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Inside Track

Streetwise Portumna to make experience count

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Inside Track with John McIntyre

IT’S a lazy but understandable perception . . . that this year’s All-Ireland Club hurling title won’t take much winning! 

After all, two of the remaining four contenders come from the minnow counties of Antrim and Carlow, with a relatively inexperienced team from Limerick and another one from Galway supposedly a light of former years, completing this weekend’s semi-final line up.

No wonder some famed clubs up and down the country must be wondering how they let a golden opportunity pass them by so badly, but that’s how the cards have fallen over recent months and Loughgiel, Mount Leinster Rangers, Na Piarsaigh and three-time champions Portumna will make no apologies for being the last teams standing in the pursuit of the Tommy Moore Cup.

Anyway, appearances can be deceptive. Loughgiel, for instance, are formidable adversaries at this level, being crowned All-Ireland champions in March of 2012 and taking St. Thomas’ to a replay last year, while there was no fluke about Mount Leinster Rangers’ historic triumph in Leinster after giving Carlow hurling a huge boost with deserved big day wins over Ballyboden of Dublin and the nearly men of Oulart-The-Ballagh.

These two teams clash in the first of the All-Ireland semi-finals on Saturday, but the big interest will be on the Thurles floodlit meeting – starting this game at 5pm on a likely hostile February night is hard to justify under any circumstances – of Portumna and Na Piarsaigh, a team which may possess a stack of Limerick county players but one still to convince that they have temperament and consistency to emerge as the next powerful force on the national club hurling scene.

For all that, Sean Stack’s men have proven their resilience in coming out on top in a number of tight contests. Na Piarsaigh just survived a late surge by reigning title holders Kilmallock in the Limerick semi-final before having two points to spare over Adare to claim the club’s second county championship in three years. Subsequently, their opening two matches in the Munster campaign proved wildly fluctuating affairs.

They may have finished in whirlwind fashion to edge out Loughmore of Tipperary (3-17 to 2-18) in Thurles having trailed by ten points at one stage, but their opponents carelessly lost defender Derek Bourke to a red card after only four minutes, while Loughmore also had Willie Eviston sent off in the second-half. Against that background, you’d have to assume that the Tipperary title holders were desperately unlucky.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Fearsome Limerick hit new high by tearing Tipperary rivals apart

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Galway’s Carrie Dolan breaking away from Laura Doherty of Westmeath during Saturday's All-Ireland camogie championship clash at Kenny Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

In the aftermath of a wonderful sporting achievement, it’s easy to get carried away and, perhaps, overrate what we have just seen at the expense of great deeds from the past. But even against that background, what Limerick hurlers achieved in the second-half of Sunday’s Munster Final was extraordinary.

They looked a beaten docket at half-time. Trailing by ten points to a Jason Forde inspired and a fiercely committed Tipperary, the All-Ireland champions were in serious trouble. They had conceded two goals directly from opposition puck-outs to Jake Morris and Bubbles O’Dwyer, and so many of their marquee players were off the pace.

In fact, Tipperary could have been ahead by more. With Dan McCormack playing deep to free up Brendan Maher as their sweeper, they created a world of chances with Forde – the most under-rated forward in the game – rifling over a series of points from all angles and distances. Limerick were all at sea and only Cian Lynch and Tom Morrissey were having a significant impact on the action.

But nobody could have envisaged the sensational turnaround in the third quarter. Within 18 minutes, a resurgent Limerick had gone a point ahead as reserves Aaron Gillane and Dan Morrissey added fresh vigour to their challenge at opposite ends of the field. It was like watching two different matches as Tipp were simply overwhelmed.

Their older generation really sagged in the unforgiving temperatures and by the time their management made changes, Limerick had already taking control. On the scoreboard, Tipp were still in it, but their players must have been in a state of shock over how a big lead had been so quickly and so ruthlessly wiped out. Limerick’s younger legs and sheer physical power were now dictating the terms of engagement.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Epic Portlaoise battle highlights what minor level is now missing

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Galway midfielder Kieran Hanrahan breaking away from Kilkenny’s Harry Shine during the 2020 All-Ireland Minor hurling final at O'Moore Park on Saturday evening. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

WHAT unfolded at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise last Saturday evening again puts a negative slant on the GAA’s decision at the 2016 Congress to reduce the age limit for minor competition from U18 to U17 and the U21 grade to U20.
Sure, there were issues with Leaving Cert exams and hold-ups in fixtures at senior level due to the previous under-age structures, but the competitiveness of the minor grade has been drastically impacted by restricting it to U17s, while the former U21 competition carried more prestige than the current U20 championship.
These were hardly intractable problems in the first place, but it is another example of the GAA’s continuous meddling with their competitions and the rule book. On the other hand, you sometimes wonder do Congress delegates sleepwalk their way through proceedings by not anticipating the impact of certain decisions at ground level until it’s too late.
Back to O’Moore Park. Due to Covid 19, the 2020 All-Ireland minor hurling championship was run off about a year behind schedule and the upshot was that many players had reached 18 by the time it came to enter combat. In effect, it was the way things used to be and the resulting increase in intensity and physicality was welcome.
Galway and Kilkenny locked horns in a gripping battle on Saturday evening and there was no holding back to the exchanges. You just don’t have that at U17 level because the players are not nearly as well physically developed. The minor grade is currently a pale imitation of its former glory.
That reality was confirmed in the delayed 2020 championship with the All-Ireland final serving up a compelling struggle for supremacy. Early on, it seemed Galway were about to overwhelm Kilkenny as they established a seven-point lead but, by the end of the game, they needed a brilliantly created goal from Liam Collins to carry the day.

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

Hurlers are not a busted flush but long road now lies ahead

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Galway players, from left, Conor Slattery, Tiernan Leen, Michael Walsh and Shane Morgan celebrate after their 2020 All-Ireland minor hurling semi-final victory over Limerick at Cusack Park on Friday evening. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IT happens to even the best of teams, especially when they are lulled into a false sense of security. The Galway hurlers headed to Croke Park last Saturday expecting to win their Leinster semi-final against Dublin but, unfortunately, their match-day attitude bore the gait of a men who weren’t mentally prepared to really work for it.

In their own heads, Galway probably thought that no matter how the match unfolded, they would still have Dublin’s number. That backdrop feeds over-confidence and complacency, and when things started going horribly wrong for the Tribesmen, their response was disappointing with only a handful of players escaping the wreckage.

This was not a game Galway could ever take for granted. Having lost to the Dubs two years ago and with the U20s coming unstuck against the same opposition a fortnight ago, the anticipation was that they would be in the zone from the off. They had the early pressure, and chances, but poor decision-making was to come back and haunt them.

Though Galway ought to have quickly realised that they were in a battle, the required intensity was missing. When you see the way the Kilkenny and Wexford players tore strips off each other in the second-semi-final, it underlined just how much Shane O’Neill charges didn’t front up physically. Sure, players were trying but few maroon bodies were repeatedly laid on the line.

Galway were curiously impatient as well. Their lust for goals early on did them no favours, especially coming up against a goalkeeper in Alan Nolan, who was at the top of his game. The fact that Galway couldn’t counteract or work through Dublin’s flooded defensive lines also reflects poorly on their tactical awareness.

When you consider the huge scoring totals Galway ran up in the league, their miserly tally of 1-14 last Saturday comes as a shock to the system. True, they had an abundance of scoring chances, but you couldn’t argue that their hurling ever really flowed. So many players were below par and under pressure, Galway struggled to get on the front foot for any sustained length of time.

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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