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Inside Track

Pacey Banner boys can finish year in a blaze of glory

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Inside Track with John McIntyre

IT’S a measure of the unexpected upheaval in this year’s hurling championship that for the first time since 1997, the All-Ireland final will go ahead without Kilkenny, Tipperary or Galway parading behind the Artane Boys Band in September. In fact, the three favourites to lift the Liam McCarthy in early summer had all fallen by the wayside before the semi-finals and nobody saw that scenario coming.

Instead, youth will be having its fling in Croke Park on Sunday as both Cork and Clare, appearing in only their seventh ever senior final, battle it out for hurling’s greatest prize – two Munster teams in the decider and, curiously, neither of them heading to GAA headquarters as provincial champions which underlines just how much improvement the two finalists have made in the interim.

In spite of the county’s great tradition, Cork’s return to the big stage is something of a bolt out of the blue. Sure, they have come from nearly nowhere in the past to mould championship winning teams, but after losing to Clare (0-31 to 2-23) in a Division One relegation play-off at the Gaelic Grounds last April, key forward Paudie O’Sullivan on the long term injury list, and continuing grumbles about the axing of long serving goalkeeper Donal Og Cusack from the squad, even die-hard Rebels supporters were pessimistic about the summer campaign ahead.

They renewed rivalry against Clare in the Munster semi-final and emphatically turned the tables on a 0-23 to 0-15 scoreline. Newcomer Seamus Harnedy caught the eye in attack on a day the Banner forwards lacked the killer instinct when playing with the strong wind in the opening-half. Clare spurned several goal chances too amid mounting criticism of manager Davy Fitzgerald over his continuing deployment of an extra-defender. Cork dovetailed Brian Murphy to man-mark the roving Tony Kelly and the tactic paid off.

Murphy, however, was an absentee for the subsequent Munster final against Limerick after picking up a shoulder injury in a club match and with Pat Horgan controversially dismissed before half-time, Cork were unable to cope with their numerical disadvantage on a hot day at the Gaelic Grounds, losing by 0-23 to 0-15 and again failing to find the net. It left them facing an All-Ireland quarter-final against the fading title holders Kilkenny in Thurles.

Critically, Horgan had his red card rescinded and though Cork finished another big game without a goal, their overall pace had battle-weary opponents in trouble as they came through on a 0-19 to 0-14 scoreline. Kilkenny finished with 14 players after the harsh dismissal of Henry Shefflin and Cork were also to benefit from the teak-tough Ryan O’Dwyer getting his marching orders in the subsequent All-Ireland semi-final.

It was the game of the year and Dublin, if anything, were starting to dictate the terms of engagement and were a point ahead when O’Dwyer picked up his second yellow midway through the second-half. That incident turned the game on its head and with an opportunist goal from Horgan – incredibly, Cork’s first of the championship – the Rebels finally began to put some daylight between the teams, having five points to spare at the finish.

On the other side of the draw, Clare were also regrouping well. After hammering Laois in Ennis in the opening round of qualifiers, they were then careless against Wexford before readily pulling clear in extra time with the help of two Cathal McInerney goals. That victory set up a quarter-final date against Galway and with Pat Donnellan cleaning up in his sweeper role and Conor McGrath firing home a first-half goal, they were nearly always in the driving seat against disjointed opposition.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Lyng taking over from Cody leads to an outbreak of relief in Galway

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Galway's Ciara Donohue breaking out of defence against Lauren Homan of Cork during Sunday's All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Final at Croke Park. Photo: INPHO/Bryan Keane.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THERE was surely a collective sigh of relief in Galway’s hurling strongholds when former midfielder Derek Lyng was appointed to succeed Brian Cody as the new Kilkenny manager last week – the first time since the winter of 1998 that a new senior supremo has been unveiled down Noreside way.

After Cody somewhat surprisingly ended his long tenure as Kilkenny manager in the wake of last month’s battling All-Ireland Final defeat to Limerick, it was only natural that current Galway team manager Henry Shefflin, Kilkenny’s most decorated player of all-time, would be linked with the vacancy.

“Don’t do it Henry” was a common refrain on social media as Galway supporters understandably feared the Ballyhale Shamrocks clubman would find the prospect of talking over his native county impossible to resist. Lyng, Martin Fogarty and ex-Laois boss Eddie Brennan were also touted as being in the running.

A similar precedent had been set this summer when Liam Cahill abruptly departed Waterford to return to Tipperary after the local County Board hardly covered itself in glory in the manner it ended the tenure of former player Colm Bonnar after just one year in charge. Admittedly, it had been a tough championship for Tipperary, losing all four games in Munster, but there were extenuating circumstances.

For starters, Brendan Maher and Padraic Maher retired – the latter was forced to hang up the boots due to a neck injury – while other heroes of past All-Ireland triumphs, Bubbles O’Dwyer, John McGrath and Seamus Callanan, were also notable absentees. It meant Bonnar took over a Tipperary team in transition.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Lots of positivity around but Galway will now have target on their backs

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Owner Annette Mee with Monday’s Galway Festival bumper winner,This Songisforyou. Also included are Emmet Mullins, trainer, Laura Keir, and jockey Derek O'Connor. Photo: Patrick McCann/Racing Post.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

ALL around Ballybrit last week, the post All-Ireland football final verdict was virtually unanimous: Galway were unlucky against Kerry but had done the county proud. Naturally, the big focus was on the harsh free awarded against John Daly as he attempted to break out of defence late in the match.

Of all the varying opinions on the controversy doing the rounds at the races and in the media at large, former Donegal manager Jim McGuinness probably put it the most succinctly of all in Saturday’s edition of the Irish Times. He said anyone just focusing on the first part of the incident would award a free out to Daly, but those only seeing Killian Spillane’s arm being pulled in by the Galway number six would have sided with referee Seán Hurson’s call.

And that’s in a nutshell. The first foul was committed on Daly and that should have led to a crucial free out for Galway just seconds after Damien Comer had forced a terrific turnover. In that moment, however, Kerry got a break they weren’t entitled to, and the Munster champions weren’t slow in taking advantage.

Galway were that close to ending 21-years in the All-Ireland wastelands, but Padraic Joyce and his players don’t need any reminding that it’s a long way back to next year’s final. Sure, they have made huge progress over the past few months and their camp will now be stacked with belief, but there are no guarantees that they will enjoy another protracted run in 2023.

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

Nothing certain in 2023 but at least Galway won’t start from base camp

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Galway manager Pádraic Joyce and defender Kieran Molloy look on during the presentation of the Sam Maguire Cup to Kerry after Sunday's All-Ireland Football Final at Croke Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THE sense of anti-climax will be overwhelming for everybody associated with the Galway footballers this week. Homecomings are an understandable necessity of the All-Ireland final experience, but they can be a testing environment for deflated players and management. Within hours you’re going from great expectations to utter despair.

The fact that Galway could have ended a 21-year All-Ireland drought will only compound the disappointment, and though the Tribesmen have laid a great foundation for the seasons ahead, there is absolutely no guarantee that this group will even get back to Croke Park on finals day again.

First of all, Galway’s cover is well and truly blown which means the accompany rise in expectations is something of a double-edged sword. There will be extra pressure as well compared to 2021 when there was a ‘bonus feel’ to the team’s major progress in the championship. They kind of came in under the radar, but won’t have that luxury next year.

The other big issue is outside their control. Now that Kerry are finally back on top of the football tree and the accompanying weight lifted off their shoulders after an eight-year wait, it’s probable that the new champions will be even better in the foreseeable future. You couldn’t say that they were lucky to win on Sunday, but you’d know from their early profligacy especially that these Kerry players were feeling the pressure.

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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