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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

Joyce is right – Galway better off to target league glory than muddle on

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Galway’s Matthew Tierney on the ball against Mayo’s Conor Loftus during Saturday's National Football League tie at MacHale Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

YOU could sympathise with Padraic Joyce’s frustration after Saturday evening’s rip-roaring National Football League clash at MacHale Park. Better game management in the closing minutes would have seen Galway over the line and dealt an early season blow to the new Kevin McStay led Mayo management.

In shades of their league tie against Monaghan in June of 2021 when Galway ended up being relegated after holding a winning hand, they were almost home, albeit clinging to a slender one-point advantage. Mayo were pressing desperately in trying to salvage a draw, but their hopes appeared dashed when Ryan O’Donoghue’s free from the left sideline dropped short.

Referee Joe McQuillan was about to blow the final whistle as Cathal Sweeney emerged with the ball only for the Salthill/Knocknacarra man to cough up possession by attempting a risky kick pass to a teammate. The delivery was over-hit, and the lively Donoghue pounced to bravely drive over the equaliser to send the Mayo fans in the big crowd of almost 14,000 into raptures.

Mayo’s second last point was also avoidable. Again, Galway had possession with Peter Cooke, who had just landed a mighty long-range free. Instead, however, of trying to force his way up the field, the Maigh Cuilinn player turned back towards his own posts, came under pressure, and ended up giving the ball away cheaply.  Galway players should remember that when under the cosh, the sideline is your friend.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway under a little pressure to stop Mayo’s early-season gallop

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Hall of Fame award winner Tommy Joe Gilmore with his daughter Olivia, his son Brian and daughter in-law Karen Monks at the Metronic Galway Sports Stars banquet in the Galway Bay Hotel on Friday night. Photo: Iain McDonald.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

We won’t even have reached the end of January and the paths of Connacht’s great footballing rivals will have already crossed twice, with the prospect of more clashes between Galway and Mayo before the end of the inter-county season in late July.

The early 2023 bragging rights have gone to Mayo manager Kevin McStay after their defeat of the Tribesmen in the semi-final of the FBD League – a competition they went on to win last weekend with a comfortable 0-13 to 0-9 victory over Roscommon in the Connacht Air Dome.

Though both teams were in understandably experimental mode, Mayo managed to secure this pre-season competition for the first time in a decade with late points from Cillian O’Connor and Conor Loftus sealing the deal. In the overall scheme of things, the FBD league doesn’t count for much but delivering some silverware so early into his tenure won’t do McStay’s management any harm.

Naturally, Mayo will be anxious to keep the momentum going in Saturday evening’s televised National League clash at MacHale Park, especially given that they narrowly failed to Galway in last year’s provincial championship. A first-half Johnny Heaney goal and some quality free-taking from Shane Walsh just about saw the Tribesmen through in the face of a late siege by the home team.

Galway boss Padraic Joyce kept a sense of perspective after that early season loss to Mayo a couple of weeks ago, but he was blunt enough in assessing the merits or otherwise of some of the players being trialled. Joyce is experienced in the post now and knows what he is looking for. And having led Galway to league promotion, the Connacht title and the All-Ireland final last year, he has earned that leverage to call it as he sees it.

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.

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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

Early reality check might prove a good thing for Galway footballers

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Galway’s Johnny Heaney secures possession against Mayo’s Jack Coyne during Saturday's Connacht FBD League semi-final in Bekan. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IF the Galway footballers and team management needed any reminding that their substantial progress in 2022 offers no guarantees for the season ahead, they would have got in spades in Bekan on Saturday evening. Losing a FBD League semi-final to arch-rivals Mayo is no big deal in itself, but does underline the reality that the Tribesmen can’t take for granted building on last year’s achievements. And that may be no bad thing in the long run.

Naturally, Padraic Joyce would have preferred if Galway had got over the line at the weekend, especially in the context of preventing Mayo building up early season momentum under new manager Kevin McStay. In the end, he was probably grateful his team were only three points adrift after a difficult second quarter.

When Mayo went 2-10 to 0-5 ahead early in the second-half, it appeared Galway might suffer a hiding. Their goals came from Jordan Carr and Paul Towey, with Matthew Ruane and Jordan Flynn dominant around midfield. Mayo were also performing with the greater energy.

Gradually, however, Galway got to the pitch of the battle, thanks in no small way to the telling contribution of substitute Tomo Culhane, a player who didn’t make the match-day squad for last year’s All-Ireland final. The Salthill/Knocknacarra clubman scored 2-2 after coming on to revive the Tribesmen’s challenge

With Matthew Tierney also finding the opposition net, Galway were belatedly building up a head off steam. Mayo, however, just did enough to hold on with Towey, Aiden Orme and Bryan Walsh picking off some invaluable points, although it took Rory Byrne’s late save from Nathan Grainger to keep their noses in front.

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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