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Inside Track

Kilkenny will still be up for it despite absent Cody

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 THEY will be a strange sight in Thurles on Sunday – a Kilkenny hurling team without their long serving manager Brian Cody patrolling the sideline. But don’t assume for one minute that it will make Galway’s task any easier in the second of the National League semi-finals. In fact, the Cats will probably have an extra cause to carry the day as their team boss recovers from recent cardiac treatment.

Cody has been the off-field inspiration behind Kilkenny’s unprecedented modern-day dominance of hurling. Winning nine All-Ireland titles over 13 years, the reigning title holders have been a cut above the chasing pack during that period. Their overall quality, team-work, intensity and savage hunger has combined to make them virtually unbeatable – and they still want more.

But without Cody’s tactical acumen, ruthlessness and imposing personality, it’s doubtful if Kilkenny would have even snared half the silverware they have accumulated since the James Stephens clubman took over in 1999. He has been the driving force behind their continued dominance; demanding standards never slipped; and adopting a zero tolerance approach to players who have got too big for their boots. Egos and Cody have always been uncomfortable bedfellows.

It’s reported that even some of Kilkenny’s most seasoned and decorated performers are still ‘half- afraid’ of their manager, but whatever the dynamic between Cody and his squad, the mutual respect is obvious. He rarely gets it wrong on the line either, with his calling up of Walter Walsh, a player who hadn’t one minute of senior championship hurling behind him, proving a masterstroke in last year’s All-Ireland final replay against Galway.

It takes balls to place such thrust in an unproven 21-year-old for such a high stakes match, but Cody has always had the courage of his convictions and his judgement is regularly vindicated. Having seen him up close and personally on the sideline when his team might be in some trouble, the Kilkenny boss can be cranky and verbally hard on his players. He knows what they are capable of and hates to see individuals not realising their potential on a day to day basis. He also despises losing.

Against that background, you’d might expect that Kilkenny might be somewhat vulnerable on Sunday without their commander-in-chief, but their will want to honour their absent manager with a display laced with typical power and commitment. Deep down, the likes of Jackie Tyrell, JJ Delaney, Tommy Walsh, Eoin Larkin and Aidan Fogarty know they wouldn’t have won so much only for Cody being in their corner. They will be desperately keen to repay him in some way for the years of loyalty and slavish devotion against Galway.

Furthermore, Kilkenny have a score to settle with the Tribesmen since the opening round of the league. On the day, they were arguably the better team but three goals from Davy Glennon, Niall Healy and Damien Hayes saw the home team get the verdict on a 3-11 to 0-17 scoreline. When the Cats also lost their second outing to Tipperary, it even sparked some loose talk about relegation but, unsurprisingly, they regrouped with hard earned wins over Waterford, Clare and Cork respectively in defence of their league crown.

This will be the counties’ seventh meeting (including last year’s Walsh Cup) in around 15 months and Kilkenny hold a 3-2 edge, with one draw. That level of familiarity should ensure no shortage of spice between the teams in Semple Stadium, but Galway’s need for victory is surely greater given that they need every competitive match they can get considering their free passport into the Leinster final in early July.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Loughrea’s standing is enhanced as champions pushed to the wire

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St Thomas' Victor Manso and Darragh Burke tussling for possession with Johnny Coen and Brian Keary of Loughrea during Sunday's County Hurling Final at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

EVEN the might Kilkenny hurlers couldn’t manage it in 2010 which underlines how difficult the challenge was for St Thomas’ to complete their own ‘Drive for Five’ at Pearse Stadium last Sunday. Breaking new ground is never easy for the best of teams, but at least the Galway champions will have a second crack at it.

They entered the 2022 county final as heavy favourites to capture a fifth consecutive Galway title despite five of their team – it would have been six only for James Regan’s injury – having started in the club’s historic triumph of ten years ago. It was their first appearance in a final and it heralded a period of unexpected domination which has resulted in six championships in a decade.

Having won every final they have featured in up to now, St Thomas’ have it down to a fine art in taking care of business on the big days that matter. But they were shaken to the core in Salthill and, at times in a great game, you felt their time at the top was about to come to an end. Four points down with eight minutes of normal time remaining. St Thomas’ had never previously faced such a crisis in a county final.

Typically, their response spoke volumes for the team’s resilience and talent. A late goal and two points from the outstanding Éanna Burke looked to have turned the tide in their favour, and they were seconds away from celebrating a milestone achievement – only done twice before by Castlegar and Turloughmore in Galway.

It would have represented the crowning glory for the glorious club careers of the Burke brothers, David, Cathal, Darragh and Éanna – a utilised sub in 2012 – Conor Cooney and Bernard Burke, but fairytales don’t happen as often in sport as some people would like to think. St Thomas’ have to do it all over again but, on the balance play last Sunday, they should be grateful for that opportunity.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Loughrea’s return to big stage can bring freshness to county final day

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Loughrea manager, Tommy Kelly, and team captain Ian Hanrahan, Liam Brady, Branch Manager, Brooks Timber and Building supplies (sponsors), and St Thomas’ captain Conor Cooney and manager, Kenneth Burke, attending the county senior hurling media event. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THERE was a time when 10,000-plus crowds regularly descended on Galway senior hurling finals, but those days are long gone. The temptation to largely blame that scenario on the near-annual lateness in completing the campaign is obvious, and though it is a factor, there are other more pertinent issues.

The live streaming of matches – a legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic – has hit attendances at GAA club championships, and Galway is no different, but an extra complication locally has been the jaundiced view of many hurling followers, notably in the east of the county, towards travelling to Pearse Stadium for big matches.

We have lost count of the number of hurling followers who can’t stomach the thought of crawling through city centre traffic to get to Salthill. Arriving on Galway’s eastern fringes is the easy part, but then getting across to Pearse Stadium can often prove a nightmare. Parking is another issue. And, of course, there is also the view that the weather is more often than not wet and windy at the county’s premier ground.

All of this is contributing to diminishing crowds at Pearse Stadium, especially for hurling matches. A modest crowd of over 4,000 turned up for the semi-finals last Sunday week and though it was a bleak day, the lack of atmosphere and excitement was plain to see. The ironic part is that the venue is equipped with substantial seating and no shortage of catering and toilet facilities.

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.

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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

Loughrea haven’t quite come from nowhere but are major force again

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Loughrea's Joe Mooney launching an attack against Seán Kilduff of Clarinbridge during Sunday's County Senior Hurling semi-final at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

We hadn’t seen Loughrea hurlers in the flesh for at least two years, leaving us open-minded about their title prospects. Reaching Sunday’s county semi-finals at Pearse Stadium with a 100% record was a statement in itself, but could Tommy Kelly’s charges take it to the next level?

To do that, Loughrea needed to turn the tables on Clarinbridge from last year’s knock-out defeat. The fact that they were the pre-match favourites to do so suggested ‘The Town’ had improved significantly over the past 12 months. What happened in Salthill at the weekend confirmed it.

There was a time when Loughrea were a frequent sight in county finals. Between 2003 and 2013, they appeared in seven of them, but only managed a lone triumph – that narrow 1-13 to 0-15 victory over Portumna in the 2006 controversial decider when much of the post-match focus was on an unsavoury incident involving Joe Canning.

It was a sweet success for Loughrea having lost to Portumna in the finals of 2003 and ’06, but they would also fall in two more deciders to the same opposition in 2009 and 2013, the last time they reached the county final. Loughrea also came off second best in a replay to Clarinbridge in 2010 and they also endured final-day misery against St Thomas’ two years later.

Three of their key players during that time – Greg Kennedy, Gavin Keary and Nigel Murray – are now serving as Kelly’s lieutenants on the sideline, while respected coach Shane Cusack is also involved. Loughrea have probably the biggest backroom team in the championship which indicates that they are throwing everything at this campaign.

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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