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Magnificent westerners crown great season with fairytale win

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Connacht full back Tiernan O'Halloran touches down for his side's first try during the Guinness PRO12 Final against Leinster at Murrayfield on Saturday. Photo: John Dickson/ Sportsfile

Connacht 20

Leinster 10

THE audacity of it all. The rugby team that represents the province of Connacht are now PRO12 champions after a campaign where they made a mockery of conventional wisdom in every conceivable way and a mesmerising performance in this final that neatly encapsulated the ambition and talent underpinning all that had gone before.

At a sun drenched Murrayfield on Saturday, the masterplan reached fruition and the heroes in green scorched Leinster with three never to be forgotten tries and 80 minutes of uncompromising, unyielding and uninhibited rugby. The perfect day.

Yet this match report can’t do the afternoon justice by merely covering the 80 minutes of rugby on the field. This game started at 4:10, not 5:30. It started when the Connacht team bus turned off Roseburn Street and in through the gates of Murrayfield. Players and management immediately spotted the sea of green that was there to greet them. ‘Game on’, the must have thought.

The bus pulled up outside the west stand entrance and thousands of supporters in green bellowed out the loudest and most haunting rendition of the Fields of Athenry one is ever likely to hear as the team got off the bus and walked in. Pat Lam led the way, briefly turning around to take it all in, looking up on the packed steps and balconies all around that had provided a natural amphitheatre to the whole scene.

Afterwards, Lam spoke of the emotion in the Connacht dressing room after that welcome and his belief that it would only bring a positive reaction. The notion of hype or pressure from your own fans affecting performance has always been a ridiculous one and the novice finalists from the western province underlined as much by conjuring up a performance that has had the rugby world talking ever since.

The winning of the game came in the first half hour, Connacht withstood some early testers as Jamie Heaslip and Leinster came out with a fire and brimstone effort. However, the men in white were repelled and repeatedly disrupted by the westerners in the first ten minutes. Tom McCartney, Ultan Dillane and Eoin McKeon notched up some huge tackles during that period.

Such tackles allowed Connacht time to get to grips with the breakdown area where they initially seemed to be on the back foot and where Eoin Reddan seemed to have the time to move the ball quickly. He would play second fiddle to Kieron Marmion from that point forward. It was a testing period but not one for panic and the early signs were good on that front.

The first attacking spark from Connacht came appropriately from a brilliant break out of the 22, ambition and skill combined with AJ MacGinty’s brilliant pass releasing winger Matt Healy deep inside his own half. The kick and chase from the prolific try scorer had Leinster scrambling and led to a 90 metre gain. While Connacht didn’t score at that point, the tone was set, this was going to be a day of high octane rugby and Leinster had better be ready. They weren’t.

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

 

CITY TRIBUNE

O’Keeffe says season’s goal of winning promotion remains very much in United’s sights

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Conor O’Keeffe in action against Cobh Ramblers FC earlier this season. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Galway United full-back Conor O’Keeffe insists there is no talk in the camp about the upcoming promotion play-offs, with all the focus each week being on the next game up for the side rather than the battle to join champions-elect Shelbourne in the top-flight next season.

A scoreless draw at home to Treaty United last weekend, coupled with a 2-0 win for Shelbourne away to Cork City, means the Dublin side has moved 10 points ahead of United at the top of the table with five games remaining.

Having lost just once all season – a defeat which was inflicted by United – the Tolka Park side are unlikely to let that 10-point lead slip, meaning that United’s hopes of promotion will rest with the play-offs.

O’Keeffe, who turns 28 on Sunday, says that promotion remains the goal of the squad, and that is the focus, not on the route that will be needed to secure that.

“We are taking things one game at a time, if you look beyond that, you forget to do that’s in front of you, so we are not even looking at the playoffs, you have to show up for each game.

“You have to take it just game by game, if you look farther ahead, you get a little carried away and you lose focus, and you just have to keep going.

“We just need to finish as high up the table as we can, anything can happen, it is a funny game at times, football, we have just got to believe – if you don’t believe there is no point, our goal is to get promoted and we still believe we can do that,” O’Keeffe says.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Favourites all advance with ease in the FAI Junior Cup

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Athenry's Seán O'Callaghan heads in his side's second goal despite the best efforts of Paddy Gannon and Shane Trill. Photo: Kennedy-Beirne/Eirefoto.

Soccer Wrap with Mike Rafferty

It might only have been the preliminary round of the FAI Junior Cup, but for certain teams with ambitions, it was hopefully the start of a long trail towards ultimate success, and the four fancied sides all advanced from their games with various degrees of comfort last weekend.

In the only all Premier Division clash, James Ryan secured the match winner as West United saw off St Bernard’s 1-0 in South Park. It was Ryan again who went closest to a second, but his effort on this occasion was thwarted by the woodwork. The victory sets them up for a First Round contest against Tuam Celtic on the last weekend of the month.

Hibernians were 3-2 winners over Dynamo Blues in Bohermore as Shane Hulgraine, Nathan Ward (striker) and an own goal were enough to see off the Tuam side for whom Alex Schmitt scored twice.

Scoreless at the break, Colga did all the damage against Bohemians on the resumption as they ran out 4-0 winners with Neil Greaney (3) and Colm McDonagh sharing the goals – Colga and Hibernians meet in the next round.

As to be expected Athenry were the most comfortable winners of the day as they defeated Renmore 6-0 with three goals coming in each-half. New central defender, Sean O’Callaghan, scored his first goals for the club as he notched a brace, while Adam Duffy, Declan Cullen, Colm O’Donovan and Garvan Broughall were also all on the mark as they set up a neighbourly contest with Corofin United.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

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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 nearly there but scope for improvement

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Galway United's Joe Gorman on the ball against Kieran Hanlon of Treaty United FC during Friday night's First Division tie at Eamonn Deacy Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Galway United 0

Treaty United 0

A contest between two evenly-matched teams finished in stalemate on Friday night, nudging both sides closer to the play-offs, but leaving neither in doubt that major improvement is needed if they are to escape the doldrums of the First Division.

United shaded things in the first-half, with the visitors being the marginally better side for much of the second until they were reduced to 10 men with the dismissal of former United man, Marc Ludden.

Already providing a stubborn and frustrating resistance to their hosts, Treaty dug in even further following that 73rd minute red card, and with United struggling to find their mojo of late, the game petered out into that predictable scoreless draw.

The league takes another break this weekend with the quarter-finals of the FAI Cup taking centre stage, giving the United camp some additional time to find that spark that has been missing for the past three games following that stirring 3-1 win over Shelbourne in mid-August.

With free-scoring UCD up next for United, that additional time needs to be well spent for, while United are almost assured of the play-offs, they have serious work to do to if they are to take confidence and momentum into those play-offs, and the visit of the Students to the Dyke Road on Friday week will really test the home side.

John Caulfield made two changes to the team which beat Cabinteely the previous week, with Luke Dennison coming in for the suspended Conor Kearns in goals, while Stephen Walsh replaced Alex Murphy at left-back.

The game was preceded by a thunderous minute’s applause from both home and away fans for the late Sam Oji, a man who graced the jersey of both Galway United and of Treaty United’s predecessor, Limerick FC, who died suddenly last month from cancer at the age of just 35.

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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