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Inside Track

Portumna put the icing on good weekend for Galway

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Inside Track with John McIntyre

IT wasn’t the walk in the park which characterised their demolition of De La Salle in March of 2009, but there was rarely a moment’s anxiety as Portumna swept to a fourth All-Ireland Club hurling title at GAA headquarters on Monday to become Galway’s greatest parish team of all-time. We had long suspected it, but now they have the honours to prove it.

At their peak, Portumna were generally regarded as having the edge on the county’s two other great hurling powers, Athenry and Sarsfields, but there are no doubts now after comfortably ending the fairytale run of Carlow’s Mount Leinster Rangers at Croke Park. Surprisingly, it was a goal-less final but the Galway champions didn’t need them as they collected the Tommy Moore Cup with the minimum of fuss.

As a spectacle, it may have fallen someway short of the cracking football showdown which followed, but Portumna won’t mind one iota as they gradually pulled clear of the battling if limited Carlow men with team captain Ollie Canning having a majestic outing in their attack and another long serving soldier, Eoin Lynch, the stand out performer in the team’s defence which never came under sustained pressure despite the best efforts of Denis Murphy, Paul Coady and, initially, Edward Byrne on the forty.

Apart from their deep reservoir of experience, Portumna were also too slick for a Mount Rangers outfit which paid the price for some clumsy tackling in a final the outcome of which nearly always appeared inevitable despite the Leinster title holders establishing an early 0-3 to 0-1 advantage. Typically, they continued to graft to the end and picked off some fine points, but it appeared that Portumna rarely had to step outside their comfort zone in justifying the hot favourites’ tag.

Mentally, the build up to the All-Ireland final must have been difficult for the Portumna camp given that they were generally perceived as being ‘past the post’, but they are around too long to take anything for granted and having ended three barrens seasons in Galway last October, they were always going to be tuned-in for another big-day opportunity the following March. This great team was thought to be over the hill at the end of the 2012 county championship, but instead they have regrouped magnificently to re-establish themselves as the standard bearers of club hurling.

It didn’t help the continuity of Monday’s decider that referee Barry Kelly let little or nothing go, with the late dismissal of Rangers’ defender Edward Coady harsh in the extreme. It had no bearing on the result, but symbolised the over-diligent officiating on the day. Mount Carlow Rangers again lacked nothing in commitment but, at times, they were short-staffed up front and once they fell behind, those tactics were always going to tell against them. Portumna are just too well organised and creative to allow defensive-minded opponents to nullify their threat.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Superb St Thomas’ take dominance of Galway club hurling to new level

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St Thomas’ Victor Manso is about to pounce on this loose ball against Dylan Shaughnessy of Loughrea during Sunday's Galway Senior Hurling Final at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

Barely five minutes after Sunday’s thrilling Galway hurling final replay at Pearse Stadium, the clouds burst open – raining more misery on a Loughrea team which had covered themselves in glory for the second week running only to discover that their best wasn’t quite good enough.

Of course, Loughrea could have won both the drawn final and replay, and there were times where St Thomas’ were hanging on for dear life, but they were unable to close the deal. They weren’t let, for starters, as the champions enhanced their reputation for getting out of tight corners in Galway.

In the days between the two matches, you’re wondering what either finalist can do differently to give them an edge; what switches might be made; or what new tactical approach might they bring to the battlefield. Mark Caulfield would hardly have featured in any of that conjecture.

He’s a big unit but inexperienced at this level. He was promoted to centre back in the continued absence of Shane Cooney and was doing enough to stay on the team. Caulfield, however, only lasted until half-time last Sunday week and you sensed he was about to make way for the fit-again county defender.

Cooney, however, jarred a hamstring in training which ended that plan. Instead, St Thomas’ turned to former Galway captain David Burke to take over at centre back. If those on the outside had got wind of that, you’d be left thinking that there would be no place for Caulfield at all.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Loughrea’s standing is enhanced as champions pushed to the wire

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St Thomas' Victor Manso and Darragh Burke tussling for possession with Johnny Coen and Brian Keary of Loughrea during Sunday's County Hurling Final at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

EVEN the might Kilkenny hurlers couldn’t manage it in 2010 which underlines how difficult the challenge was for St Thomas’ to complete their own ‘Drive for Five’ at Pearse Stadium last Sunday. Breaking new ground is never easy for the best of teams, but at least the Galway champions will have a second crack at it.

They entered the 2022 county final as heavy favourites to capture a fifth consecutive Galway title despite five of their team – it would have been six only for James Regan’s injury – having started in the club’s historic triumph of ten years ago. It was their first appearance in a final and it heralded a period of unexpected domination which has resulted in six championships in a decade.

Having won every final they have featured in up to now, St Thomas’ have it down to a fine art in taking care of business on the big days that matter. But they were shaken to the core in Salthill and, at times in a great game, you felt their time at the top was about to come to an end. Four points down with eight minutes of normal time remaining. St Thomas’ had never previously faced such a crisis in a county final.

Typically, their response spoke volumes for the team’s resilience and talent. A late goal and two points from the outstanding Éanna Burke looked to have turned the tide in their favour, and they were seconds away from celebrating a milestone achievement – only done twice before by Castlegar and Turloughmore in Galway.

It would have represented the crowning glory for the glorious club careers of the Burke brothers, David, Cathal, Darragh and Éanna – a utilised sub in 2012 – Conor Cooney and Bernard Burke, but fairytales don’t happen as often in sport as some people would like to think. St Thomas’ have to do it all over again but, on the balance play last Sunday, they should be grateful for that opportunity.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

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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

Loughrea’s return to big stage can bring freshness to county final day

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Loughrea manager, Tommy Kelly, and team captain Ian Hanrahan, Liam Brady, Branch Manager, Brooks Timber and Building supplies (sponsors), and St Thomas’ captain Conor Cooney and manager, Kenneth Burke, attending the county senior hurling media event. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THERE was a time when 10,000-plus crowds regularly descended on Galway senior hurling finals, but those days are long gone. The temptation to largely blame that scenario on the near-annual lateness in completing the campaign is obvious, and though it is a factor, there are other more pertinent issues.

The live streaming of matches – a legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic – has hit attendances at GAA club championships, and Galway is no different, but an extra complication locally has been the jaundiced view of many hurling followers, notably in the east of the county, towards travelling to Pearse Stadium for big matches.

We have lost count of the number of hurling followers who can’t stomach the thought of crawling through city centre traffic to get to Salthill. Arriving on Galway’s eastern fringes is the easy part, but then getting across to Pearse Stadium can often prove a nightmare. Parking is another issue. And, of course, there is also the view that the weather is more often than not wet and windy at the county’s premier ground.

All of this is contributing to diminishing crowds at Pearse Stadium, especially for hurling matches. A modest crowd of over 4,000 turned up for the semi-finals last Sunday week and though it was a bleak day, the lack of atmosphere and excitement was plain to see. The ironic part is that the venue is equipped with substantial seating and no shortage of catering and toilet facilities.

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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