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Inside Track

The game looks over for Cunningham as team boss

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ON OPPOSITE SIDES: Galway captain David Collins and team manager Anthony Cunningham are disconsolate in the immediate aftermath of last month's All-Ireland defeat to Kilkenny.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

SPORTING unrest in the West stands on the brink of claiming two inter-county GAA management teams which featured at the business end of their respective championships. Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly have already stepped down in Mayo and the smart money suggests that Anthony Cunningham won’t survive in Galway either.

Player revolt is at the heart of both high profile disputes and while the Mayo football joint managers Holmes and Connelly resigned within days of the senior panel intimating their lack of confidence in them, the prospect of a quick solution to the Galway hurling crisis is receding as both sides prepare to dig in for the long haul.

The player mutiny in Galway appears to have caught local GAA officials and most supporters by surprise, especially after it came in the wake of Cunningham being ratified for a fifth year in charge by the County Board last Monday night week. It had been barely a month since he guided the Tribesmen to a second All-Ireland final in four years and looking likely winners against Kilkenny at half-time.

But there had been boiling discontent among the players for several months over Cunningham’s management regime. Matters initially came to a head when they lost heavily to Waterford in the league quarter-final at Walsh Park in late March with only the relative close proximity of the championship preventing a heave against the Galway set up.

Cunningham also took on board the players’ grievances and, initially, the atmosphere in the Galway camp improved. As the team progressed through the championship, especially after their terrific All-Ireland semi-final triumph over Tipperary, it appeared to all intents and purposes that a united dressing-room was on the brink of delivering the Liam McCarthy Cup back West for the first time since 1988.

But their failure to drive on in the second-half against Kilkenny, leading to the county’s sixth consecutive All-Ireland final defeat, contributed to the re-opening of old wounds and the players finally bit the bullet in overwhelmingly passing a vote of no confidence in Cunningham just days before his appointment for a fifth year was due to come up for ratification by the Board.

Just 24 hours before that meeting, the Galway manager was met by a delegation of four players comprising of team captain David Collins, vice-captain Andy Smith and two members of the players leadership group, Joe Canning and David Burke, to inform him of the mood for change among the squad and that they had lost faith in his ability to take them further.

For more revelations and insight from John McIntyre, read this week’s Connacht Tribune

Connacht Tribune

Galway under a little pressure to stop Mayo’s early-season gallop

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Hall of Fame award winner Tommy Joe Gilmore with his daughter Olivia, his son Brian and daughter in-law Karen Monks at the Metronic Galway Sports Stars banquet in the Galway Bay Hotel on Friday night. Photo: Iain McDonald.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

We won’t even have reached the end of January and the paths of Connacht’s great footballing rivals will have already crossed twice, with the prospect of more clashes between Galway and Mayo before the end of the inter-county season in late July.

The early 2023 bragging rights have gone to Mayo manager Kevin McStay after their defeat of the Tribesmen in the semi-final of the FBD League – a competition they went on to win last weekend with a comfortable 0-13 to 0-9 victory over Roscommon in the Connacht Air Dome.

Though both teams were in understandably experimental mode, Mayo managed to secure this pre-season competition for the first time in a decade with late points from Cillian O’Connor and Conor Loftus sealing the deal. In the overall scheme of things, the FBD league doesn’t count for much but delivering some silverware so early into his tenure won’t do McStay’s management any harm.

Naturally, Mayo will be anxious to keep the momentum going in Saturday evening’s televised National League clash at MacHale Park, especially given that they narrowly failed to Galway in last year’s provincial championship. A first-half Johnny Heaney goal and some quality free-taking from Shane Walsh just about saw the Tribesmen through in the face of a late siege by the home team.

Galway boss Padraic Joyce kept a sense of perspective after that early season loss to Mayo a couple of weeks ago, but he was blunt enough in assessing the merits or otherwise of some of the players being trialled. Joyce is experienced in the post now and knows what he is looking for. And having led Galway to league promotion, the Connacht title and the All-Ireland final last year, he has earned that leverage to call it as he sees it.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Early reality check might prove a good thing for Galway footballers

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Galway’s Johnny Heaney secures possession against Mayo’s Jack Coyne during Saturday's Connacht FBD League semi-final in Bekan. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IF the Galway footballers and team management needed any reminding that their substantial progress in 2022 offers no guarantees for the season ahead, they would have got in spades in Bekan on Saturday evening. Losing a FBD League semi-final to arch-rivals Mayo is no big deal in itself, but does underline the reality that the Tribesmen can’t take for granted building on last year’s achievements. And that may be no bad thing in the long run.

Naturally, Padraic Joyce would have preferred if Galway had got over the line at the weekend, especially in the context of preventing Mayo building up early season momentum under new manager Kevin McStay. In the end, he was probably grateful his team were only three points adrift after a difficult second quarter.

When Mayo went 2-10 to 0-5 ahead early in the second-half, it appeared Galway might suffer a hiding. Their goals came from Jordan Carr and Paul Towey, with Matthew Ruane and Jordan Flynn dominant around midfield. Mayo were also performing with the greater energy.

Gradually, however, Galway got to the pitch of the battle, thanks in no small way to the telling contribution of substitute Tomo Culhane, a player who didn’t make the match-day squad for last year’s All-Ireland final. The Salthill/Knocknacarra clubman scored 2-2 after coming on to revive the Tribesmen’s challenge

With Matthew Tierney also finding the opposition net, Galway were belatedly building up a head off steam. Mayo, however, just did enough to hold on with Towey, Aiden Orme and Bryan Walsh picking off some invaluable points, although it took Rory Byrne’s late save from Nathan Grainger to keep their noses in front.

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.

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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Connacht Tribune

Galway hurlers and footballers get the handy stuff out of the way first

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Maigh Cuilinn's Owen Gallagher is challenged by Conor Glass of Glen during Sunday's All-Ireland Club Senior Football semi-final at Croke Park. Photo: Daire Brennan/ Sportsfile.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

Well, that was the expected seamless start to the new GAA season for the Galway footballers and hurlers in their weekend tournament fixtures. Neither team endured too much hardship in assembling big winning margins over Leitrim and Westmeath respectively.

Padraic Joyce’s footballers were first into action in Bekan last Friday evening. Though they were only facing a Division Four outfit, the Tribesmen fielded a strong enough team, including recalled trio John Maher, Barry McHugh and Ian Burke. As expected, the result was never in doubt as Galway sauntered to a 3-21 to 1-13 win.

Their star man was Rob Finnerty, who finished the game with 2-7, including a haul of 1-4 from play. Ian Burke was also impressive on his return to the inter-county scene, with both Seán Fitzgerald and Billy Mannion putting in big shifts at the heart of the Galway defence. They will face a big rise in tempo and class in Saturday’s semi-final against Mayo at the same venue.

It’s been a challenging start for new Mayo boss Kevin McStay. Losing Oisín Mullin to Australian Rules was bad enough, but the news this week that Lee Keegan – surely the greatest footballer never to have won an All-Ireland senior medal – is hanging up the inter-county boots is an incalculable blow to Mayo’s prospects for the year ahead.

The 33-year-old has given his heart and soul to the county’s cause over a decade of sterling service. Keegan always kept coming back for more despite suffering the kind of big-day agony which would have broken most players. The former Footballer of the Year won five All-Stars awards and seven Connacht championships, but his team simply couldn’t get over the line in All-Ireland finals.

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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