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Inside Track

Offaly hurling is on ropes after their latest mauling

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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

Galway show guts of champions in a terrific camogie final triumph

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Galway players Aoife Donohue and Siobhan Gardiner with young fan Aine Rohan from Beagh after defeating Cork in Sunday's All-Ireland senior camogie final at Croke Park. Photo: INPHO Evan Treacy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THEY are a credit to the county. All the tributes flowing the way of the Galway camogie team this week are richly deserved after their storming finish floored the Rebels at Croke Park on Sunday. It was defiance of the highest order.

Team managers regularly demand of their players in all sports to be ‘carried out on your shield’, but it rarely happens. Too much tension; too much at stake; too much pressure. Well, these remarkable Tribeswomen were in no mood for compromise even when defeat was staring them in the face.

In my near 41-years in the Tribune, it’s doubtful if I have ever seen a Galway team in an All-Ireland final find such reserves of character and sheer heart when the gun was put to their heads. All day, they had hunted in packs but still found themselves three points down with ten minutes remaining in a thrilling showdown.

What more had they left to give? They had thrown everything at Cork from the off and still couldn’t protect their early established lead. It would have been easy to falter physically and mentally, but from somewhere Galway found the necessary resolve to carry the day.

It made for compelling viewing. Cathal Murray’s team were just not prepared to surrender. Instead, they were the ones who exhibited the qualities of champions in pulling the All-Ireland out of the fire. Cork, the most successful county in the history of the sport, was the team to flinch.

Galway’s triumph – their fourth All-Ireland ever – must rank as their greatest of them all. It wasn’t just the fact that it came after a terrific spectacle, but also in the manner of their victory. They had come to GAA headquarters to win and there was no turning back.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Even the laws of averages are on Mayo’s side against Tyrone

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Mayo's Tommy Conroy celebrates after landing a crucial point in their All-Ireland semi-final victory over champions Dublin at Croke Park last month.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

WHEN Mayo suffered their latest All-Ireland football final heartache in December of last year, most of us thought that was the end of them. They had put up a spirited first half display against Dublin, but the champions upped the ante on the resumption in going on to achieve a record breaking sixth championship triumph on the trot.

Gallant as ever, Mayo were left to grieve over a demoralising 12th consecutive All-Ireland final defeat, including the replays of 1996 and 2016, since they last took the Sam Maguire Cup home in 1951. Despite some changing of the guard, they had come up short again on the sport’s biggest occasion. It was little consolation to them that the greatest football force in the history of Gaelic football continued to pile on the misery.

After that defeat, great servants like David Clarke and Keith Higgins departed the scene. Donal Vaughan, Seamus O’Shea, Andy Moran and Tom Parsons were gone too. So close to scaling the summit on so much many occasions, they had given everything for the Mayo cause, but the passage of time had caught up with them.

Unlike previous big clashes against Dublin, there was little drama in Croke Park last December. Mayo again gave an honourable account of themselves, but Ciaran Kilkenny and company knew that they had the title in safe keeping with ten minutes to go. The fact the final was played behind closed doors might have been a blessing in disguise – after all, Mayo fans have suffered enough despair.

Of course, springtime generally brings fresh hope, and one thing Mayo footballers have never lacked for is resilience. Yet when Cillian O’Connor suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury against Clare in a league match in Ennis, the omens looked particularly grim for the championship. Sure, James Horan was building a relatively new team, but they could ill afford to be without their ace marksman.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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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Tenacious Tyrone tear up script in flooring hyped-up Kerry outfit

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Galway's Niamh Kilkenny is chased by Tipperary's Karen Kennedy during Sunday's All-Ireland camogie semi-final at Croke Park. Photo: INPHO/James Crombie.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

ALL summer we were being primed for an All-Ireland football final between the sport’s dominant forces. The prospect of Kerry trying to halt Dublin’s quest for a record-breaking seventh consecutive championship triumph took on a life of its own over the past few months with the chances of every other title contender hardly meriting a second look.

Even though Dublin laboured through Leinster and Kerry were involved in a three turkey shoots in Munster, few digressed from the general assumption that Dessie Farrell and Peter Keane would be patrolling the sideline on All-Ireland Final Day in 2001. After all, Donegal’s progress had stalled in Ulster, while the nearly team of Mayo were in transition.

Furthermore, the odds of a bolter from the pack appeared remote. Monaghan, for all their resilience, continue to fall short in the key matches; Tyrone had been hit for six goals by Kerry in a Division One league semi-final in Killarney as recently as June; while Galway were struggling to build any momentum and, into the bargain, suffered league demotion to Division Two.

Against that background, the script for the latest anticipated showdown between Kerry and Dublin looked solid, but lo and behold we are instead facing into an All-Ireland final without either of the big two for the first time in nine years. The occasion will be all the better for it too as Mayo and Tyrone will take centre stage at Croke Park on Saturday week.

Ahead of the weekend’s second semi-final, Mayo had already brought Dublin’s six-year championship winning run to an end after extra-time. That result alone ought to have put Kerry on their guard but after Covid ripped through the Tyrone camp and forced a postponement of their semi-final battle for a fortnight, the assumption was that the Ulster champions would be drained of their normal reserves of energy.

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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