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Inside Track

No spark as hurlers brushed aside with alarming ease

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Inside Track with John McIntyre

THE worrying levels of pre-match negative murmurings were, unfortunately, not misplaced. An unsettled Galway team which had been struggling all year for a consistent level of form had their limitations brutally exposed by a rampant and far sharper Dublin outfit in a free-flowing Leinster final at Croke Park last Sunday.

12 months ago, Joe Canning and company had blitzed Kilkenny in the performance of the championship and though many of those same players were on duty again for a second consecutive provincial decider, most of the swashbuckling hurling came from their opponents this time. There is no arguing with Sunday’s heavy loss by a dozen points.

Though some local critics might have seen the result coming, few would have envisaged that Galway could be so far off the pace and in such serious trouble in a multitude of positions. Dublin, much hungrier, working harder and performing with greater intensity, were in a different league for much of the contest with their forwards cutting the Tribesmen defence to ribbons at will. Conal Keaney, the robust Ryan O’Dwyer, Dotsy O’Callaghan and, in particular, Paul Ryan went to town.

It wasn’t as if Galway were caught napping from the throw in and had to chase a big early deficit. The teams were on level terms at four points each after 12 minutes, but from there on Dublin took over with their team work and ability to engineer space up front often leaving the Leinster champions chasing shadows. They again went with a five-man attack and though Galway initially employed Johnny Coen as their sweeper, their backline was regularly exposed.

With Ryan netting a preventable goal in the 24th minute, Dublin had already laid down a big marker. Midfielders John McCaffery and Joey Boland were quick to establish a foothold in that sector, so much so that the Galway management felt obliged to call James Regan ashore, seconds after scoring a fine point, long before the interval. Two more changes were made for the second-half as Anthony Cunningham was forced to carry out some desperate fire-fighting.

Trailing by 1-12 to 0-7 at half-time, Galway were in a big hole and when Ryan fired home a screamer in the 41st minute to stretch their advantage to 2-14 to 0-9, last year’s All-Ireland finalists were staring a humiliation in the face. To the team’s credit, however, they staged a spirited rally, highlighted by two cracking individual goals from Joe Canning, again their most influential player, and David Burke and just into the final quarter, there was now only six points between the teams.

Sadly, that was as good as it got for Galway. Dublin steadied themselves and reeled off six unanswered points with substitutes Conor McCormack and Simon Lambert also making their presence felt on the scoreboard as Anthony Daly’s team charged to the county’s first Leinster title since 1961. It was great day for Dublin hurling, but a bad one for Galway who simply lacked the winners’ match-practice and desire, while a number of players, including team captain Fergal Moore and Iarla Tannian, are struggling to regain their outstanding form of 2012.

To make matters worse, Galway had too many square pegs in round holes. Johnny Coen, Shane Kavanagh, their one defender who managed to hold his own, Joseph Cooney, Regan, David Burke and Niall Burke were all selected in positions in which they are not most associated with at club level, while proven Portumna duo, Andy Smith and Damien Hayes, who both gave the team some impetus after being introduced, were surprising absentees from the starting line up.

In the contest of a rearguard which conceded 27 scores and was fortunate not have been hit for more, it defied logic that it was further up the field that the team management was carrying out all the surgery until replacing Cooney in the 63rd minute. By that stage, the damage had been well and truly done as Kevin Hynes and Moore were repeatedly exposed in the last line of defence, although the ease in which the Dublin outfield players were able to find Ryan and Callaghan reflected the lack of pressure that they were being put under.

Furthermore, James Skehill will be disappointed to have been beaten for Dublin’s opening goal in a defensive sector which simply couldn’t cope with the opposition’s pace and movement. Several Galway players were also caught in possession and though the team is bound to improve for last Sunday’s outing. morale can’t be great after this drubbing. On club form alone, Ardrahan’s Jonathan Glynn ought to have won a starting place, but the team’s problems were much bigger than any individual selections.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

When it’s all said and done there was no show like the Joe show!

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Joe Canning with the Liam McCarthy Cup and his nephew Jack Canning holding the Irish Press Cup after Galway completed the senior and minor All-Ireland double at Croke Park in September of 2017. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

WITH Galway supporters still coming to terms with Joe Canning’s retirement from inter-county hurling last week, we wonder will it lead to an explosion of interest in Portumna’s county championship campaigns over the coming years?

That scenario would be partially the legacy of Covid-19, bearing in mind that for the past 18 months the Galway hurlers have been playing, for the most part, behind closed doors. Sure, there might have been a couple of thousand fans witnessing the team’s recent championship exit to Waterford in Thurles, but basically Canning and the Tribesmen have been operating in front of empty stands.

It meant supporters were denied the opportunity of watching a sporting legend in the flesh as his inter-county career reached a conclusion– a player who was already established as a hurling immortal through his extraordinary deeds since bursting on the scene at elite level in 2008.

Canning is arguably the highest profile player in the game over the past 20 years. Henry Shefflin won a lot more with Kilkenny, notably a staggering 10 All-Ireland senior medals, but there was probably greater fascination in his sharpshooting counterpart from Galway who will be 33 in October.

Long before he almost beat Cork single-handedly in an All-Ireland qualifier in Thurles in 2008, we knew something special had emerged from the townland of Gortanumera. He had already won two All-Ireland minor medals and that Autumn would collect his third senior championship with Portumna.

Read the full column in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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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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