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Inside Track

Hurlers must raise intensity levels for big Banner battle

John McIntyre

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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

Missing out on the opportunities that lay ahead will haunt Galway

John McIntyre

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Galway football manager Padraic Joyce digests their Connacht final defeat to Mayo at Pearse Stadium on Sunday with members of his backroom team, Cian Breathnach and Michael Comer. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

NOBODY needed to tell Padraic Joyce the consequences of their narrow defeat to Mayo at a near-deserted Pearse Stadium last Sunday. Losing Connacht’s showpiece match was bad enough, but the real pain was realising that the Tribesmen’s enticing pathway to a first All-Ireland final appearance in 19 years had been completely closed off.

With an All-Ireland semi-final date against either Cork or Tipperary the reward for the winners of the Connacht title, there was a lot more at stake in Salthill than provincial glory. Had Galway got the better of Mayo, they would have fancied their chances against either of those opponents. Suddenly, they would be preparing for an All-Ireland final.

And Galway are one of those teams whose tradition suggests that they would be capable of anything in that environment. Sadly, they are now denied that prospect after a muddling performance against their arch Western foes. Yes, Mayo were the better team and spurned two goal chances, but it was still a match the home team could have won.

Though some of the officiating didn’t do the hosts any favour, it was Galway’s carelessness in possession which must really haunt them. Some of their players were turned over too easily, while their decision making going forward in the opening quarter also left a lot to be desired. Nobody could question the team’s spirit or desire, but they needed to mind ball much better.

Given their injury woes, together with no competitive championship prep for the final and the recent trauma of that league trouncing by Mayo, the hosts’ preparations were far from ideal but Joyce wasn’t inclined to go down the excuses road. He was understandably more frustrated with Galway’s own inadequacies and mistakes, along with the team’s modest scoring haul of 13 points.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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

Galway hurlers must be careful but footballers have to go for it

John McIntyre

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Galway’s Rebecca Hennelly in the swing against Cork’s Laura Treacy during the All-Ireland senior camogie championship clash at Pearse Stadium on Sunday. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

BASING a team’s worth and probable fortunes on one match alone has led many astray – look at the transformation in Cork hurlers in the space of a week – which means there has to be a certain amount of caution in assessing Galway’s chances against Kilkenny in Saturday evening’s provincial decider at Croke Park.

In contrast to the Rebels, the Tribesmen really hit the ground running in their opening championship outing by dismantling Wexford in a one-sided Leinster semi-final. On the evening, Galway were a revelation in sauntering to a 13-point victory. Getting their match-ups right and performing with admirable purpose, Shane O’Neill’s squad looked close to their All-Ireland winning form of 2017.

But are Galway that good? We will certainly know a lot more after their latest tussle with the Cats who are bound to provide a far more searching test than Wexford despite their staggering second-half collapse against Dublin in the Leinster semi-final. Losing a 16-point lead is unheard off in the Brian Cody era and their defence struggled badly when ran at.

Kilkenny’s second-half woes, however, guarantee that they will be really up for the Galway match. Can you imagine the grief Cody has given the players in the interim? Remember too, when Kilkenny have a cause – like in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final against Limerick – they bring an extra manic desire to the battleground. Galway need to be braced for that.

Yet, they remain hugely dependent on the inspirational TJ Reid to weave his magic up front, but he’s not getting any younger and one wonders will Galway hand the versatile Joseph Cooney the brief of not letting the Ballyhale clubman out of his sights. Obviously, Colin Fennelly is a danger too with his direct style of running, while the Tribesmen won’t need any reminding of the damage Walter Walsh can cause if on a going day.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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

Galway and Limerick look best equipped for a December date

John McIntyre

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Galway’s Fabienne Cooney geting the better of Tipperary’s Aisling McCarthy during the All-Ireland ladies football senior championship clash at the Limerick Gaelic Grounds on Saturday. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IT’S time to nail our colours to the mast. In the wake of the ten contenders for this year’s All-Ireland hurling title making their championship debuts, we are predicting a December showdown between Limerick and Galway – the two most formidable physically equipped teams out there.

Of course, there’s still a lot of hurling to be done, but even neutrals were impressed by the power shows over the weekend from both Limerick and Galway. One team defeated the reigning champions by nine points; the other humbled Wexford by a 13-point margin. And it just wasn’t about the gulf on the scoreboards at the end either.

Tipperary and Wexford simply couldn’t cope with the physicality of their respective opponents. They were both ground into submission and as weather conditions are bound to worsen over the winter, it’s the team with the big men who will have an inherent advantage. Bulk and physique alone won’t win All-Irelands, but both Galway and Limerick are also blessed with an abundance of natural talent.

Steady on John, I can hear the local sceptics say. Are you talking about the same Galway team which only drew with Wexford last year and were subsequently sent tumbling from the championship by Dublin at Parnell Park?  Yeah, but 2019 was a season of massive under-achievement for the men in maroon who now look revitalised under Shane O’Neill’s tenure.

On the evidence of Croke Park on Saturday evening, the bite is back in Galway’s hurling. Furthermore, newcomers Eanna Murphy and Fintan Burke are proving big defensive assets, while Brian Concannon looks primed to deliver on the promise of his under-age days judging by the way he tormented Wexford in the Leinster semi-final.

Sure, the title holders didn’t raise much of a gallop but Galway didn’t let them. Seán Loftus, the Mannion brothers, Padraic and Cathal, and the outstanding Conor Whelan were way too slick for Wexford and if Galway bring the same urgency and purpose to the battleground against Kilkenny on Saturday week, I can see only one outcome.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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