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Injury-hit Connacht head into defining period

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Galway's Claire Molloy who played a key role in Ireland's Six Nations title clinching victory over Scotland last Sunday.

REWIND the clock back a couple of weeks to the half time whistle during Connacht’s Pro 12 tussle with Cardiff and all was looking bright in the world of the westerners. They led, although they should have led by more, injuries were clearing up and a top six finish seemed well within their grasp.

Since then, the negatives have far outweighed the positives with a trip to Thomond Park next up for Connacht on Saturday evening (5:15pm) to face a play-off chasing Munster side. The chances of another performance on par with the season’s best effort at Christmas in the (27-16 win) seem slim for Pat Lam’s men, but it has been a season of many surprises.

The list of things that have gone wrong since half time at the Arms Park is substantial. Jake Heenan’s season has come to an end due to a shoulder injury, the Blues scored a try nine minutes beyond the 80 minute mark to steal a win from Connacht’s hands, highly influential forwards coach Dan McFarland has confirmed his departure in the summer and Lam has received an €8000 fine from the Pro 12 for his post game comments about officials after that loss.

The three week lay off might just have added to the frustration and it is reasonable to expect  a fired up performance from Connacht in the early stages in Limerick on Saturday, on a par with what we have seen for most of the season. Despite the Cardiff loss, Connacht remain in sixth place holding a three point advantage over the Scarlets but, realistically, to keep the Llanelli side at arms length, Lam’s men will need at least three wins from five to close out the campaign.

The injury news was not good for Connacht this week on multiple fronts. To start with, Jake Heenan sustained a rotator cuff tear in his right shoulder and that is set to keep him out for the rest of the campaign. The one silver lining is that he doesn’t need an operation and Connacht expect him back for the start of next season.

The 22-year-old former New Zealand Under 20 captain missed 12 matches last season with a shoulder injury and 15 of the 23 games so far this season with a recurrence of that injury. Connacht’s other natural openside, Willie Faloon is also out for the remainder of the season after dislocating his shoulder again. He returns to Ulster in the off season and so, has played his last game in green.

Back in January, the best case scenario for Bundee Aki’s injury, sustained in the defeat to Edinburgh, was ten weeks but that will stretch to at least 11 now as the talented centre is not available for the Munster match. He has missed six games so far.

Equally as worrying is Nathan White’s ongoing lumbar spine issue affecting his leg. The tight head prop is being closely monitored and is due for a specialist review in the coming days. A knee injury to Dave McSharry was the other key bit of bad news. Full prognosis on that is expected next week.

The good news is that Kieran Marmion is back fit and fully available at scrum half while Eoin McKeon also make a timely recovery as he is the likely replacement for Heenan at number seven. While the 24-year-old Galwegian is regarded more as a six or and eight in the back row positions, he has made six starts this season in the number seven role and will be a likely regular in the coming weeks.

The drama around Saturday’s fixture can only be heightened by the fact that the referee for the game, Leighton Hodges from Wales, was the target of Pat Lam’s ire in the aforementioned post game press conference. Unfairly or not, the spotlight will be on the referee, that’s a certainty.

Three of Connacht’s remaining five pro 12 games are at home to play off chasing sides, Ulster, Glasgow and Ospreys. The other is an away trip to Parma to face Zebre in early May. The challenge is tough, so ending a winless run in Munster stretching back to 1986 could be necessary. It’s a tall order all things considered.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

CITY TRIBUNE

Dropped points leaves Utd losing touch with Cork City

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Galway United's Charlie Lyons tries to halt the progress of Wexford FC's Ger Shortt during Friday evening's Frst Division tie at Eamonn Deacy Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Galway United 2

Wexford FC 2

IT might be just as well that Galway United have drawn UCD in the next round of the FAI Cup as it will give the Tribesmen a taste of what might come in the promotion play-off final later in the year.

UCD or Finn Harps will be the Premier Division side in that play-off, and United look set for that lottery of a route to promotion for a third straight year after these two dropped points on Friday night left them with a lot – maybe too much – to do to catch Cork City.

It was a belter of a game of football, but Wexford will have been the least disappointed of the two sides as they edged a shade closer to Treaty United in the battle for the final play-off spot.

United, on the other hand, fell to now be three points behind City, and with the Leesiders having a game in hand, and also a vastly superior goal difference (+41 as opposed to United’s +29), they have one hand on the league trophy, and the other reaching for the Brasso.

Stephen Walsh was scoring his 15th goal of the season on Friday night, while Rob Manley was making it four goals in five games since joining from Bray Wanderers, but it still wasn’t enough to claim the three points against a visiting side that got their reward for approaching the game in such a positive fashion.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Salthill serve up a strong finish to take derby spoils

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Bearna's Murcha Iarsach getting the better of Salthill/Knocknacarra's Cathal Sweeney during Saturday's Senior Football Championship clash at Pearse Stadium. Photos: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Salthill/ Knocknacara 2-15

Bearna 0-12

Eanna O’Reilly at Pearse Stadium

A very strong fourth quarter from Salthill/Knocknacara saw them see off the challenge of a Bearna side who will have regrets about a game in which they created plenty of scoring chances, but lacked the efficiency of their opponents in front of the posts.

John O’Mahony’s Salthill side struggled to gain dominance of this contest for long spells before their greater accuracy in front of goal began to tell in the second half. An impressive fourth quarter performance put Bearna to the sword, but O’Mahony will know they have plenty to improve on going forward.

The manner in which Bearna opened up the Salthill defence on a couple of occasions in the first half was notable. Salthill were lucky not to concede two goals, when both Oisín Ó Garmaile and Pádraig Ó Diolúin hit the woodwork with shots in the first half. The city men could easily have been behind at half time, rather than going in with a four point lead.

Bearna’s shooting profligacy ultimately caught up with them and undermined an early second half comeback. Three consecutive points saw them reduce the deficit to the minimum, but a couple of scorable frees were also missed, at a time when the momentum was in their favour.

Ultimately, Daithí Ó Domhnallaín’s side were outscored by 1-8 to 0-6 in the second period. Salthill were far more economical, while their use of possession was also superior to Bearna’s throughout the match.

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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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway United face tough task in Waterford on potentially defining weekend

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Division tie against Wexford FC at Eamonn Deacy Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

THIS could be a defining weekend in the chase for the First Division title, as Galway United make the long trek to take on a Waterford FC side that also faces league leaders, Cork City, on Monday, in the second of two homes Munster derbies this weekend for the Leesiders.

United need to get the job done themselves in the RSC this Friday (7.45pm) before worrying how City fare at home to Treaty United on the same night, and against Waterford on Monday – and anything other than a win will mean it won’t really matter how Cork get on.

“Waterford, they are a team challenging for the title, whether they can keep up or not I don’t know, but they are in there, they are a very good team as we have seen, and they beat [cup holders] Pats [St Patrick’s Athletic] in the cup, it is another massive match for us,” United manager, John Caulfield, said of this Friday’s opponents.

Truth be told, while Waterford may be third in the table, they are 12 points behind City and are not involved in the title race, but that won’t mean they will just roll over to have their bellies tickled on Friday, and while United have the edge in the head-to-head between the sides this season, they have been thrilling, hard-fought battles.

United’s first home game of the season saw Waterford race into a 2-0 lead by the break, only for goals from Stephen Walsh and the since-departed Jordan Adeyomo (gone to Longford) to rescue a point for United.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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