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Inside Track

Hurlers must raise intensity levels for big Banner battle

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THE big question ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland hurling quarter-final against Clare in Thurles is do Galway have the stomach and temperament to recover from their unexpected mauling by Dublin in the Leinster final earlier in the month? They have been talking the talk since that disappointing result, but now the players have to walk the walk in this all or nothing battle.

Regardless of what players the team management pick and in what positions they are lined out, Galway will be vulnerable to their youthful neighbours if a major increase in intensity and work-rate isn’t forthcoming compared to their tame performance against Dublin. The bottom line is that last year’s All-Ireland finalists are going to have seriously roll up their sleeves to save their season. Semple Stadium will be no place for slackers.

The fact that Galway have beaten Clare by ten and 17 points in their most recent championship clashes is arguably more of a hindrance than a help to Anthony Cunningham’s men in the build up to Sunday’s quarter-final. Galway tend to view themselves as superior to their Munster rivals, but the counties’ head to head championships meetings shows Clare holding a decisive 8-4 advantage – a big pre-match health warning for the Tribesmen and their supporters if ever there was one.

Considerable surgery is anticipated to the Galway team and there is a general expectation that Aidan Harte, Andy Smith, Damien Hayes and Jonathan Glynn, who were all introduced in the Leinster final, will be in the trenches from the throw in this time, while Niall Donohue must also be in line for a recall to a defence which was ripped apart by Dublin. The pressure is on the management to make the right calls in relation to personnel and the positioning of the players.

Surely David Buke is best served by a midfield role; wouldn’t Smith bring some cutting edge to the half-forward line; and isn’t Johnny Coen’s natural pace wasted by his continued deployment in the full back line. There is also a burden on the likes of David Collins, Kevin Hynes, Fergal Moore, Iarla Tannian, Niall Burke and Cyril Donnellan to regain the verve of last summer, but one can imagine no circumstances in which all six of these players will start on Sunday.

Another puzzle is where has Tony Og Regan gone? I appreciate he is vulnerable when dragged away from the centre, but the Rahoon man had a really solid championship campaign last year until Henry Shefflin switched out to the forty in the second-half of the drawn All-Ireland final. Galway simply have to get the formation of their backline right for these Clare forwards are lively if horrendously wasteful at times.

Overall, it would be hugely disappointing if Galway don’t deliver a positive response to their Leinster final capitulation. These players are genuine, have no shortage of pride in the maroon jersey, but they are going to have to get down and dirty against Clare. Talent is not the issue, but rather their ability to tough it out in matches when the tide is swinging against them. They tend to be better from the front and are vulnerable to losing their way when falling behind early on, making a good start critical at Semple Stadium.

Mind you, Clare are not without their problems too even if there are tentative signs that Davy Fitzgerald is gradually releasing them from their tactical straitjacket. They finished strongly to take care of Waterford in the Munster championship, but subsequently were a major disappointment against Cork when the spurning of several goal chances crucified them. In all their matches, they are creating a phenomenal amount of scoring opportunities, but the conversion rate is simply not good enough at this level.

Even against a poor Wexford outfit in their second game in the qualifiers, they hit 20 wides and they carelessly allowed Liam Dunne’s men to snatch a draw in the end. Clare, to their credit, did cut loose in extra time with substitute Cathal McInerney grabbing a brace of goals and roving centre forward, Tony Kelly, showing a return to form, but their finishing remains a huge area of concern, although the day they do eventually get it right, God help their opposition.

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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