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Inside Track

Tactically-strangled League final not pleasing on the eye

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A FACE IN THE CROWD: Portumna native, Connacht team captain and former Galway minor hurler John Muldoon, at Kenny Park in Athenry last Sunday supporting Portumna in their championship tie against Liam Mellows. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THE last thing the Clare and Waterford hurling camps probably wanted was an inconclusive outcome to last Sunday’s slow-burning and tactically strangled National League final in Thurles. Replays can be an inconvenience in normal circumstances, but when the two teams are due to meet in a big championship clash in less than a month’s time, they are even more distracting and disruptive.

Naturally, the rival managers, Clare’s Davy Fitzgerald and Waterford’s Derek McGrath, tried afterwards to put a positive spin on the stalemate outcome, but deep down they will be concerned that a league final replay will not only be sapping some energy that will be needed for the championship, but also over the knock-on impact on domestic fixtures.

Almost 20,000 turned up at Semple Stadium to witness the first ever league final between the counties and though there was no shortage of commitment or energy, you still got the sense that both teams were trying to tease out each other’s systems. The result was a largely unexciting opening half as crowded defence ensured scores from play were few and far between.

Granted, the spectacle wasn’t helped by some wild shooting from out the field, particularly from Waterford who amassed 19 wides in normal time. Once again, Conor Gleeson’s shoot-on-sight policy didn’t serve his team well, while they also missed a heap of frees. Clare, at least, were initially more frugal, but they had also become victims of the wides ‘bug’ by the finish.

With both teams setting up with sweepers, open and fluid hurling was an exception to the rule. It also forced rival players into shooting from distance due to the lack of options inside, resulting in so much hard won possession being frittered away. In the circumstances, you’d just wish that both teams would have had a cut at each other – swapping adventure for caution – but the modern game has become focussed on defensive securitry and restricting goal-scoring opportunities.

Mind you, there were still a few of those on Sunday, but Waterford’s Stephen O’Keeffe and Clare Patrick Kelly’s were both in top form. In a tight affair, there was never more than three points between the teams with Conor McGrath and Shane Bennett the two outstanding players on the field. The fleet-footed McGrath also pointed a nerveless free from the sideline to force extra time and has rediscovered the swagger of the team’s all-conquering 2013 campaign.

Yet, in some ways, Bennett’s contribution was even more laudable. After talking over the free-taking duties from a wayward Patrick Curran, the Waterford centre forward should have been rattled by failing to hit the target from three placed balls at the start of the second half, but he didn’t go hiding and managed to pick off a couple of terrific points when Waterford badly needed them. Bennett has really progressed throughout the league and is now of the team’s biggest influences.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Sporting organisations letting us down by rolling over to NPHET

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Galway players Niamh McGrath and Siobhan Gardiner show their disappointment after falling to Kilkenny in Sunday's National Camogie League final at Croke Park. Photo: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IRELAND’S various big sporting organisations continue to embarrass themselves in relation to how they are handling the Covid pandemic. Being slaves to public health guidelines is one thing, but these bodies have introduced some rules of their own which are only further alienating their support base.

The GAA, IRFU, the FAI and Horse Racing Ireland may be currently dependent on public finances to keep their respective shows on the road, but that can’t excuse their lack of independent thinking or the fact they are making a deeply frustrating situation worse by adding in their own Covid-19 regulations

In effect, these sporting bodies are trying too hard to please NPHET and it doesn’t seem to matter how much they inconvenience or antagonise their grassroots in the process. Take the GAA, for instance. At club level dressing rooms remain closed and that causes significant irritation, especially on wet days.

Horse Racing Ireland is no better. Two owners per runner have been allowed back at race meetings and while that number is about to increase to four, there has been little enthusiasm among the cohort of people who pay the bills to return. And why would they? – no catering, no bookies and no atmosphere. And the most absurd thing of all is that the racing authorities are still enforcing the mask-wearing regulation.

Imagine still having to use a face covering in what amounts to big open fields. Is Horse Racing Ireland clueless as to how foolish jockeys, trainers, the few owners and media people present are being made to look, especially when the risk of contracting Covid is negligible in such an environment? All the while, beaches, public parks and walkways are milling with people.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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All is not lost for footballers but Galway’s slump must end soon

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VICTORY DELIGHT: Galway's Ailish O'Reilly, Niamh Hanniffy and Roisin Black celebrate their National Camogie League semi-final win over Cork at Nowlan Park last Sunday. Photo: ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

Inside Track with John McIntyre

PADRAIC Joyce must have been tearing his hair out as he watched the Galway footballers throw away their National League Division One League relegation battle against Monaghan in Clones on Sunday. No wonder he declined to face the press corps afterwards.

The outcome – a one-point extra-time defeat – was a disastrous one for a Galway team which badly needed to get a result in this pressure test ahead of the Connacht championship. Instead, the camp must be demoralised at letting such a golden opportunity slip through their fingers. It was carelessness in the extreme.

Five points ahead thanks largely to timely opening-half goals from Rob Finnerty and Paul Kelly, Galway had all the hard work done as they held a five-point advantage with only minutes remaining. A morale-boosting win seemed all but assured. Instead, the Tribesmen subsequently imploded.

For much of the match, Galway were winning the majority of the key battles but they were keeping Monaghan in the hunt through some sloppy finishing. In his hey-day as a player, Joyce would never have been so charitable, but his team lacked the necessary ruthlessness to kill off the Monaghan challenge.

There was a lot of poor decision making in front of the opposition posts as well, but Galway were in sight of preserving their Division One status only to blow it. To Monaghan’s credit, they never gave up and in substitute Jack McCarron they possessed the best finisher on the field.

Long serving players Darren Hughes and Colm McManus also came up with crucial late scores in normal time to help catch Galway and force the contest into extra time. Here again, Galway had their chances but the teams were still deadlocked when they gave away possession coming out of defence, presenting the accurate McCarron with the chance to land his fifth point from play. He didn’t miss.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Hurling we have a problem: there are too many scores in the game

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Galway attacker Brian Concannon comes under pressure from Waterford’s Conor Prunty during Sunday's hurling league tie at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IT’S the summer of 2006 and a mistake-ridden Leinster hurling semi-final at Nowlan Park is unfolding. Two nervous teams chasing a big prize in a tight-marking, uninspiring battle for supremacy. In the end, Wexford somehow manage to stagger over the line despite only scoring a paltry nine points.

Imagine holding the opposition to a total score in single figures and still not winning the match. Unfortunately, I was the Offaly team manager that day and we were the ones who had to cope with that reality. Our tally only came to eight points and, in the process, a golden opportunity of victory had been spurned.

Between both teams only 17 points were registered and while that is an extreme example of when hurling was more defender friendly, what’s happening nowadays is arguably worse. There are just many scores in the game now – a scenario which reduces our appreciation of exceptional score-taking simply because they have become so frequent.

Sure, players have never been better conditioned, the sport’s stakeholders are much more tactically aware and the sliotar has become really user friendly, but spectators – If they were any! – are being turned off by this literally ‘score a minute’ phenomenon. It’s actually not unusual for three scores to be registered in just a minute.

God, I’d hate to be a defender these days with the ball whizzing all-round the place and your opponent never static. Grand, if you are a Calum Lyons or Ronan Maher who can bomb forward with impunity to fire over long-range points, but for most present-day back men, the game is nearly passing them by.

Teams have become so good at protecting possession, creating overlaps and isolating their shooters that opposition defences are left chasing shadows. An astonishing 58 scores were accumulated at Pearse Stadium last Sunday with eight players – Lyons, Dessie Hutchinson, Jack Prendergast, Joe Canning, Evan Niland, Conor Cooney, Conor Whelan and Brian Concannon all scoring at least three times from play.

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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