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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

Cool the jets – let’s give Galway sideline supremos a fair hearing

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Mayo's Aidan O'Shea feels the strain against Galway's Cathal Sweeney and Seán Mulkerrin during Sunday's Connacht Football Final at Croke Park. Photo: Ray McManus /Sportsfile.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IN all my years (more like decades) involved in hurling, I have never seen a team play the game at a faster pace than what Waterford did for 55 minutes in Thurles last Saturday. They were like Olympic sprinters and Galway simply couldn’t keep up with them in the open expanses of Semple Stadium.

Galway hurlers have often plumbed the depths when least expected, but trailing by 16 points after three quarters of Saturday’s knock-out clash was a total shock to the system. We know the Tribesmen have a terrible record against Waterford, but this was embarrassing and unacceptable for a team which had been touted as Limerick’s chief threat.

Though Galway are understandably getting some credit for their grandstand finish, it’s only papering over the cracks and, let’s be honest, there would probably have been no comeback at all only for Waterford being reduced to 14 players for the entire second-half. And then having whittled the deficit down from 16 points to three and all the momentum behind them with over six minutes still left to be played, they were found wanting again.

After substitute Jason Flynn’s first goal, there were five more scores and Waterford got four of them. That alone tells you that Liam Cahill’s men had more of what it takes to succeed at this level. Waterford were in disarray but somehow were able to find the inspiration to get over the line.

Meeting Galway supporters before the game, we shared the same concerns about the men in maroon jerseys. Eyebrows were raised by the team chosen and some of the positions players were picked in. Having failed to raise much of a gallop against Dublin, Galway should have been straining at the leash to achieve some redemption. Instead, they were worse; swept aside by a ravenous Waterford team which had everything their opponents didn’t

Though leaving Daithí Burke at centre-back didn’t cost Galway the game, it was still stubborn of the team management to stick to their guns when his zealous patrolling of the square continued to be so blatantly missed. Keeping faith with the unrelated Cooneys’, Joseph and Conor, also attracted criticism.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Fearsome Limerick hit new high by tearing Tipperary rivals apart

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Galway’s Carrie Dolan breaking away from Laura Doherty of Westmeath during Saturday's All-Ireland camogie championship clash at Kenny Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

In the aftermath of a wonderful sporting achievement, it’s easy to get carried away and, perhaps, overrate what we have just seen at the expense of great deeds from the past. But even against that background, what Limerick hurlers achieved in the second-half of Sunday’s Munster Final was extraordinary.

They looked a beaten docket at half-time. Trailing by ten points to a Jason Forde inspired and a fiercely committed Tipperary, the All-Ireland champions were in serious trouble. They had conceded two goals directly from opposition puck-outs to Jake Morris and Bubbles O’Dwyer, and so many of their marquee players were off the pace.

In fact, Tipperary could have been ahead by more. With Dan McCormack playing deep to free up Brendan Maher as their sweeper, they created a world of chances with Forde – the most under-rated forward in the game – rifling over a series of points from all angles and distances. Limerick were all at sea and only Cian Lynch and Tom Morrissey were having a significant impact on the action.

But nobody could have envisaged the sensational turnaround in the third quarter. Within 18 minutes, a resurgent Limerick had gone a point ahead as reserves Aaron Gillane and Dan Morrissey added fresh vigour to their challenge at opposite ends of the field. It was like watching two different matches as Tipp were simply overwhelmed.

Their older generation really sagged in the unforgiving temperatures and by the time their management made changes, Limerick had already taking control. On the scoreboard, Tipp were still in it, but their players must have been in a state of shock over how a big lead had been so quickly and so ruthlessly wiped out. Limerick’s younger legs and sheer physical power were now dictating the terms of engagement.

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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Connacht Tribune

Epic Portlaoise battle highlights what minor level is now missing

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Galway midfielder Kieran Hanrahan breaking away from Kilkenny’s Harry Shine during the 2020 All-Ireland Minor hurling final at O'Moore Park on Saturday evening. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

WHAT unfolded at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise last Saturday evening again puts a negative slant on the GAA’s decision at the 2016 Congress to reduce the age limit for minor competition from U18 to U17 and the U21 grade to U20.
Sure, there were issues with Leaving Cert exams and hold-ups in fixtures at senior level due to the previous under-age structures, but the competitiveness of the minor grade has been drastically impacted by restricting it to U17s, while the former U21 competition carried more prestige than the current U20 championship.
These were hardly intractable problems in the first place, but it is another example of the GAA’s continuous meddling with their competitions and the rule book. On the other hand, you sometimes wonder do Congress delegates sleepwalk their way through proceedings by not anticipating the impact of certain decisions at ground level until it’s too late.
Back to O’Moore Park. Due to Covid 19, the 2020 All-Ireland minor hurling championship was run off about a year behind schedule and the upshot was that many players had reached 18 by the time it came to enter combat. In effect, it was the way things used to be and the resulting increase in intensity and physicality was welcome.
Galway and Kilkenny locked horns in a gripping battle on Saturday evening and there was no holding back to the exchanges. You just don’t have that at U17 level because the players are not nearly as well physically developed. The minor grade is currently a pale imitation of its former glory.
That reality was confirmed in the delayed 2020 championship with the All-Ireland final serving up a compelling struggle for supremacy. Early on, it seemed Galway were about to overwhelm Kilkenny as they established a seven-point lead but, by the end of the game, they needed a brilliantly created goal from Liam Collins to carry the day.

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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