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Inside Track

No spark as hurlers brushed aside with alarming ease

John McIntyre

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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

Potential fallow period ahead of Galway as big mileage takes toll

John McIntyre

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Galway's Joe Canning feels the pain of Gearóid Hegarty's late tackle during Sunday's All-Ireland hurling semi-final against Limerick at Croke Park. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THE end of year report on the Galway hurlers makes for mixed reading. On the surface, reaching an All-Ireland semi-final and only falling to the perceived best team in the land by three points is not a bad season’s work and there is no doubt that the Tribesmen have the capacity to remain a competitive force in the medium term.

But when you drill down a little more, their continued reliance on the vast majority of the All-Ireland winning team of three years ago is concerning as the evidence suggests several of them are now past their peak. Of the Galway players that featured in that long-awaited final victory over Waterford in 2017, including substitute Jason Flynn, 13 of them were also involved against Limerick last Sunday.

When you consider that Joe Canning, Aidan Harte, Johnny Coen and David Burke were already part of the squad when I finished up as Galway manager in 2011, it illustrates just how many miles some of the current panel have on the clock. Many more of them were involved in the All-Ireland final defeats of 2012 and ’15. That’s a lot of hurling.

In contrast, look at the Waterford team which enraptured the hurling world with their astonishing comeback against Kilkenny in last Saturday night’s first All-Ireland semi-final. Only five started against Galway in 2017 – Stephen O’Keeffe, Tadgh De Burca, Austin Gleeson, Jake Dillon and Kevin Moran. Sure, Padraic Mahony would be still involved only for injury, but you get my drift.

Since winning the All-Ireland title three years, about the only new player who has really established himself on the team is Killimordaly’s Brian Concannon and he had to serve a long enough apprenticeship at this level as well. It’s a concern going forward and Shane O’Neill’s big challenge next year will be to try and rejuvenate the squad.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway square up to Limerick a little earlier than we anticipated

John McIntyre

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Galway’s Padraic Mannion breaking away from Tipperary’s Paul Flynn during Saturday's All-Ireland hurling quarter-final at the Gaelic Grounds. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

After the initial skirmishes in the hurling championship, the widespread perception was that Limerick and Galway were the two best teams out there, leading to an anticipation that next month’s final would end being a repeat pairing of the 2018 decider.

Of course, that assumption was premised on both teams staying winning, but after Galway were caught napping by Kilkenny in the Leinster Final all bets were off. Now as it transpires Galway and Limerick will be meeting after all except it will be earlier than expected – a semi-final instead of a final.

From the outset, Galway have been burdened with the mantle of being the only team which has the capacity to stand up to Limerick physically. It’s a fair assessment when you shift through the imposing figures on the Tribesmen team, notably Daithí Burke, Joseph Cooney, Fintan Burke, Gearóid McInerney, Joe Canning and Conor Cooney.

They have several other six footers plus as well and given the vast experience in their ranks, it’s probably accurate to suggest that if Galway can’t stop Limerick no team can. But how good are Limerick? I for one don’t think they are quite as formidable as some commentators would have us believe.

If we go back to the 2018 final, remember Galway had come into that game possibly fatigued after being taken to replays by both Kilkenny and Clare. They conceded three goals from turnovers; were eight points down after 68 minutes, and were still only beaten by a point as the Shannonsiders staggered over the line.

Furthermore, they were taken out in last year’s semi-final by an average Kilkenny team – granted their average is higher than everybody else’s – which ended up losing the final by 14 points to Tipperary. More recently, they had a lot of troubled passages in their Munster Final triumph over Waterford.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Missing out on the opportunities that lay ahead will haunt Galway

John McIntyre

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Galway football manager Padraic Joyce digests their Connacht final defeat to Mayo at Pearse Stadium on Sunday with members of his backroom team, Cian Breathnach and Michael Comer. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

NOBODY needed to tell Padraic Joyce the consequences of their narrow defeat to Mayo at a near-deserted Pearse Stadium last Sunday. Losing Connacht’s showpiece match was bad enough, but the real pain was realising that the Tribesmen’s enticing pathway to a first All-Ireland final appearance in 19 years had been completely closed off.

With an All-Ireland semi-final date against either Cork or Tipperary the reward for the winners of the Connacht title, there was a lot more at stake in Salthill than provincial glory. Had Galway got the better of Mayo, they would have fancied their chances against either of those opponents. Suddenly, they would be preparing for an All-Ireland final.

And Galway are one of those teams whose tradition suggests that they would be capable of anything in that environment. Sadly, they are now denied that prospect after a muddling performance against their arch Western foes. Yes, Mayo were the better team and spurned two goal chances, but it was still a match the home team could have won.

Though some of the officiating didn’t do the hosts any favour, it was Galway’s carelessness in possession which must really haunt them. Some of their players were turned over too easily, while their decision making going forward in the opening quarter also left a lot to be desired. Nobody could question the team’s spirit or desire, but they needed to mind ball much better.

Given their injury woes, together with no competitive championship prep for the final and the recent trauma of that league trouncing by Mayo, the hosts’ preparations were far from ideal but Joyce wasn’t inclined to go down the excuses road. He was understandably more frustrated with Galway’s own inadequacies and mistakes, along with the team’s modest scoring haul of 13 points.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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