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Inside Track

Laboured Galway just about get away with poor effort

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Inside Track with John McIntyre

YOU’D just wonder did the Galway senior hurling team management take their eye off the ball in the build up to last Sunday’s Leinster semi-final against Portlaoise? Fighting an untimely and arguably ill-advised boardroom battle in relation to local fixtures just days before their championship debut smacked of a little desperation and must have, at least, proven a distraction for both the mentors and players alike.

Though the camp had been hit by some injuries, it was still surprising that Anthony Cunningham tried for a second time to have the next round of the Galway senior hurling championship deferred. Clubs had already rejected the team management’s original appeal the previous month and were unlikely to have moved their position dramatically in the interim. Naturally, there was no shortage of sympathy from officials and delegates, but the anxiety to avoid a return to the frustrating days of idle summers for club players was always going to be the over-riding concern.

Furthermore, a major plank of the extensive review of Galway hurling in the winter of 2011 was for the county championship not to be sacrificed on the altar of inter-county preparations. Had club delegates acceded to the team’s management’s request last week, the credibility of that report would have been torn to shreds. In the end, sanity prevailed despite Cunningham being backed up in Athenry last week by team mentors Mattie Kenny and Tom Helebert.

Unfortunately, injuries are part and parcel of sport. Kilkenny were without Michael Fennelly and Henry Shefflin against Offaly, while Cork have a big casualty list, headed by Paudie O’Sullivan, ahead of Sunday’s big test against Clare. Both counties have taken those blows on the chin and so should have Galway. Everybody with an interest in hurling in the county was more focused early last week on what was going to happen with the local championship rather than the team’s prospects against Laois. It couldn’t have helped the focus of the Galway players either.

Yet, that’s hardly an excuse for the team’s laboured showing against the admittedly well-drilled Midlanders whose defensive set up caused the Tribesmen no shortage of tactical difficulty. Laois packed their own half of the field, tackled like demons, relied on long range shooting and brought an intensity to the action which seemed to catch Galway by surprise. When Tommy Fitzgerald finished off a well taken move in the 56th minute, the home team had regained the lead and the prospect of one of hurling’s greatest ever shocks was back on the agenda.

Almost immediately, however, Galway settled their nerves when Davy Glennon was in the right place to finish the rebound of Eoin Reilly’s save from Joe Canning. They still had to endure some more anxious moments, but Aonghus Callanan’s green flag in the 64th minute finally gave the visitors some breathing space. It was all Callanan’s own work too, expertly controlling a long James Skehill puck out before escaping the clutches of the Laois defence. His low shot may have only trickled over the line but, at least, the Liam Mellows player was prepared to have a go. In contrast, for much of the match, many of his team-mates just couldn’t break free of the Laois shackles.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Superb St Thomas’ take dominance of Galway club hurling to new level

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St Thomas’ Victor Manso is about to pounce on this loose ball against Dylan Shaughnessy of Loughrea during Sunday's Galway Senior Hurling Final at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

Barely five minutes after Sunday’s thrilling Galway hurling final replay at Pearse Stadium, the clouds burst open – raining more misery on a Loughrea team which had covered themselves in glory for the second week running only to discover that their best wasn’t quite good enough.

Of course, Loughrea could have won both the drawn final and replay, and there were times where St Thomas’ were hanging on for dear life, but they were unable to close the deal. They weren’t let, for starters, as the champions enhanced their reputation for getting out of tight corners in Galway.

In the days between the two matches, you’re wondering what either finalist can do differently to give them an edge; what switches might be made; or what new tactical approach might they bring to the battlefield. Mark Caulfield would hardly have featured in any of that conjecture.

He’s a big unit but inexperienced at this level. He was promoted to centre back in the continued absence of Shane Cooney and was doing enough to stay on the team. Caulfield, however, only lasted until half-time last Sunday week and you sensed he was about to make way for the fit-again county defender.

Cooney, however, jarred a hamstring in training which ended that plan. Instead, St Thomas’ turned to former Galway captain David Burke to take over at centre back. If those on the outside had got wind of that, you’d be left thinking that there would be no place for Caulfield at all.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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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Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

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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

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.

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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