve and technique at the weekend. Having got a bad thumping from Laois in the previous round of the league, the Tribesmen were under severe pressure ahead of the Wexford encounter with the threat of relegation hanging over them, and struggling to assemble a settled team.

Changes were again made for the visit of the Slaneysiders, the most notable of which saw Ballinalsoe’s Keith Kelly called up to centre back, but wind-assisted Galway produced an uneven first half performance. They went from 0-3 to 0-1 up after seven minutes to trailing by 0-6 to 0-3 midway through the half with lively Wexford corner forward Shane Roche proving a handful. The manner in which opposition players careered through the heart of the Galway defence was alarming, while there was also a dependency on Sean Armstrong frees for scores at the other end.

With Wexford deploying full forward Redmond Barry as an effective sweeper, Galway found it difficult to create sufficient openings, but the energetic Danny Cummins did land a brace, while Conor Doherty had to settle for a point after his thumping drive was denied by the crossbar in the 25th minute. The home team did lead by 0-8 to 0-7 at the break, but that narrow advantage looked well short of what Galway needed given the strength of the wind.

Yet, it was soon clear that the Tribesmen were up for the challenge. Paul Conroy, who shortly needs to be tied down to one position – certainly, starting him at corner forward, appeared an odd piece of management thinking – and substitute Gareth Bradshaw fired over points as they crowded the middle third of the field to prevent the opposition running from deep. But the conditions just had to exert an influence and it was no surprise when Wexford reeled off four points on the spin to edge in front 19 minutes into the half.

It could quickly have got worse for Galway only for raiding corner back Joey Wadding, admittedly under pressure, dragging his close range effort just wide of Manus Breathnach’s far post. A goal then would probably have sealed Galway’s fate, and though they still had work to do, Finian Hanley and his team-mates were not to be found wanting as they finished the match by serving up arguably their most fluent football of the campaign so far.

Despite it being his third game of the week, young midfielder Fiontán Ó Curraoin was securing some primary possession around midfield, while Gary Sice, after a less than blemish-free opening-half, began to thunder into the action, highlighted by his cracking goal in the 69th minute after Michael Meehan and Cummins had put the Corofin man in the clear. Even more impressive was the manner in which Galway drove on from there to the finish.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribne.

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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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.

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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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