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Inside Track

Offaly hurling is on ropes after their latest mauling

John McIntyre

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Galway ladies

Inside Track with John McIntyre

Even the grimmest of forecasts for Offaly’s chances in last Saturday’s Leinster hurling championship quarter-final against Kilkenny wouldn’t have imagined a rout on such a humiliating scale. It was awful to watch as the Faithful men were simply crucified in an embarrassingly one-sided affair at Nowlan Park.

We all knew that Offaly would struggle to avoid a heavy defeat, but the final scoreline of 5-32 to 1-18 underlines how much Brian Whelehan’s charges were out of their depth. Even deploying a sweeper from the off in young Kevin Connolly couldn’t stop the haemorrhaging as Kilkenny ruthlessly took them apart in a shocking mis-match.

Frankly, the warning signs were there for much of the spring. Apart from an unexpected draw against Limerick, Offaly’s league campaign unfortunately served to underline the county’s ongoing decline as a serious hurling force. Ultimately, they had to overcome Kerry to prevent dropping to the third tier and that was only achieved after surviving some early scares.

Just 12 months ago, Offaly had rattled the Cats in Tullamore, but a couple of early goals had given them unexpected momentum while it also signalled the start of Kilkenny’s worst championship campaign in 15 years. Still, just five points separated the teams at the finish and it appeared there was some hope for Offaly, especially as they went on to also fight honourably in a qualifier battle against Waterford.

Ollie Baker subsequently stepped down as team manager, but the County Board’s attempts to find a successor did not go smoothly with approaches to several individuals eliciting little interest. Whelehan, Offaly greatest player of all-time, thought he was about to take charge of the county’s minors only for officials to offer the senior post to the Birr clubman.

Having cut his coaching teeth with Galway clubs Castlegar and Kiltormer, Whelahan knew what he was letting himself in for. He isn’t long retired from the club scene and would have been acutely aware of the lack of talent coming through, but his passion for Offaly hurling remained undiminished. Yet the team’s tribulations in the league and some heavy recent defeats on the challenge game circuit must have left him with a sense of foreboding ahead of the clash with Kilkenny.

Basically, Offaly no longer possess enough quality players in their ranks or else veteran Rory Hanniffy, a great servant down through the years, would never have been pressed into an emergency full back role. The Offaly players and management would have tried to convince themselves that they had a chance, but privately they all must have been aching at the prospect of being wiped off the field.

Only for some brilliant reflex goalkeeping from James Dempsey, sterling defensive resistance from Cathal Parlon and Hanniffy, and a fine haul of 1-10 from the excellent Brian Carroll, Offaly could have lost by 40 points. It was that bad. They just couldn’t match Kilkenny’s physique, power or quality with Colin Fennelly and Eoin Larkin going to town on an evening which showed the home team have rediscovered then energy which was lacking from last year’s campaign.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Rugby’s modern-day brutality on show in bruising inter-pro battle

John McIntyre

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Connacht scrum half Caolin Blade leading this charge against Munster in Saturday's PRO14 encounter at the Sportsground. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

That was classic trench warfare at the Sportsground on Saturday night. In a no-holds barred physical contest, players from both Connacht and Leinster were out on their feet by the finish. With a heavy pitch contributing to extra collisions at the breakdown, this PRO14 battle was no place for the fainthearted.

Some of the hits absorbed were shuddering and several players didn’t make it to the end due to the punishment they had endured. This was not an evening for running rugby; instead, it was a raw and bruising struggle where the physicality of both teams was tested to the limit. At times, it didn’t make for edifying viewing.

Professional rugby continues to have an image problem. Bulked up players ploughing into each other is taking a toll on their overall well-being and how many individuals over the past five years have been forced to retire from the game prematurely? The current legal action by several former England and Welsh internationals over the impact of repeated concussions tells a stark story.

Ex-Irish International and TV pundit Donal Lenihan has voiced his fears over the direction rugby is going, in particular the sight of a heap of 20st-plus forwards being thrown into the fray in the final quarter of matches against fatigued opponents. He believes it’s a breeding ground for injuries – and some bad ones at that.

Take last Saturday, for instance. Connacht’s Sean O’Brien, who is just back from protracted injury problems, had to be escorted from the field in what seemed a dazed-like state. There were other players looking the worse for wear and while we all salute the bravery on show, some rugby players have become physical monsters and that is not good for the game.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Sporting world still upside down but there’s light at end of tunnel

John McIntyre

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John Cleary, on left, hands over the role of Portumna Golf Club Captain to his successor, Pat Quinlan.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THE optimists among us didn’t think last summer that Ireland would still be at the mercy of Covid-19 come the following spring. Some form of normality had returned last July and August as many businesses reopened and most sport resumed even if crowds were very limited.
Daily transmissions of the virus were nearly down to single figures and there were days on end when there were no recoded fatalities. Social distancing was still a way of life and hand sanitisers were everywhere, but the overall outlook was encouraging. Covid-19 was in retreat.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t turned out that way. Ireland like much of Europe and the USA is now in the grip of a third wave of the virus and we are currently in a lockdown which will at least continue until the end of January. Retail life with the exception of supermarkets is virtually extinguished, while only sport at elite level is allowed to continue.
There are lots of other restrictions which continue to turn our daily lives upside down. Depression and despair are widespread, while unemployment figures are soaring again. So many businesses have gone or will go to the wall. The days are long for many and boredom is crippling a big section of the population.
Leaving aside going to or participating in matches, look at all the other things we took for granted that we can no longer do. Restaurants and pubs are closed; so are hairdressers, cafes and fashion retailers. Swimming pools and gyms are off-limits as well, while you can only train on your own outside of elite sport.
Holidays to sun spots or the annual ski voyage are in the realms of pipedreams, while international travel is also seriously compromised. All the while, you are obliged to wear a mask indoors in any place that remain open. This is a completely foreign existence to us, but understandably governments and health authorities are not for turning.

 

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

We grieve for Mayo men again but the Dubs remain on different level

John McIntyre

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Galway players Conor Raftery, right, and Tony Gill celebrate their All-Ireland U20 football final triumph over Dublin at Croke Park on Saturday. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

TWO statistics stand out from last Saturday’s All-Ireland football final at Croke Park. Dublin, the now six-in-a-row champions, are incredibly unbeaten in their last 42 championship matches, while Mayo have cruelly extended their losing final run to ten since their last triumph way back in 1951. It sums up the sharply divergent fortunes of the two counties.

To be truthful, nobody expected gallant Mayo to halt the Dublin juggernaut in the long-delayed 2020 showdown, but when Cillian O’Connor levelled the match for the fifth time in the 50th minute, there long-suffering supporters must have been increasingly optimistic that this just might be the day when the famine would end.

Wouldn’t it be typical Mayo: finally ending their big-day torment in Croke Park when nobody was there to see them and in this strangest of GAA seasons when all kinds of wonderful things were happening in the football championship – notably Tipperary and Cavan unexpectedly capturing provincial titles.

Unfortunately, reality was to resurface in the final quarter.  Mayo would only score once more – a point from substitute Darren Coen – as Dublin in that relentless style of theirs kept powering forward with the likes of Brian Fenton and Ciaran Kilkenny opening their broad shoulders.

With Man of the Match Con O’Callaghan, one of Dublin’s first-half goal scorers, continuing to cause major problems, the closing ten minutes were painful to watch with the absence of spectators only compounding the elimination of suspense. There was now an inevitability about the result as the Dubs made it eight All-Ireland wins in ten years.

At least, Mayo again rattled the champions after a shocking start which saw them concede a goal to Dean Rock straight from the throw in. The admirable James McCarthy did the damage with a rampaging run through the centre, leaving many fearing another championship turkey shoot for Dublin was in the offering.

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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