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Inside Track

McIlroy finishes like a train but damage is already done

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Liam Challoner of Challoner Trophies, Mountbellew, the new Galway Under 21 hurling championship sponsors, with Hurling Committee Chairman Michael Larkin and Secretary Pat Kearney.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

NOBODY played the final 45 holes of the Masters better than Rory McIlroy – he was 15 under par for that section of golf’s most compelling tournament – but the damage was already done. The hot pre-tournament favourite just didn’t come out of those blocks quickly enough as the pressure and hype clearly unhinged the World’s number one.

In the build up to the Masters, McIlroy hardly helped his cause by fuelling expectations of becoming only the sixth golfer to complete a grand slam in the Majors. He publicly stated that if his career finished without winning a green jacket, it would be a major disappointment. He even qualified that statement by insisting he had the potential to win “multiple” Masters.

If ever a young sportsman was setting himself up for a big fall, it was McIlroy. Naturally, he can’t control the massive media coverage in the build up to Augusta, but he needed to be much more sanguine in his pre-tournament comments. Furthermore, inviting pop star Niall Horan of One Direction to act as his caddy in the par three competition on the eve of the Masters was only helping to keep the spotlight on him.

McIlroy hadn’t handled the pressure well in the closing round of the 2011 Masters when holding a four shot lead on the first tee. Instead, he imploded on the back nine when eventually dropping out of the top ten. Overall, for all the theories that Augusta is tailor-made for McIlroy’s power driving and high approach shots, his best finish in the Masters prior to the 2015 edition was joint eighth last year.

Against that background, the 25-year-old became e a hostage to fortune by also boldly stating that it would be “unthinkable” if he never won the Masters. McIlroy’s belief in his own ability to conquer the unique undulations of Augusta is admirable in one sense, but who is he trying to convince? Chasing a third consecutive Major triumph, he was never going to slip in under the radar, but his bullish public comments did him absolutely no favours in terms of keeping the press frenzy at bay.

An opening round of one under par was no disaster, but McIlroy didn’t look particularly comfortable on the golf course and it was more of a stuttering effort rather than failing to exploit a series of birdie opportunities. After a careless double bogey at the ninth hole in the second round, he was in real danger of not making the cut as he stood at three over bar. Shoulders drooping and clearly ill at ease, McIlroy now had to stand up and show what he was made of in terms of character.

In similar situations in the past, the Northern Ireland man has struggled to get any momentum going, but from that point onwards in Augusta last week, nobody ransacked the course more than McIlroy. He was a staggering 17 shots behind the brilliant pillar-to-post winner, Jordan Spieth, halfway through his second round, but by the end of the tournament, McIlroy had closed the gap to six in taking fourth place on his own. That took courage and some quality shot-making even if a first green jacket was never within hailing distance.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

Energetic Fitzy hops back onto the hurling managerial merry-go-round

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Barna's Seán Fitzgerald is pursued by Rory Melody of St James’ during Friday's Senior Football Championship tie at Pearse Stadium. Photo:Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

WHETHER you’re a fan or not of Davy Fitzgerald, nobody can dispute the reality that he’s mad for road. Within days of stepping down as coach to the Cork camogie team, the former Banner goalkeeper is off on his managerial travels again – this time, however, he will be returning to an old stomping ground.

Fitzgerald, a fearless competitor between the posts, was one of the lynchpins of Clare’s long-awaited and emotional All-Ireland triumphs in 1995 and ’97, but his profile has moved onto a different level over the past 15 years. Whether it’s through his management roles or TV shows like Ireland’s Fittest Family, he is rarely out of the limelight.

And that’s basically why some people don’t like him . . . they basically see too much of him. He was even added to the Sunday Game analysts panel this summer where he was something of a muted observer on hurling’s finer arts. Apart from the three counties – Kilkenny, Tipperary and Cork – who would never countenance an outsider, Fitzy is nearly linked with every managerial vacancy that crops up these days.

For a few days last winter, he looked the number one candidate to replace Shane O’Neill in Galway, but his bubble was burst somewhat when County Chairman Paul Bellew launched an audacious and successful attempt to entice Henry Shefflin west. Having just finished up with Wexford – a project which flatlined in his last two years in charge – Fitzy is clearly not one for standing still.

But why are some counties still inclined to swoon about the prospect of having Fitzy on board? For starters, he landed two Fitzgibbon Cups with Limerick IT before taking over as Waterford manager in mid-season in 2008 after the players revolted against Justin McCarthy. He guided the Deise to that year’s All-Ireland final only for them to suffer a humiliating 3-30 to 1-14 loss against Kilkenny.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Lyng taking over from Cody leads to an outbreak of relief in Galway

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Galway's Ciara Donohue breaking out of defence against Lauren Homan of Cork during Sunday's All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Final at Croke Park. Photo: INPHO/Bryan Keane.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THERE was surely a collective sigh of relief in Galway’s hurling strongholds when former midfielder Derek Lyng was appointed to succeed Brian Cody as the new Kilkenny manager last week – the first time since the winter of 1998 that a new senior supremo has been unveiled down Noreside way.

After Cody somewhat surprisingly ended his long tenure as Kilkenny manager in the wake of last month’s battling All-Ireland Final defeat to Limerick, it was only natural that current Galway team manager Henry Shefflin, Kilkenny’s most decorated player of all-time, would be linked with the vacancy.

“Don’t do it Henry” was a common refrain on social media as Galway supporters understandably feared the Ballyhale Shamrocks clubman would find the prospect of talking over his native county impossible to resist. Lyng, Martin Fogarty and ex-Laois boss Eddie Brennan were also touted as being in the running.

A similar precedent had been set this summer when Liam Cahill abruptly departed Waterford to return to Tipperary after the local County Board hardly covered itself in glory in the manner it ended the tenure of former player Colm Bonnar after just one year in charge. Admittedly, it had been a tough championship for Tipperary, losing all four games in Munster, but there were extenuating circumstances.

For starters, Brendan Maher and Padraic Maher retired – the latter was forced to hang up the boots due to a neck injury – while other heroes of past All-Ireland triumphs, Bubbles O’Dwyer, John McGrath and Seamus Callanan, were also notable absentees. It meant Bonnar took over a Tipperary team in transition.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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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Lots of positivity around but Galway will now have target on their backs

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Owner Annette Mee with Monday’s Galway Festival bumper winner,This Songisforyou. Also included are Emmet Mullins, trainer, Laura Keir, and jockey Derek O'Connor. Photo: Patrick McCann/Racing Post.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

ALL around Ballybrit last week, the post All-Ireland football final verdict was virtually unanimous: Galway were unlucky against Kerry but had done the county proud. Naturally, the big focus was on the harsh free awarded against John Daly as he attempted to break out of defence late in the match.

Of all the varying opinions on the controversy doing the rounds at the races and in the media at large, former Donegal manager Jim McGuinness probably put it the most succinctly of all in Saturday’s edition of the Irish Times. He said anyone just focusing on the first part of the incident would award a free out to Daly, but those only seeing Killian Spillane’s arm being pulled in by the Galway number six would have sided with referee Seán Hurson’s call.

And that’s in a nutshell. The first foul was committed on Daly and that should have led to a crucial free out for Galway just seconds after Damien Comer had forced a terrific turnover. In that moment, however, Kerry got a break they weren’t entitled to, and the Munster champions weren’t slow in taking advantage.

Galway were that close to ending 21-years in the All-Ireland wastelands, but Padraic Joyce and his players don’t need any reminding that it’s a long way back to next year’s final. Sure, they have made huge progress over the past few months and their camp will now be stacked with belief, but there are no guarantees that they will enjoy another protracted run in 2023.

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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