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Stakes low as Connacht host Cardiff Blues

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PRIDE and league positioning are all that matters on Saturday as Connacht play their final home game of the season against the Cardiff Blues at the Sportsground (5pm).

The gloss from a promising run during the Six Nations period has long since worn off with heavy defeats to Ulster and Munster, but this fixture is eminently winnable for Pat Lam’s men.

While the gap to the top sides remains gigantic on the evidence of this season’s results, Connacht have been consistently beating the sides in the lower half of the table at an encouraging rate and that needs to continue here. Cardiff have been abject this season at Pro 12 level. but have shown some good signs of late.

In terms of team news from the last outing against Munster two weeks ago. Dave Heffernan, Fionn Carr and Craig Ronaldson are all back in contention with no new injury concerns for the management team. The likes of Matt Healy, Willie Faloon and Danie Poolman will be sharper having marked their respective returns from long term injuries.

It was announced on Tuesday that 36-year-old Michael Swift will return for a 15th season as will Mata Fifita who has struggled to make any sort of an impact on the first team, but remains part of Pat Lam’s cover options. One would imagine that both contracts are very much on the lower end of the scale in terms of cost to the province.

The list of players confirmed as leaving Connacht at the end of the season include Gavin Duffy and Dan Parks. Both have been key players for the province in recent seasons. 33-year-old Duffy has spent ten seasons with the province with a three year spell in Harlequins sandwiched in between.

Parks joined Connacht two seasons ago making his debut in Connacht’s last inter-provincial success when they beat Leinster in October 2012. The full list of players leaving is as follows: Brett Wilkinson (retired), Gavin Duffy, Frank Murphy, Eoin Griffin (London Irish), Paul O’Donohoe, Dan Parks, Kyle Tonetti (retired), Aaron Conneely, Brian Murphy, Dave Nolan and James Rael.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Galway’s U20s aim to halt Cork’s All-Ireland hurling treble in its tracks

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Galway’s Sean McDonagh who will be crucial to their hopes of overcoming Cork in Tuesday's All-Ireland U20 hurling final at Semple Stadium.

THE Rebels are on the march and have a clean sweep of the senior, U20 and minor All-Ireland hurling titles in their sights – but Galway U20s have the opportunity of stopping resurgent Cork’s treble quest in the first of those deciders at Semple Stadium on Tuesday (7.30pm).

Jeffrey Lynskey’s charges gained revenge on Dublin in the recent Leinster Final and will be seeking the county’s first title at this level since 2011.

Galway are the outsiders to carry the day, but will be looking to the likes of team captain Seán Neary, Ian McGlynn, Seán McDonagh, Donal O’Shea, Oisín Flannery and John Cooney to lead the way.

Meanwhile, the county minors will also set up an All-Ireland Final against Cork if they ovecome Kilkenny in tomorrow evening’s (Friday, 7.30pm) semi-final in Thurles.

See full previews in Tribune Sport, part of 18 pages of coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Corofin show no mercy in thrashing hapless Oughterard

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Corofin 7-17
Oughterard 0-11

IS there anything to be said for splitting Corofin in two? We jest, of course, but the Dublin-like dominance of the North Galway club on the local scene in the past decade shows no sign of abating.
A new championship, a new-look team, but the same old classy Corofin who were in seventh heaven after bagging a record seven goals in their 27-points victory over hapless Oughterard.
That Kevin O’Brien could spring dual county star, Daithi Burke, and Galway senior footballer Ian Burke, as second-half substitutes when the game was over as a contest, highlights the embarrassment of riches in the Corofin camp.
Nine of Corofin’s starters were on the starting 15 that won an historic three-in-a-row of All-Ireland titles in January, but the introduction of former Galway minor Matthew Cooley, who scored a goal off the bench on his senior club debut, highlighted, too, how they have young talent coming through.
Leaving aside the lack of resistance, particularly in the second half, the ruthless manner in which Corofin annihilated their Connemara opponents was frightening for all other pretenders to the throne.
As warnings go, this was savage, as Corofin signalled their intent about securing an eighth successive county title, with a clinical brushing aside of an Oughterard outfit whose heads-dropped early. Corofin had 11 different scorers, including seven goal scorers; all bar one of their 17 points, were from play.
Darragh Silke who finished with 1-7, ran riot in the second half, and was the game’s best performer, and Micheál Lundy (1-3) proved a handful on the inside line, but Corofin had quality dotted all over the field, and in truth, won without clicking into high gear.
If things went their way in the opening half, Oughterard’s spirits might not have been drained so soon, but they failed to convert the chances they had.
That was the big difference in the first half-hour: Corofin converted 10 out of 10 scoring opportunities that presented themselves, whereas Oughterard hit five wides, including two shots that should at the very least have troubled goalkeeper Bernard Power.
For Oughterard, this will cut deep. The 2019 All-Ireland intermediate winners were unbeaten in championship last season but got a rude awakening on their re-introduction to senior. Their first championship match back in senior in nearly 20 years, and they’re annihilated. To add to the embarrassment, it was televised live on TG4 for all to see.
It was effectively over at half-time, but it shouldn’t have been. Oughterard had enough of the play, and enough chances, to be still in with a shout at the change of ends and they just failed to punish their more ruthless opponents.

Full report in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Ó Fatharta lauds minor squad for response to Mayo reversal

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GALWAY minor football manager Dónal Ó Fátharta has praised his young charges for the manner in which they responded to their Connacht final defeat to Mayo.

Ó Fátharta’s squad turned on the style when taking down Leinster champions Kildare in their All-Ireland quarter-final at Pearse Park, Longford last weekend to set up a semi-final meeting against a Kerry outfit chasing an incredible six-in-a-row of titles at this grade.

However, the Galway manager admitted he was concerned initially as to how his players would respond to the provincial final loss to Mayo. “After the Connacht final, the guys were down. We gave them a week off, which we were going to do anyways. When they came back in for our meeting and the usual stuff, I was worried, but, after that meeting, I wasn’t worried. I was hopeful.

“For the last two weeks, they have worked hard. We played Dublin in a challenge and it was one of those games of 30 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes. We were very sharp that night. That reinforced it for me that there was a performance in these guys. The next challenge is a game in Croke Park, which is another step up, but I am delighted that they are there and they have that opportunity.”

Indeed, Ó Fátharta described his players’ display against Kildare as “a complete performance”, noting: “Structurally, I think we were very good. I think we took our chances, and we did everything that we talk about doing every day. They took their chances when they had to; they worked hard; they put in shifts, and all that sort of stuff. So, we are delighted with the performance.”

See full report and reaction in Connacht Tribune Sport.

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