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Inside Track

Mullins in league of his own but it’s not good for racing

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Mark Lane, Acorn Life, Davy Glennon, Galway senior hurler, Tony Rafferty, Area Manager Acorn Life, and Anthony Cunningham, Galway senior manager pictured at the launch of who wants to be Five Thousandaire Galway Hurling fundraiser eventwhich will be he3ld on May 21.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THE whispers at the recent Punchestown National Hunt festival were more about the negative impact of Willie Mullins’ continued domination of the sport rather than tips about ‘good things’ which had been laid out for the County Kildare track’s end-of-season five-day festival.

For several years now, Mullins has commanded the Punchestown meeting in a manner that initially drew understandable gasps of admiration from the horse racing fraternity, but the mood is gradually changing as small trainers and small owners continue to be squeezed out of the winners’ enclosure.

Mullins stranglehold of Punchestown’s flagship fixture is only mirroring his wider monopoly of the National Hunt sphere in Ireland – the Co. Carlow based handler has just been crowned champion trainer for the ninth time as his battalion of runners amassed a staggering total of over €4m in prizemoney this season. If anything, his control of the sport is reaching new (and unhealthy) levels of supremacy.

Apart from creating a new world record in saddling 30 Grade One winners (between Ireland and cross channel) last season, Mullins and his merry band of super-rich owners, such as Rich Richi, Graham Wylie and Gigginstown Stud, have access to the most expensive and well bred young thoroughbred stock, leaving it something of an uneven playing field around the tracks of this country.

Sure, the yards of Gordon Elliott, Noel Meade, Jessica Harrington, Henry de Bromhead and Tony Martin are holding their own, but most of their counterparts are struggling to make ends meet as the odds continue to stack up against them. They have to concentrate on modest fare at country tracks to try and eke out a living, but even these meetings are no longer sacred as Mullins has so many horses, he has to run them somewhere.

Take a typical maiden hurdle. A syndicate could have come together to buy a horse with decent breeding for maybe €30,000 but could end up finding their charge running against a couple of rivals which were purchased for well in excess of €100,000. What chance have they of competing successfully in such an environment?

Now don’t get me wrong. Mullins is a brilliant trainer and he has built up the business from scratch. Furthermore, his ability to extend the careers of his top horses – take Hurricane Fly for instance – is arguably without parallel and he clearly has an eye for a young horse with potential, but some racing fans are now getting a little fed up of him (and Ruby Walsh) plundering big race after big race.

There were 12 Grade Ones at the Punchestown festival, but apart from Jezki (Ladbrokes’s Series Hurdle) and Don Cossack (Gold Cup), Mullins landed the other ten. In total, he saddled 16 winners from 38 races at the meeting which works out at a 43% success ratio. He also had eight second and six third place finishers. Of course, that’s a remarkable achievement and deserves to be commended, but this level of superiority is killing the ‘small man’ operation.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

All is not lost for footballers but Galway’s slump must end soon

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VICTORY DELIGHT: Galway's Ailish O'Reilly, Niamh Hanniffy and Roisin Black celebrate their National Camogie League semi-final win over Cork at Nowlan Park last Sunday. Photo: ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

Inside Track with John McIntyre

PADRAIC Joyce must have been tearing his hair out as he watched the Galway footballers throw away their National League Division One League relegation battle against Monaghan in Clones on Sunday. No wonder he declined to face the press corps afterwards.

The outcome – a one-point extra-time defeat – was a disastrous one for a Galway team which badly needed to get a result in this pressure test ahead of the Connacht championship. Instead, the camp must be demoralised at letting such a golden opportunity slip through their fingers. It was carelessness in the extreme.

Five points ahead thanks largely to timely opening-half goals from Rob Finnerty and Paul Kelly, Galway had all the hard work done as they held a five-point advantage with only minutes remaining. A morale-boosting win seemed all but assured. Instead, the Tribesmen subsequently imploded.

For much of the match, Galway were winning the majority of the key battles but they were keeping Monaghan in the hunt through some sloppy finishing. In his hey-day as a player, Joyce would never have been so charitable, but his team lacked the necessary ruthlessness to kill off the Monaghan challenge.

There was a lot of poor decision making in front of the opposition posts as well, but Galway were in sight of preserving their Division One status only to blow it. To Monaghan’s credit, they never gave up and in substitute Jack McCarron they possessed the best finisher on the field.

Long serving players Darren Hughes and Colm McManus also came up with crucial late scores in normal time to help catch Galway and force the contest into extra time. Here again, Galway had their chances but the teams were still deadlocked when they gave away possession coming out of defence, presenting the accurate McCarron with the chance to land his fifth point from play. He didn’t miss.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Hurling we have a problem: there are too many scores in the game

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Galway attacker Brian Concannon comes under pressure from Waterford’s Conor Prunty during Sunday's hurling league tie at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IT’S the summer of 2006 and a mistake-ridden Leinster hurling semi-final at Nowlan Park is unfolding. Two nervous teams chasing a big prize in a tight-marking, uninspiring battle for supremacy. In the end, Wexford somehow manage to stagger over the line despite only scoring a paltry nine points.

Imagine holding the opposition to a total score in single figures and still not winning the match. Unfortunately, I was the Offaly team manager that day and we were the ones who had to cope with that reality. Our tally only came to eight points and, in the process, a golden opportunity of victory had been spurned.

Between both teams only 17 points were registered and while that is an extreme example of when hurling was more defender friendly, what’s happening nowadays is arguably worse. There are just many scores in the game now – a scenario which reduces our appreciation of exceptional score-taking simply because they have become so frequent.

Sure, players have never been better conditioned, the sport’s stakeholders are much more tactically aware and the sliotar has become really user friendly, but spectators – If they were any! – are being turned off by this literally ‘score a minute’ phenomenon. It’s actually not unusual for three scores to be registered in just a minute.

God, I’d hate to be a defender these days with the ball whizzing all-round the place and your opponent never static. Grand, if you are a Calum Lyons or Ronan Maher who can bomb forward with impunity to fire over long-range points, but for most present-day back men, the game is nearly passing them by.

Teams have become so good at protecting possession, creating overlaps and isolating their shooters that opposition defences are left chasing shadows. An astonishing 58 scores were accumulated at Pearse Stadium last Sunday with eight players – Lyons, Dessie Hutchinson, Jack Prendergast, Joe Canning, Evan Niland, Conor Cooney, Conor Whelan and Brian Concannon all scoring at least three times from play.

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.

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

Galway’s positive response to their Tralee trauma continues

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Galway’s Peter Cooke gets his pass away against Dublin’s Sean McMahon during Sunday's National Football League encounter at Tuam Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

It’s barely three weeks since the Tralee thrashing and all the resulting criticism – much of it over the top and irrational – but Galway footballers have admirably rallied in the wake of that demoralising reversal and can now look forward to the upcoming Connacht championship with a certain sense of optimism.

Sure, nobody can disguise the reality that the Tribesmen have lost five of their last six competitive matches and are bound for a Division One league relegation battle against Monaghan, but Galway still showed a lot of promise in their weekend four-point loss to All-Ireland champions Dublin at Tuam Stadium.

The display built on their win over Roscommon the previous weekend and had Galway not bungled a great first-half goal-scoring opportunity, they would have shaken up the Dubs even more. Falling six points behind in the third quarter would really have tested the home team’s team mettle, but significantly heads never dropped.

Granted, Dublin were missing the likes of Stephen Cluxton, James McCarthy and Dean Rock, but the suggestion from a couple of pundits that they were only in ‘third gear’ in Tuam is a load of tosh. They were made to work hard for their victory with Cormac Costello, Con O’Callaghan and Ciaran Kilkenny achieving most to get them over the line.

Overall, Galway’s response to their heavy defeat against Kerry has been positive. There was no public blood-letting with management and players backing each other in their hour of need. That type of environment builds character and the manner in which they had a crack against the Dubs was heartening.

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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