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Inside Track

Portumna produce a big display on day it counts

John McIntyre

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Inside Track with John McIntyre

Portumna may be gone past their prime, but it still didn’t stop them from regaining the high ground in Galway club hurling at Pearse Stadium on Monday after an unexpected three seasons on the title sidelines. And once more old foes Loughrea were their final victims in a showdown which had its quality impaired by a sticky surface.

Have two clubs ever experienced such contrasting fortunes in just over a decade? While Portumna were storming to a sixth county championship, Loughrea were left trying to grapple with the despair of a sixth final defeat over the same era. This defeat will probably hurt them the most as they appeared ready to deliver a really big display in Salthill but, perhaps, the scars of previous big day losses are cutting too deep now.

Typically, Loughrea battled honourably to the end but, in reality, they were unable to muster enough moments of class which might have carried them over the line. They were under pressure at half-time when retiring only on level terms having being backed by the wind, while their persistent route one approach to a largely ineffective Johnny Maher on the resumption yielded little dividend. A meagre return of three points in that second-half summed up how badly their attack ran out of ideas.

In a final in which Loughrea never led, they will also look back on the opening-half with regret despite the notable fact that all six of their forwards managed to score from play. They had sufficient territory and possession to have thrown down the gauntlet to Portumna, but were always chasing the game after Joe Canning (free) and Man of the Match Andy Smith breeched their lines for green flags in front of a healthy crowd of over 9,000.

Loughrea did manage some rousing points from the lively Johnny O’Loughlin, Jamie Ryan, Neil Keary, Johnny Coen, who was possibly shunted around too much, and Paul Hoban but those scores were only keeping them in Portumna’s slipstream rather than putting daylight between the teams. They needed to be ahead at the interval; they weren’t; and that scenario possibly unnerved them, especially as the former All-Ireland champions had rediscovered their penchant for goals.

Canning, lining out at midfield, bravely went for the net from a 20m free to the right of the Loughrea posts in the sixth minute. It summed up Portumna’s attitude and was a clear statement of intent. Those attempts for goals are generally odds against, but Canning found the target and, in one swoop, Portumna concerns that they were losing their trademark ability to get goals – they had gone three matches without one – had disappeared.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Missing out on the opportunities that lay ahead will haunt Galway

John McIntyre

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Galway football manager Padraic Joyce digests their Connacht final defeat to Mayo at Pearse Stadium on Sunday with members of his backroom team, Cian Breathnach and Michael Comer. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

NOBODY needed to tell Padraic Joyce the consequences of their narrow defeat to Mayo at a near-deserted Pearse Stadium last Sunday. Losing Connacht’s showpiece match was bad enough, but the real pain was realising that the Tribesmen’s enticing pathway to a first All-Ireland final appearance in 19 years had been completely closed off.

With an All-Ireland semi-final date against either Cork or Tipperary the reward for the winners of the Connacht title, there was a lot more at stake in Salthill than provincial glory. Had Galway got the better of Mayo, they would have fancied their chances against either of those opponents. Suddenly, they would be preparing for an All-Ireland final.

And Galway are one of those teams whose tradition suggests that they would be capable of anything in that environment. Sadly, they are now denied that prospect after a muddling performance against their arch Western foes. Yes, Mayo were the better team and spurned two goal chances, but it was still a match the home team could have won.

Though some of the officiating didn’t do the hosts any favour, it was Galway’s carelessness in possession which must really haunt them. Some of their players were turned over too easily, while their decision making going forward in the opening quarter also left a lot to be desired. Nobody could question the team’s spirit or desire, but they needed to mind ball much better.

Given their injury woes, together with no competitive championship prep for the final and the recent trauma of that league trouncing by Mayo, the hosts’ preparations were far from ideal but Joyce wasn’t inclined to go down the excuses road. He was understandably more frustrated with Galway’s own inadequacies and mistakes, along with the team’s modest scoring haul of 13 points.

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

Galway hurlers must be careful but footballers have to go for it

John McIntyre

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Galway’s Rebecca Hennelly in the swing against Cork’s Laura Treacy during the All-Ireland senior camogie championship clash at Pearse Stadium on Sunday. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

BASING a team’s worth and probable fortunes on one match alone has led many astray – look at the transformation in Cork hurlers in the space of a week – which means there has to be a certain amount of caution in assessing Galway’s chances against Kilkenny in Saturday evening’s provincial decider at Croke Park.

In contrast to the Rebels, the Tribesmen really hit the ground running in their opening championship outing by dismantling Wexford in a one-sided Leinster semi-final. On the evening, Galway were a revelation in sauntering to a 13-point victory. Getting their match-ups right and performing with admirable purpose, Shane O’Neill’s squad looked close to their All-Ireland winning form of 2017.

But are Galway that good? We will certainly know a lot more after their latest tussle with the Cats who are bound to provide a far more searching test than Wexford despite their staggering second-half collapse against Dublin in the Leinster semi-final. Losing a 16-point lead is unheard off in the Brian Cody era and their defence struggled badly when ran at.

Kilkenny’s second-half woes, however, guarantee that they will be really up for the Galway match. Can you imagine the grief Cody has given the players in the interim? Remember too, when Kilkenny have a cause – like in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final against Limerick – they bring an extra manic desire to the battleground. Galway need to be braced for that.

Yet, they remain hugely dependent on the inspirational TJ Reid to weave his magic up front, but he’s not getting any younger and one wonders will Galway hand the versatile Joseph Cooney the brief of not letting the Ballyhale clubman out of his sights. Obviously, Colin Fennelly is a danger too with his direct style of running, while the Tribesmen won’t need any reminding of the damage Walter Walsh can cause if on a going day.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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

Galway and Limerick look best equipped for a December date

John McIntyre

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Galway’s Fabienne Cooney geting the better of Tipperary’s Aisling McCarthy during the All-Ireland ladies football senior championship clash at the Limerick Gaelic Grounds on Saturday. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IT’S time to nail our colours to the mast. In the wake of the ten contenders for this year’s All-Ireland hurling title making their championship debuts, we are predicting a December showdown between Limerick and Galway – the two most formidable physically equipped teams out there.

Of course, there’s still a lot of hurling to be done, but even neutrals were impressed by the power shows over the weekend from both Limerick and Galway. One team defeated the reigning champions by nine points; the other humbled Wexford by a 13-point margin. And it just wasn’t about the gulf on the scoreboards at the end either.

Tipperary and Wexford simply couldn’t cope with the physicality of their respective opponents. They were both ground into submission and as weather conditions are bound to worsen over the winter, it’s the team with the big men who will have an inherent advantage. Bulk and physique alone won’t win All-Irelands, but both Galway and Limerick are also blessed with an abundance of natural talent.

Steady on John, I can hear the local sceptics say. Are you talking about the same Galway team which only drew with Wexford last year and were subsequently sent tumbling from the championship by Dublin at Parnell Park?  Yeah, but 2019 was a season of massive under-achievement for the men in maroon who now look revitalised under Shane O’Neill’s tenure.

On the evidence of Croke Park on Saturday evening, the bite is back in Galway’s hurling. Furthermore, newcomers Eanna Murphy and Fintan Burke are proving big defensive assets, while Brian Concannon looks primed to deliver on the promise of his under-age days judging by the way he tormented Wexford in the Leinster semi-final.

Sure, the title holders didn’t raise much of a gallop but Galway didn’t let them. Seán Loftus, the Mannion brothers, Padraic and Cathal, and the outstanding Conor Whelan were way too slick for Wexford and if Galway bring the same urgency and purpose to the battleground against Kilkenny on Saturday week, I can see only one outcome.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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