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Inside Track

O’Hara’s hatchet job on Sligo manager leaves sour taste

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John McIntyre

THAT was some hatchet job new Sunday Game panellist Eamonn O’Hara did on Kevin Walsh on prime time television on Sunday night. The former long serving Sligo midfielder opened up both barrels in his strident criticism of the current Yeats County boss after their shock Connacht football championship to the exiles of London in Ruislip earlier in the day.

 It smacked of settling an old score and O’Hara, who admittedly served his county loyally for 17 years, didn’t hold back in condemning the Sligo manager for his role in their provincial championship exit to London. He had fallen out with Walsh last November over a proposed winter training schedule of four nights a week and was subsequently dropped from the panel when he felt unable to meet those demands. Sunday night, however, saw a clearly embittered O’Hara go way beyond the bounds of fair comment.

 He was shooting into an open goal too as The Sunday Game anchor Des Cahill gave O’Hara the perfect opportunity to blow his gasket on Walsh after posing the question why he was no longer involved with Sligo? At 37 years of age, O’Hara’s days in the black jersey were surely numbered anyway, but the manner in which he tore strips – more or less unchallenged – off his former manager made for unsettling TV viewing.

 O’Hara claimed that the former Galway midfielder, who was such a pivotal figure, in the county’s last two All-Ireland triumphs in 1989 and ’91, had lost the support of the Sligo players, labelled Walsh’s winter training programme as “crazy” and suggested that the dedication demanded by the Sligo manager at the time was not reciprocated by the Killanin native himself who, O’Hara alleged, had been interested in the vacant Roscommon managerial position.

 The former All Star also insisted that Walsh’s standard of training, tactical awareness and selection policy were not up to scratch, while he insisted that the problems in the Sligo County Board had masked the team’s poor results over the past two years. O’Hara said that the manager should resign in the wake of the London defeat and that he would be doing the County Board a favour.

 O’Hara wasn’t finished yet: “We got to the Connacht final last year but we’re papering over the cracks. These are players that deserve better quality of training and management, and I think going forward Kevin should make the right decision for the sake of Sligo football and not anyone else. Kevin Walsh made big calls this year and last year – and every one of them has come back to backfire against him. For me, I think he lost the players throughout the year. Kevin Walsh has a lot to answer for.”

 There is little doubt that O’Hara remained resentful over being axed by Walsh after being unable to commit to the squad’s early season training schedule and though he may have been entitled to offer some explanation as to why he was no longer lining out for Sligo, he shouldn’t have been given what seemed like five minutes to character assassinate one of the greatest Galway footballers of all-time. To this day, you will often hear the comment that the Tribesmen have never adequately replaced Kevin Walsh in midfield.

 To allow a panellist go off on such a personal and spiteful rant does not reflect well on RTE. There are two sides to every story and Walsh was presented with no opportunity to defend himself. It’s his fourth year in charge of Sligo and while, obviously, Sunday’s result against London was a huge disappointment, this was a fixture which had danger written all over it for the visitors. Last year, the exiles ran Leitrim to a point and, in 2011, Mayo were lucky to force extra time before escaping Ruislip with their title hopes still intact.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

Loughrea’s standing is enhanced as champions pushed to the wire

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St Thomas' Victor Manso and Darragh Burke tussling for possession with Johnny Coen and Brian Keary of Loughrea during Sunday's County Hurling Final at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

EVEN the might Kilkenny hurlers couldn’t manage it in 2010 which underlines how difficult the challenge was for St Thomas’ to complete their own ‘Drive for Five’ at Pearse Stadium last Sunday. Breaking new ground is never easy for the best of teams, but at least the Galway champions will have a second crack at it.

They entered the 2022 county final as heavy favourites to capture a fifth consecutive Galway title despite five of their team – it would have been six only for James Regan’s injury – having started in the club’s historic triumph of ten years ago. It was their first appearance in a final and it heralded a period of unexpected domination which has resulted in six championships in a decade.

Having won every final they have featured in up to now, St Thomas’ have it down to a fine art in taking care of business on the big days that matter. But they were shaken to the core in Salthill and, at times in a great game, you felt their time at the top was about to come to an end. Four points down with eight minutes of normal time remaining. St Thomas’ had never previously faced such a crisis in a county final.

Typically, their response spoke volumes for the team’s resilience and talent. A late goal and two points from the outstanding Éanna Burke looked to have turned the tide in their favour, and they were seconds away from celebrating a milestone achievement – only done twice before by Castlegar and Turloughmore in Galway.

It would have represented the crowning glory for the glorious club careers of the Burke brothers, David, Cathal, Darragh and Éanna – a utilised sub in 2012 – Conor Cooney and Bernard Burke, but fairytales don’t happen as often in sport as some people would like to think. St Thomas’ have to do it all over again but, on the balance play last Sunday, they should be grateful for that opportunity.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Loughrea’s return to big stage can bring freshness to county final day

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Loughrea manager, Tommy Kelly, and team captain Ian Hanrahan, Liam Brady, Branch Manager, Brooks Timber and Building supplies (sponsors), and St Thomas’ captain Conor Cooney and manager, Kenneth Burke, attending the county senior hurling media event. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THERE was a time when 10,000-plus crowds regularly descended on Galway senior hurling finals, but those days are long gone. The temptation to largely blame that scenario on the near-annual lateness in completing the campaign is obvious, and though it is a factor, there are other more pertinent issues.

The live streaming of matches – a legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic – has hit attendances at GAA club championships, and Galway is no different, but an extra complication locally has been the jaundiced view of many hurling followers, notably in the east of the county, towards travelling to Pearse Stadium for big matches.

We have lost count of the number of hurling followers who can’t stomach the thought of crawling through city centre traffic to get to Salthill. Arriving on Galway’s eastern fringes is the easy part, but then getting across to Pearse Stadium can often prove a nightmare. Parking is another issue. And, of course, there is also the view that the weather is more often than not wet and windy at the county’s premier ground.

All of this is contributing to diminishing crowds at Pearse Stadium, especially for hurling matches. A modest crowd of over 4,000 turned up for the semi-finals last Sunday week and though it was a bleak day, the lack of atmosphere and excitement was plain to see. The ironic part is that the venue is equipped with substantial seating and no shortage of catering and toilet facilities.

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.

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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

Loughrea haven’t quite come from nowhere but are major force again

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Loughrea's Joe Mooney launching an attack against Seán Kilduff of Clarinbridge during Sunday's County Senior Hurling semi-final at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

We hadn’t seen Loughrea hurlers in the flesh for at least two years, leaving us open-minded about their title prospects. Reaching Sunday’s county semi-finals at Pearse Stadium with a 100% record was a statement in itself, but could Tommy Kelly’s charges take it to the next level?

To do that, Loughrea needed to turn the tables on Clarinbridge from last year’s knock-out defeat. The fact that they were the pre-match favourites to do so suggested ‘The Town’ had improved significantly over the past 12 months. What happened in Salthill at the weekend confirmed it.

There was a time when Loughrea were a frequent sight in county finals. Between 2003 and 2013, they appeared in seven of them, but only managed a lone triumph – that narrow 1-13 to 0-15 victory over Portumna in the 2006 controversial decider when much of the post-match focus was on an unsavoury incident involving Joe Canning.

It was a sweet success for Loughrea having lost to Portumna in the finals of 2003 and ’06, but they would also fall in two more deciders to the same opposition in 2009 and 2013, the last time they reached the county final. Loughrea also came off second best in a replay to Clarinbridge in 2010 and they also endured final-day misery against St Thomas’ two years later.

Three of their key players during that time – Greg Kennedy, Gavin Keary and Nigel Murray – are now serving as Kelly’s lieutenants on the sideline, while respected coach Shane Cusack is also involved. Loughrea have probably the biggest backroom team in the championship which indicates that they are throwing everything at this campaign.

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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