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Inside Track

Novel hurling final pairing product of even title race

John McIntyre

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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

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

John McIntyre

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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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Connacht Tribune

Galway’s positive response to their Tralee trauma continues

John McIntyre

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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.

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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

Post-Covid normality will have a very different feel

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin announcing the easing of restrictions.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

No sooner does one crisis come to an end in politics, but – before you can draw breath or pat yourself on the back – a new one is coming down the track. On the upside, we’re reaching the end of the lockdown. Last weekend’s good weather gave us a small preview of the kind of summer we will have, once the shackles of all the restrictions have been thrown away.

A weight will be lifted off our shoulders; problem is that somebody somewhere will come up with a brand new weights.

It reminds me of a joke from the great American comedian Jerry Seinfeld. He talked about going on a family holiday and the hassle and stress of packing the car with luggage, holiday paraphernalia and rowdy kids, and the prospect of a long hot drive in August bank holiday traffic.

This was his pay off line. “So you finally get the last item into your trunk (boot) and close it. You know the walk between the trunk and the driver’s door? You might not realise it but that in fact is your holiday.”

The point of all that is that the transition back to normality is not going to be a seamless affair. The first question is – what is normal going to look like?

For sure, it’s not going to be like the status quo ante. Sure, reopening is happening at a scale and a pace that nobody anticipated. Hotels and guesthouses are already open. By next Monday we will have outdoor hospitality and the return of many amenities including cinemas

By July there will be outdoor gigs, hundreds of spectators at sporting events, indoor dining and drinking, and even the return of international travel.

I was surprised that the normally conservative National Public Health Emergency Team agreed to the changes. When I spoke to a Minister last week, I asked what kind of resistance NPHET had put up to the proposed reopening. I was not expecting the response.

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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