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Inside Track

Offaly hurling on its knees and prospects look bleak

John McIntyre

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Kilburn Gaels player Stephen Lambert from Kilbeacanty and who now lives in London, pictured with his parents Patricia and Tom and sister Lisa, after his team defeated Cappataggle in the All-Ireland Intermediate Club hurling semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick last Sunday. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THESE are harrowing times for Offaly hurling and judging by what we saw in Tullamore last Sunday, the county’s slide into oblivion shows no sign of levelling off any time soon. Thrashed by both Kilkenny and Tipperary last summer – the latest in a long line of heavy championship defeats – the Midlanders remain in a full blown crisis.

Offaly’s gradual fall from the top tier of hurling counties is arguably the sport’s biggest problem on a national scale and things could conceivably get worse before there is any significant upswing in fortunes. Goodness knows, their plight is bad enough as it is and survival in the second division of league hurling will stretch them in the months ahead.

They fielded a team against Galway which contained a number of what turned out to be poorly equipped novices. They were over-run by the men in maroon at times and were really flattered to be only beaten by 12 points. It is obvious Offaly don’t possess the necessary depth of quality players anymore, but there appears to a lot of local apathy as well.

Granted, Joe Bergin and David Kenny missed the Galway match due to injury, but Conor Mahon didn’t rejoin the panel as he is due to go travelling while talented wing back Derek Morkam has fallen out of favour with the team management. Rory Hanniffy, one of Offaly’s great servants, has retired, while Brian Carroll didn’t feature last Sunday seemingly because he will be unavailable for the team’s opening two league matches.

The curious thing is that Offaly were reportedly very competitive in a challenge outing against Tipperary a few days earlier, but how often have we seen such encounters offering unreliable form guides? In reality, they were out of their depth against a Galway team missing several of their frontline players and, early in the second-half, trailed by 2-18 to 0-6.

What happened after that is largely immaterial. When Offaly needed to be competitive, they just didn’t possess the class, craft or technique to match up to their visitors. The team’s supporters were demoralised by what they were seeing with only a handful of players holding their own. By all accounts, Offaly have been committed on the training ground, but the gulf in standard was simply alarming last Sunday.

Brian Whelahan, the greatest hurler ever produced by Offaly, is now in his second season as team manager and he would have taken over from Ollie Baker with no shortage of enthusiasm or ambition, but the Birr man can only do so much with a limited deck. Publically, he has to stand by his men but, privately, he must be despairing of Offaly’s current woes.

It’s hard to credit that Offaly haven’t beaten Galway in a competitive match since a National League game in the spring of 2001. Hurling in the county was in a different place then, but they have gradually fallen off the pace in the interim. In my first coming as Offaly manager in 1997, I remember them also edging out the Tribesmen in a league tie in Birr, but they were backboned by some great men during that era, like the Dooley brothers, Whelehan himself, Martin Hanamy, Kevin Kinahan, John Troy and Johnny Pilkington.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Inconsistent Covid restrictions just driving people up the walls

John McIntyre

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Galway WFC's Lynsey McKey in action against Paula Doran of Bohemians during Saturday's National League tie at Eamonn Deacy Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

OUR patience with Ireland’s ongoing battle against Covid-19 is running out. We are tired of the constant negative narrative, the scaremongering and regular qualification of any good news. The Government and NPHET continue to kill the morale of their own people with inconsistent coronavirus restrictions.

We can be in the middle of one wave of the virus and the prophets of doom are already warning about the next one. Caution has been taken to extremes and it’s only driving a large proportion of the population up the walls, especially those involved with sport. Some of the restrictions are now doing more harm than good.

The danger of sticking your head above the parapet is that you are immediately accused of not respecting or ignoring a public health emergency; that you are in some way complicit in keeping the virus on these shores longer than necessary; that you are indifferent to the suffering of thousands of families who have lost loved ones due to Covid-19.

I get that, but I am none of the above. I belong to a large cohort of people who are applying logic and common sense to what is going on. For instance, there is no earthly good reason why golf courses and tennis courts have to remain out of bounds until near the end of the month, or why team sport – at all levels – played outdoors isn’t also back up and running, at least in terms of training.

We are constantly told that being outdoors reduces the risk of virus transmissions significantly; that it is a much safer environment compared to indoor settings. Yet, the Government and NPHET are not helping us practice what they preach. There are thousands of young sports people all over the country who are being driven close to insanity; cooked up with little to do.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Boss Kenny can’t buy a break as dream job turns into a nightmare

John McIntyre

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Galway WFC's Therese Kinnevey and Shauna Brennan leading this charge against Cork City WFC during Saturday's National League tie at Eamonn Deacy Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

STEPHEN Kenny looked a tormented soul after the Republic of Ireland’s shock World Cup qualifying loss to the minnows of Luxembourg at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday night. The Dubliner is only a few months in charge of the team, but everything that could go wrong has gone wrong since he took over from Mick McCarthy.

After the reasonable promise of Ireland’s away defeat to Serbia the previous Wednesday, the visit of Luxembourg to Dublin was understandably tagged as a match Seamus Coleman and company simply had to win and, in the process, finally give some overdue momentum to Kenny’s tenure.

Unfortunately, Ireland just didn’t perform or deliver against the 98th rated team in the world. Instead, the match appeared to be trundling to a nil-all draw conclusion when Luxembourg stunned their hosts with a well-taken 85th winner from Gerson Rodrigues. Suddenly, a bad night had turned into a disastrous one.

With injuries again hitting Kenny’s selection plans – Galway’s Aaron Connolly was among the absentees – there was another youthful appeal to his line up, including a debut for 19-year-old goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, who did well in challenging circumstances. Unfortunately, the rest of the team were found wanting.

The reality now is that Ireland’s World Cup ambitions are already over after just two matches, a scenario which has cranked up the pressure on the team’s beleaguered boss. Kenny just can’t buy a break in the job. Between Covid, absentees and injuries, his time at the helm has been spent trying to cobble together teams to represent Ireland. He is constantly dealing with a compromised hand.

In those circumstances, any manager would struggle and though Kenny has a strong winning pedigree in League of Ireland football, this is a different world altogether and already, you get a sense that the vultures are circling, notwithstanding the FAI’s public vote of confidence expressed by Chairperson Ray Barrett in the wake of the Luxembourg defeat.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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

Brilliant duo Blackmore and De Bromhead rewrite record books

John McIntyre

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Galway amateur jockey Eoin Mahon and Beating The Odds (on right) clearing the last on their way to victory over Difficult Decision in the Leugh Handicap Hurdle at Thurles on Saturday. Photo: Caroline Norris.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

HEADING into last week’s Cheltenham National Hunt Festival, even the dogs on the street knew that the Irish raiders were in for a bonanza, but few anticipated such an unprecedented wipe out of the home challenge. It was getting embarrassing by the end of the fourth day as Irish horse after Irish horse stormed up the hill – often in glorious isolation.

Ultimately, the UK had to be content with a mere five winners over the 28-race programme with not a solitary success registered over hurdles – a truly astonishing scenario. Time and again, some of their supposedly big guns were found wanting in the Cotswolds, with only Nicky Henderson’s pair, the brilliant Shishkin and Chantry Horse, recording Grade One successes.

For Ireland to land 23 races at the Olympics of the sport underlines how much the balance of power has switched at Cheltenham in modern times. Only staying hurdler Galmoy had prevented an Irish whitewash in 1987 and ’88, while the raiding party returned empty-handed from the meeting in 1989.

Of course, Cheltenham was only a three-day festival back then, but the Irish dominance over the past few years is still remarkable. Sure, we have exceptional trainers in Willie Mullins, Henry De Bromhead and Gordon Elliott, and some wealthy individuals are splashing out on the best of thoroughbreds coming up for sale, but British National Hunt racing is on its knees in terms of quality after last week’s drubbing.

The poor prizemoney on offer in the UK is clearly a big factor in British based owners – like Cheverly Park – sending their horses across the Irish Sea to be trained, while some cross-channel trainers have already publicly questioned their own racing programme in the context of too many handicaps and not enough races at the top end level.

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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