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Inside Track

Hurling’s force of nature sweep Tipperary men aside again

John McIntyre

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The Kilkerrin Clonberne team which won the Tesco All-Ireland ladies football club sevens senior final in Naomh Mearnóg GAA Club, Portmarnock. Back row, left to right: Back Row: Michael Divillly, Caoimhe Boyle, Sarah Gormally, Nicola Ward, Claire Dunleavy, Louise Ward, Emma Flanagan, Lisa Walsh, Willie Ward. Front row: Eamon Mahony, Niamh Divilly, Olivia Divilly, Ailbhe Mahony, Aoife McStay, Lisa Murphy, Annie Boyle.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THE All-Ireland hurling final replay at Croke Park on Saturday evening was a different kind of animal to the epic drawn encounter and it was largely played on Kilkenny’s terms.

Again, it produced another riveting contest, but the Cats rarely allowed Tipperary the kind of space they had thrived in three weeks previously in maintaining their modern-day dominance over the county’s arch rivals.

Records fell all over the place at GAA headquarters. It was Kilkenny’s tenth All-Ireland title in 16 years; their seventh in ninth seasons; Henry Shefflin became the first hurler to win ten senior medals; JJ Delaney and Tommy Walsh reach nine; while Brian Cody leads the Noresiders to a tenth All-Ireland triumph under his watch.

Saturday’s replay success also underlined why Kilkenny have been a law unto themselves over the past 15 years. This great team’s long established attributes of savage commitment, intensity, manic desire and unrelenting work ethic were all at the core of their latest victory over Tipperary. They took hooking and blocking to new levels of defiance and though it’s hard to credit given all that they have won, Kilkenny had a clear edge in hunger over Eamon O’Shea’s chastened troops too.

What makes Kilkenny’s latest championship achievement all the more phenomenal was that many neutrals thought that they were a spent force after last year’s quarter-final exit to Cork in Thurles. They looked a battle weary outfit that day; had earlier lost a replay to Dublin in the provincial campaign; while Cody had to take a break from sideline duties due to illness. Furthermore, Kilkenny hadn’t even played in Croke Park in 2013 and, putting all those things together, it was easy reach the conclusion that they, at least, faced a couple of years in transition.

Against that background, Kilkenny’s immediate renaissance this year is nothing short of amazing, but this team has never conformed to normal standards. In 2014, they have won everything: the Walsh Cup; the National League; the Leinster title; and now the county’s 35th All-Ireland championship. Their longer serving celebrated in Croke Park on Saturday evening as though they were just after winning their first Celtic Cross. This was one against the head.

Kilkenny were admittedly stretched at times in the opening half of Saturday’s replay, but they reached the interval only two points behind before going on to largely dominate the second-half with the switch of the previously subdued Colin Fennelly to full forward a key move. The Power brothers, Richie and John, also burst into life and it was their goals in the final quarter which sent Tipperary over the edge.

In fact, Kilkenny ought to have won by more. Opposition goalkeeper Darren Gleeson made a couple of critical interventions while Seamus Callanan’s second goal in the 69th minute was more the product of a lucky break than Tipperary cutting the Kilkenny defence apart as Lar Corbett had done in setting up Callanan’s opening goal seven minutes from the break. You could argue that Brendan Maher and company were the better team up to half time, but they were too goal hungry and spurned a couple of routine point-scoring opportunities in the vain pursuit of rattling the Kilkenny net.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

County managers must be careful as GAA starts to lay down the law

John McIntyre

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FLASHBACK: Galway Sports Stars 2010 Hall of Fame recipient John Connolly pictured with his brothers, from left: Michael, Joe, Tom, Gerry, RIP, Padraic and Murt, at the presentation banquet in the Ardilaun Hotel.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

WHEN there are no penalties for breaking regulations, it’s a licence for people to do almost anything that they want. The GAA is the latest organisation forced to grapple with the flouting of guidelines and it’s largely the Association’s own fault. What’s the point in introducing rules, if there are no sanctions or punishments?

After the GAA publicly unveiled its roadmap for the return to action at inter-county level, there was an immediate negative response from team managers, particularly over a ban on any resumption of collective training in advance of September 14. Instead, the initial focus was going to be on the club scene.

For those of us who belief that the level of inter-county preparations has become a runaway juggernaut, this schedule in response to the major impact of Covid-19 on the fixtures calendar is a welcome development. The county hurling and football championships would now be taken centre stage at a time of the year when clubs are usually lying idle.

The inter-county arena would be parked until mid-October, with truncated hurling and football campaigns at elite level clearing the way for pre-Christmas All-Ireland finals. Given that the GAA has lost nearly five months of its season, some serious sacrifices simply had to be made and while it was never going to be easy to placate all its stakeholders, the GAA made a reasonable fist of fitting in as much in a reduced fixtures timeframe.

The only stick waved against inter-county teams resuming training ahead of mid-September was that players wouldn’t be covered by insurance. It was never going to be enough to deter managers who have become accustomed to total access to their players whenever they wanted or, in the view of some, the continued opportunity of flogging their teams to death!

With plenty of anecdotal tales of county teams jumping the gun – notably the Wexford hurlers – and some clubs being denied access to their top players, the GAA quickly came under increasing pressure to flex its muscle. And by the end of last week, Croke Park had stepped up to the plate: introducing a clampdown on any breaches of the ‘return to play’ guidelines.

Clubs are now requested to report any incidents of their players being requisitioned for county training, while breaches of the ban on inter-county sessions carries the prospect of punishments ranging from the suspension of individuals, fines and expulsion from the championship. However, it is likely that sanctions will be more directed at county officers and team managers.

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

Looking for a value punt – back Galway to capture Sam at 10/1

John McIntyre

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FLASHBACK: The Galway team which defeated Limerick, in the All Ireland senior camogie championship in Killimor in June of 2006. Front row, from left: Brenda Kerins, Nicola Gavin, Aine Hillary, Sara Noone, Orla Kilkenny, Stephanie Gannon and Regina Glynn. Standing, from left: Ann Marie Hayes, Lourda Kavanagh, Brenda Hanney, Aislinn Connolly, Ailbhe Kelly, Therese Maher, Sinead Cahalan and Veronica Curtin.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

It comes as no surprise that Galway footballers have been backed into 10/1 third favourites to lift the Sam Maguire Cup next December after the GAA put the flesh on the bones of its revamped inter-county fixtures schedule due to the coronavirus outbreak.

For what seemed like an eternity, we had to tolerate the doomsayers almost revelling in the prospect of little of no sport going ahead for the rest of 2020 following the Government’s introduction of a lockdown last March to tackle Covid-19.

Back then, and for many weeks afterwards, none of could be sure how the pandemic would unfold and for how long it would impact on our normal existence, but those of use heavily invested in sport were entitled to hope that the rest of the year wouldn’t become a write off.

Sadly, Covid-19 is still claiming lives and its shadow could lurk for many more months, but the overall health picture currently looks an awful lot better. We still have to be careful and responsible as the country re-opens for business, while the prospect of international travel ratcheting up remains an understandable concern in the ongoing battle with the virus.

In the interim, we can look forward to a really condensed timetable for the All-Ireland hurling and football championships. It’s the same as club level as the GAA gallantly tries to fit nine and half months of competitive action into about half that time. Not every stakeholder can be satisfied and if social distancing is still with us next winter, crowds at matches will be severely impacted.

There had been calls for the GAA to use the health emergency as an opportunity to trial an open draw in the football championship, but the provincial councils remain a powerful lobby group in the Association and were never likely to acquiesce to such a radical move even in these unprecedented circumstances.

The bottom line, as we forecast a few weeks ago, is that no safety net will exist in the football championship, but there will be a second chance in hurling for defeated teams up to and including the provincial finals. That is simply down to numbers . . . there are 33 contenders (including London) in football, but only ten in hurling.

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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Connacht Tribune

Limelight beckons for clubs but only if GAA officials do their job

John McIntyre

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FLASHBACK: Brothers Davy, Ollie, Ivan, Joe and Francis Canning of Portumna pictured at Pearse Stadium in preparation for the 2004 county hurling final which they lost to Athenry.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

FOR the past five years in particular, expenditure on the preparation of inter-county GAA teams has gone through the roof. In 2019, for instance, Tipperary forked out a staggering €1.77m on their various minor, U20 and senior hurling and football squads. This is a jaw-dropping figure, but the Premier county is in good company.

Most counties are now breeching the €1m barrier annually, leaving many perplexed as to how they can afford (or justify) that level of financing in an organisation which is supposed to be amateur. The resulting drain on resources can’t last forever and if one good thing has come out of Covid-19, it’s put some sort of handbrake on the amount of money being spent on inter-county teams.

There are only so many novel fund-raising ventures out there and the law of diminishing returns will one day come into force. Having teams been put through the training mill in October in preparation for the following summer’s championships is impossible to defend, but that’s the template now for all counties.

Basically, this level of expenditure is unsustainable while there is growing unease about the way the club scene has been almost shoved to one side in the current climate of inter-country glorification. The real power-breakers are no longer county boards but rather the likes of Davy Fitzgerald, Liam Sheedy, Mickey Harte and James Horan.

Inter-county team managers have way too much influence on what happens – or more precisely what doesn’t happen – at club level these days. Up to 2020, the trend has been for a couple of rounds of county championship matches to be played in April before months of inactivity. In some counties, there are no club games at all until their flagship hurling and football teams fall in their pursuit of either the Sam Maguire or Liam McCarthy Cups.

Whether by design or accident, the inter-county arena has just taken over and is in danger of having the same consequences on club activity as the advent of professional rugby. Club hurlers and footballers no longer have exposure during the ideal summer months as fixtures are parked in the supposedly best interests of the county.

When I was involved with the Galway hurlers from 2009 to ’11, I believed we were a professional management endeavouring to do our best for the players. Apart from the coaching and conditioning expertise, we had quality medical support, access to proven sports psychologists as well as inviting guest speakers such as Eddie O’Sullivan, Jack O’Connor and Sean Boylan to address the players.

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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