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Out of sorts Connacht stumble badly

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Connacht's Eoin McKeon who scored a late consolation try in their Guinness Pro12 defeat to the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday night.

Ospreys 26

Connacht 11

IN the heel of the hunt, a 15 point loss to the Ospreys is unlikely to be a talking point when the season review starts in May 2015. This wasn’t a defining game in the  Connacht campaign nor could it be looked upon as points dropped, but it still rankles and could yet be a foretaste of some less promising days ahead.

The Ospreys are a play off bound side, they are a title contender, this was their seventh win in as many outings. Very few teams will win at the Liberty Stadium this season and that certainly goes for the Llanelli Scarlets, Dragons, Edinburgh and Cardiff all of whom are Connacht’s main rivals for a top six place.

Yet here was an opportunity all the same, here was a team missing seven front line players to the Welsh international squad and without a host of talented back row options, leaving them down to two strong flankers in Sam Lewis and Justin Tipuric, and three under 21s including last minute loanee from Cardiff Ieun Jones.

The Ospreys were vulnerable and two minutes into the second half a Connacht side that had lost just once in six previous Pro 12 outings, looked like they might take advantage as they led 6-3 and were dominating in the scrum. It wasn’t a case of the Westerners being worth the lead, they weren’t, the main first half try scoring chances had come from the home side but rather that in a broken, disjointed and flat contest, Pat Lam’s side had got their noses in front.

But this young Connacht side failed to hold their composure during the backlash despite having a real platform to exploit their opponents. That foundation came from a strong scrum and a close to full strength line up with Bundee Aki looking sharp in the early stages of his debut before breaking down with cramp in the second half.

During a disjointed and ragged 15 minute spell for Connacht, the home side scored 23 points without reply and had this game wrapped up by the 60 minute mark. It was the second week in a row that Connacht entered the final quarter of a game in ‘damage limitation’ mode. That’s a big turnabout from what we saw in the first seven games of the season.

While the Ospreys will review this as a game where a much beleaguered squad dug deep after a poor first half and eventually put their interior opponents to the sword, from Connacht’s point of view the game turned on a mismatch in defence and one costly lapse at scrum time.

During half time, the BBC Wales dressing room cameras showed Osprey’s coach Steve Tandy dissecting some of the problem areas on the big screen as the players looked on. It emerged afterwards that they had resolved to target some backline mismatches that were developing and were looking to attacking Connacht in midfield on second and third phase. It worked, Rodney Ah You was exploited by a Dan Evans break and Connacht were carved open with Hassler’s try on 46 minutes.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

Connacht Tribune

Aran Islands look to be hitting their stride at the perfect time

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Conal Ó hIarnáin had a fine game at midfield for Oileann Arainn in their win over Oranmore/Maree.

Oileáin Árann 0-18

Oranmore/Maree 1-9

Ivan Smyth at Pearse Stadium

Oranmore/Maree suffered defeat at the quarter final stage for the fourth year on the trot as they were simply outgunned by an Oileáin Árann side which has now reached its third semi-final in five years and appear to be peaking at the right time.

Nine players found the target for the winners compared to six for Oranmore/Maree, but it was the Islanders’ opening half display which was the key to this victory as they led by 0-10 to 0-3 at half time.

Oranmore/Maree were struggling to create chances as they kicked just two wides which coupled with their three first half points showed that they struggled to break through a physical Oileáin Árann outfit.

Sean Mulkerrin and Mark Ronaldson enjoyed an interesting duel as the Galway full-back was tasked with keeping the former Mayo forward quiet. The pair were both standout performers for their sides but aside from Ronaldson, Oranmore-Maree’s forwards struggled to make an impact on this game.

If you told Oileáin Árann that their top scorer in this year’s championship, Tyler Ó Flaithearta, would not register a score in this game, then they would have feared the worst. That’s what transpired although his teammates stood up to the plate as seven different players kicked scores in the opening half. With Ó Flaithearta kicking 1-19 and Ronaldson scoring 2-16 across the group stages, a shootout between the two was anticipated, but it never transpired.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Clarinbridge upset the odds to send Loughrea packing

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Clarinbridge's Mark Kennedy gets his pass away despite the best efforts of Loughrea's Neil Keary in their preliminary quarter-final clash in Athenry last Saturday. Photos: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Clarinbridge 1-10

Loughrea 1-7

Niall Canavan at Kenny Park

Clarinbridge pulled off a big upset when knocking a Loughrea outfit many deemed challengers for a county senior title out of the championship race at a wet Kenny Park, Athenry, last Saturday.

Incessant rain throughout ensured this wasn’t a day for the hurling purists as both sets of players struggled to stay on their feet as weather conditions worsened during a game that had the potential to be the tie of the round.

That said, while it had little of the free-flowing hurling that supporters would have hoped for, it was certainly a compelling contest between two teams who battled valiantly throughout.

In the end, Clarinbridge deserved to win: they had a better scoring threat with Michael Daly, Mark Kennedy and Gavin Lee prominent on an afternoon when scores were hard earned. Evan Niland, too, worked extremely hard, while Shane Bannon, TJ Brennan and Patrick Foley also played leading roles.

Loughrea, though, will be bitterly disappointed to exit the championship after their heroics against Sarsfields a week previously. They continued to play a short passing game, and, in the conditions, a more direct approach may have yielded better dividends.

Too often, they laboured in attack where the tussle between Jamie Ryan and Clarinbridge’s Shane Bannon was intriguing. They also hit some early wides, including three in the opening stages, and in a game that wasn’t going to be a high scoring contest, they were to prove costly.

Yet, they fought bravely to the end with Paul Huban, Johnny Coen, Caimin Killeen and Ryan to the fore on an afternoon when the introductions of the Mahony cousins, Emmett and Brian, could possibly have happened sooner given their experience. It was needed in the energy-sapping conditions.

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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Connacht Tribune

Favourites all advance in Junior Cup

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Athenry's Colm O'Donovan about to cross the ball against Tuam Celtic in last weekend's FAI Junior Cup match between the sides in Tuam Photo: Kennedy-Beirne, Eirefoto.

Soccer Wrap with Mike Rafferty

The potential for surprise is always a possibility in cup action, but while the weekend’s FAI Junior Cup’s six games saw some competitive contests, there was no outcome that could be considered as a shock.

Athenry had a real battle on their hands before they saw off Tuam Celtic by the odd goal in seven, while it was equally competitive as Gort United came from two down to level matters with Mervue United B, before the city side secured an additional time winner in a 5-4 success.

The meeting of two Premier Division sides saw Loughrea and Maree/Oranmore A go head-to-head and it was the visitors who ran out impressive winners here.

However, there was no joy for the Maree/Oranmore B side for despite taking the lead at home against Hibernians, it was the Premier Division outfit who turned on the power in the closing stages to pull away for victory. Elsewhere Salthill Devon and Mervue United also advanced in relevant comfort; while Ballinasloe Town also advanced with a win over Dunmore Town.

Tuam Celtic’s promotion to the Premier Division this season has seen them struggle on occasions, but they have proved that they have the ability to test the best on occasions and on Friday night under lights in Clonthue Road, they made visitors Athenry work very hard for a 4-3 win.

Last season’s beaten semi-finalists displayed all their quality in the opening quarter as goals by Adam Duffy and Cole Connolly, with a deflected effort, had them two up. The home side were struggling to get to the pace of the game in the early exchanges, but once they pulled one back through Mike Swinhoe, matters got more competitive.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

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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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