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Inside Track

Mayo’s chance to finally banish demons of the past

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Inside Track with John McIntyre

SIX times Mayo footballers have been beaten in All-Ireland finals since 1989 and on each occasion, they have fallen short – and badly short in their three September showdowns against Kerry. During that period, the Connacht men have run the gauntlet of being labelled as big day failures and lacking the necessary bottle as a county’s six decade yearning for Sam Maguire reaches desperate levels.

Last year, they suffered an honourable four-point loss to Donegal despite being raided for two morale-sickening early goals, including Michael Murphy’s rocket. Mayo didn’t die or collapse and battled bravely to the finish even if there was a certain inevitability about the outcome after the opening ten minutes. Manager James Horan has brought a harder edge to the Connacht champions and they have certainly trained on in 2013.

It’s doubtful if ever a team has proven as superior to all their rivals in the provincial championship as Mayo did out west this summer. They just didn’t beat Galway, Roscommon and surprise finalists London in turn, they beat them all out the gate before also powering over Donegal in the All-Ireland quarter-final. Still, the jury was out on how good the team was as all Mayo’s opponents so far had hardly raised a gallop and only offered token resistance.

We were always going to find out more about Mayo’s capabilities against Tyrone in the subsequent semi-final and for a while they reverted to type. Under-performing, shooting bad wides and in trouble until defenders Chris Barrett and Lee Keegan stormed forward to pick off critical points approaching half-time. By the end of the game, there was only one team in it as a physically powerful and mobile Mayo almost cantered home.

They look a new Mayo but until they actually win the All-Ireland title, long-held suspicions about them will not evaporate. And they face a massive challenge on Sunday in coping with an in-form Dublin outfit who again steamrolled their way through Leinster before accounting for Cork and Kerry – the match of the year – on their way to the final. The Dubs came close to falling in that epic battle with the Kingdom but, ultimately, their younger legs, stronger bench and a Roy of the Rovers style finish got them over the line.

It would be a great way for Mayo to end their title famine and they do have every chance despite Dublin’s current verve and strength indepth. For a start , the O’Shea brothers, Aidan and Seamus, are a much more formidable midfield pairing that what Jim Gavin’s men had to contend with against Kerry and it should also be to the Connacht champions’ advantage that they will hardly engage Dublin in an end-to-end shootout like Kerry did. Mayo are tactically astute and are hardly going to allow opposition half-backs Jack McCaffrey and James McCarthy the scope to attack at will.

Mayo will also have to target Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs which are so often a launching pad for Dublin’s attacks, while they can’t afford the level of poor finishing that was so evident in the opening half against Tyrone. It is heartening, however, the manner in which they got themselves out of a big hole in that match and there is undoubtedly a seasoned maturity about them now. There is little evidence either that Mayo will under-perform in the final. They have come through the school of hard knocks and are all the better for it.

There is such an intense longing for an All-Ireland title among their long suffering supporters that a Mayo triumph on Sunday could herald unequalled-style celebrations. It would be a mighty final to win with a formidable Dublin team in the other corner and though their well-chronicled list of final failures is lurking in the background, it’s about time Mayo stepped up to the plate on the biggest day of them all. In reality, this team has no excuses as they are good enough to do it.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Cool the jets – let’s give Galway sideline supremos a fair hearing

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Mayo's Aidan O'Shea feels the strain against Galway's Cathal Sweeney and Seán Mulkerrin during Sunday's Connacht Football Final at Croke Park. Photo: Ray McManus /Sportsfile.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IN all my years (more like decades) involved in hurling, I have never seen a team play the game at a faster pace than what Waterford did for 55 minutes in Thurles last Saturday. They were like Olympic sprinters and Galway simply couldn’t keep up with them in the open expanses of Semple Stadium.

Galway hurlers have often plumbed the depths when least expected, but trailing by 16 points after three quarters of Saturday’s knock-out clash was a total shock to the system. We know the Tribesmen have a terrible record against Waterford, but this was embarrassing and unacceptable for a team which had been touted as Limerick’s chief threat.

Though Galway are understandably getting some credit for their grandstand finish, it’s only papering over the cracks and, let’s be honest, there would probably have been no comeback at all only for Waterford being reduced to 14 players for the entire second-half. And then having whittled the deficit down from 16 points to three and all the momentum behind them with over six minutes still left to be played, they were found wanting again.

After substitute Jason Flynn’s first goal, there were five more scores and Waterford got four of them. That alone tells you that Liam Cahill’s men had more of what it takes to succeed at this level. Waterford were in disarray but somehow were able to find the inspiration to get over the line.

Meeting Galway supporters before the game, we shared the same concerns about the men in maroon jerseys. Eyebrows were raised by the team chosen and some of the positions players were picked in. Having failed to raise much of a gallop against Dublin, Galway should have been straining at the leash to achieve some redemption. Instead, they were worse; swept aside by a ravenous Waterford team which had everything their opponents didn’t

Though leaving Daithí Burke at centre-back didn’t cost Galway the game, it was still stubborn of the team management to stick to their guns when his zealous patrolling of the square continued to be so blatantly missed. Keeping faith with the unrelated Cooneys’, Joseph and Conor, also attracted criticism.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Fearsome Limerick hit new high by tearing Tipperary rivals apart

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Galway’s Carrie Dolan breaking away from Laura Doherty of Westmeath during Saturday's All-Ireland camogie championship clash at Kenny Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

In the aftermath of a wonderful sporting achievement, it’s easy to get carried away and, perhaps, overrate what we have just seen at the expense of great deeds from the past. But even against that background, what Limerick hurlers achieved in the second-half of Sunday’s Munster Final was extraordinary.

They looked a beaten docket at half-time. Trailing by ten points to a Jason Forde inspired and a fiercely committed Tipperary, the All-Ireland champions were in serious trouble. They had conceded two goals directly from opposition puck-outs to Jake Morris and Bubbles O’Dwyer, and so many of their marquee players were off the pace.

In fact, Tipperary could have been ahead by more. With Dan McCormack playing deep to free up Brendan Maher as their sweeper, they created a world of chances with Forde – the most under-rated forward in the game – rifling over a series of points from all angles and distances. Limerick were all at sea and only Cian Lynch and Tom Morrissey were having a significant impact on the action.

But nobody could have envisaged the sensational turnaround in the third quarter. Within 18 minutes, a resurgent Limerick had gone a point ahead as reserves Aaron Gillane and Dan Morrissey added fresh vigour to their challenge at opposite ends of the field. It was like watching two different matches as Tipp were simply overwhelmed.

Their older generation really sagged in the unforgiving temperatures and by the time their management made changes, Limerick had already taking control. On the scoreboard, Tipp were still in it, but their players must have been in a state of shock over how a big lead had been so quickly and so ruthlessly wiped out. Limerick’s younger legs and sheer physical power were now dictating the terms of engagement.

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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Connacht Tribune

Epic Portlaoise battle highlights what minor level is now missing

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Galway midfielder Kieran Hanrahan breaking away from Kilkenny’s Harry Shine during the 2020 All-Ireland Minor hurling final at O'Moore Park on Saturday evening. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

WHAT unfolded at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise last Saturday evening again puts a negative slant on the GAA’s decision at the 2016 Congress to reduce the age limit for minor competition from U18 to U17 and the U21 grade to U20.
Sure, there were issues with Leaving Cert exams and hold-ups in fixtures at senior level due to the previous under-age structures, but the competitiveness of the minor grade has been drastically impacted by restricting it to U17s, while the former U21 competition carried more prestige than the current U20 championship.
These were hardly intractable problems in the first place, but it is another example of the GAA’s continuous meddling with their competitions and the rule book. On the other hand, you sometimes wonder do Congress delegates sleepwalk their way through proceedings by not anticipating the impact of certain decisions at ground level until it’s too late.
Back to O’Moore Park. Due to Covid 19, the 2020 All-Ireland minor hurling championship was run off about a year behind schedule and the upshot was that many players had reached 18 by the time it came to enter combat. In effect, it was the way things used to be and the resulting increase in intensity and physicality was welcome.
Galway and Kilkenny locked horns in a gripping battle on Saturday evening and there was no holding back to the exchanges. You just don’t have that at U17 level because the players are not nearly as well physically developed. The minor grade is currently a pale imitation of its former glory.
That reality was confirmed in the delayed 2020 championship with the All-Ireland final serving up a compelling struggle for supremacy. Early on, it seemed Galway were about to overwhelm Kilkenny as they established a seven-point lead but, by the end of the game, they needed a brilliantly created goal from Liam Collins to carry the day.

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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