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Inside Track

Novel hurling final pairing product of even title race

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Long serving Craughwell players, brothers Niall and Fergal Helay, who will be hoping to steer the club to their first county senior hurling title since 1930 when they take on Sarsfields at Kenny Park on Sunday.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

ON the night of April 25 last, there would have been seriously contrasting moods in the Craughwell and Tommy Larkins senior hurling camps after the clubs’ first round championship collision earlier in the day. The promising Woodford men had pulled off a minor surprise in getting their group campaign off to a flying start and would quickly have six points on the board from their first three outings.

Over six months later, however, Craughwell are preparing for their first county final in eight decades, while Tommy Larkins haven’t even qualified for senior A hurling next year. The clubs’ varying fortunes are symbolic of a county championship which has arguably been the most even in years, and has thrown up no shortage of surprise results.

Very few would have envisaged a county final involving Craughwell and Sarsfields for most of that journey. Aidan Ryan and company had to dust themselves down after falling to Tommy Larkins, a process which was hardly routine given the expectations in the parish after their near miss – without Niall Healy – in last year’s semi-final against Portumna. Against that background and often perceived as flaky when the pressure came on, Craughwell were in a hole in late April.

However they have cleared everything in their path since, notably in knock out collisions against Castlegar, Liam Mellows and St. Thomas’. They were in trouble in all those matches, yet somehow found the resolve and tenacity to be ahead at the line. These are qualities not normally associated with them, but Craughwell have toughened up mentally and given their natural hurling instincts, it now makes them a formidable package.

In the past a Craughwell team finding itself six points behind Castlegar and five in arrears of St. Thomas’ in the second-half of both games would not have pulled off successful rallies. They won both those matches the hard way and also held their nerve against Liam Mellows even if opposition free-taker Tadhg Haran let them off the hook in injury time. You need a slice of luck too and Craughwell are starting to get breaks which previously eluded them.

Having contested four semi-finals over the past decade, their qualification for the decider hardly comes out of the blue. They have some quality stickmen in the Healy brothers, Niall Callanan, Adrian Cullinane, Mark Horan, Mark Monaghan and young Thomas Monaghan, while on a going day, both Alan Callanan and Jamie Ryan, are big handfuls for any defence. They also have one of the stickiest markers around in Ger O’Halloran.

When the championship resumed in late September, Sarsfields faced a must-win encounter against Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry given their final outing would see a clash with Loughrea. Former Galway All-Ireland manager John Hardiman hadn’t long taken up a coaching role with them, but he stayed outside the wire in Duggan Park that day and must have been resigned to a short stint with the New Inn/Bullaun men when they trailed by nine points in the final quarter.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

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.

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Connacht Tribune

Nothing certain in 2023 but at least Galway won’t start from base camp

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Galway manager Pádraic Joyce and defender Kieran Molloy look on during the presentation of the Sam Maguire Cup to Kerry after Sunday's All-Ireland Football Final at Croke Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THE sense of anti-climax will be overwhelming for everybody associated with the Galway footballers this week. Homecomings are an understandable necessity of the All-Ireland final experience, but they can be a testing environment for deflated players and management. Within hours you’re going from great expectations to utter despair.

The fact that Galway could have ended a 21-year All-Ireland drought will only compound the disappointment, and though the Tribesmen have laid a great foundation for the seasons ahead, there is absolutely no guarantee that this group will even get back to Croke Park on finals day again.

First of all, Galway’s cover is well and truly blown which means the accompany rise in expectations is something of a double-edged sword. There will be extra pressure as well compared to 2021 when there was a ‘bonus feel’ to the team’s major progress in the championship. They kind of came in under the radar, but won’t have that luxury next year.

The other big issue is outside their control. Now that Kerry are finally back on top of the football tree and the accompanying weight lifted off their shoulders after an eight-year wait, it’s probable that the new champions will be even better in the foreseeable future. You couldn’t say that they were lucky to win on Sunday, but you’d know from their early profligacy especially that these Kerry players were feeling the pressure.

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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Connacht Tribune

Magnificent Limerick show mettle of champions in epic showdown

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Attending the announcement of Sei Bella Hair Design, Oranmore's sponsorship of the Clarinbridge camogie senior team were: Audrey Craughwell, owner of Sei Bella Hair Design, Audrey Carr, Chairperson of Clarinbridge Camogie Club, with players, from left: Carrie Dolan, Rachel Bannon and Amy Hooban. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THIS was their crowning glory. For all Limerick hurlers have achieved over the past five years, they still needed one more thing on their CV – beating Kilkenny in an All-Ireland final. And the fact that achievement coincided with completing the three-in-a-row at Croke Park on Sunday confirms their reputation as an exceptional team.

True, Limerick had taken out the Cats in an epic championship quarter-final in Thurles on their way to long-awaited glory All-Ireland glory that same year, but they were turned over by Kilkenny in the 2019 semi-final and hadn’t encountered Brian Cody’s charges during their 15-match unbeaten run since.

But Sunday’s triumph after an enthralling battle was the final validation of Limerick’s greatness. The fact that they had to survive an unrelenting challenge from the Leinster champions makes it more memorable on a day Gearóid Hegarty delivered one of the truly outstanding displays ever seen on hurling’s biggest occasion.

This was a compelling, physical and hugely committed struggle for supremacy. Some of the point-taking was out of this world – for the first time ever all six half-backs scored from play in a final – and though Limerick forced the pace for long periods, they could never quite shake off the tenacious Kilkenny men. The Cats just don’t know how to give up.

The occasion was electrified by Hegarty’s brilliant early goal – his shot whizzing past Eoin Murphy from a tight angle into the roof of the net. The towering Limerick half-forward went on to pick off some wonderful points, and with Kyle Hayes, Seamus Flanagan and Aaron Gillane also quick to find the range, it left Kilkenny living off scraps.

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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