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Inside Track

Tired and broken Connacht suffer humiliating mauling

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We had hoped that the days of humiliating hammerings were behind Connacht. After all, it’s barely six weeks ago since they were the talk of European club rugby thanks to that seismic away triumph over Toulouse in the Heineken Cup. Last Saturday at Allianz Park in London, however, Craig Clarke and his overpowered team-mates were butchered in a manner so complete and frightening that it must have done serious damage to the Connacht brand.

Sponsors like to be associated with a winning product and the Western province’s 64-6 trouncing by a ruthless Saracens won’t have gone unnoticed by their financial backers. The team’s fair-day supporters could be blinking too after Saturday’s 11-try rout – by some distance the heaviest defeat suffered by any team in this season’s Heineken Cup – and it’s not going to be easy, either on or off the field, to pick up the pieces in the short term.

Let’s be honest, few really believed that Connacht could pull off another sensational away result in the competition. The heroic victory over Toulouse was not a figment of our imagination and is arguably the province’s greatest single achievement, but their complacent French hosts were also caught unawares – a reality confirmed in the return leg at the Sportsground the following weekend when the visitors easily got their revenge by a 26-point margin.

Ahead of last Saturday’s visit to London, everything was on the line for Connacht. They still had an outside chance of making the Heineken Cup quarter-finals and the positive vibes from the camp suggested that they were really up for what was admittedly a daunting challenge against the English Premiership leaders. In effect, this was the acid test for Connacht. Their cover was blown and Saracens were never going to under-estimate them, ensuring we were going to get a truer reflection of the Westerners’ real worth.

Sadly, despite Connacht holding their own 20 minutes into the contest, what subsequently unfolded made for horrific viewing as the limitations of Pat Lam’s men were routinely and regularly exposed. Some players battled bravely to the end, but the body language and flimsy tackling of others was not what we had come to expect in such a high stakes encounter. The concession of 11 tries tells its own story and only for Charlie Hodgson having a terrible day with the boot – he missed a staggering nine kicks at goal – Saracens could have broken 80 points.

Against that background, it’s hard to credit that England’s top team were actually 6-5 behind midway through the opening-half. The recalled Dan Parks had slotted two penalties while Gavin Duffy’s line break in the opening seconds suggested that Connacht were, at least, going to be competitive. But once Chris Ashton went over for Saracens’ first try, there was an immediate sense of foreboding about what lay ahead for the visitors.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Brolly goes too far in his mocking of Mayo after latest final reversal

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Cortoon Shamrocks' David Warde is challenged by Eoin Finnerty of St James’ during Saturday's senior football championship clash at Kenny Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy

Inside Track with John McIntyre

KICKING a player and his team when they are at their lowest ebb is at its best insensitive and, at its worst, offensive. Sunday independent columnist Joe Brolly has never been a great fan of Mayo footballers or Aidan O’Shea and he again lowered the blade in the wake of the county’s latest All-Ireland final defeat.

We are all guilty of trying to justify our opinions and attitudes, but there is a time and place for everything. Brolly, an All-Ireland medal winner with Derry in 1993, perceives Mayo as serial losers and has never been slow to twist the knife when they continue to come up short on the days it most counts.

Given that the county has lost 11 All-Ireland finals plus two replays since last triumphant in 1951, Brolly has no shortage of hard evidence for backing up his claim that countless Mayo teams didn’t possess a sufficient hard edge to get the job done. The longer the title famine goes on, the more Mayo are open to accusations of lacking the bottle to get over the line.

Brolly’s withering assessment of Mayo’s disappointing loss to Tyrone last Saturday week leaves no one in any doubt about the disdain he holds for them. “Mayo is full of cliques and favourites as culture will not change under Horan who made Tyrone’s job easy.

“Time wasters. A lot of other counties would give their right arms to be here. The people of Mayo put their heart and soul into their team. And this is what they get? A manager on the sideline making choices based on political considerations. A protected captain who does not lead and never will.”

The former Sunday Game pundit didn’t hold back and probably feels his continuous personalised put downs of Mayo are justified given that they have yet to crack the All-Ireland code. Brolly, however, has gone too far this time, overstepping the mark of fair comment.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway show guts of champions in a terrific camogie final triumph

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Galway players Aoife Donohue and Siobhan Gardiner with young fan Aine Rohan from Beagh after defeating Cork in Sunday's All-Ireland senior camogie final at Croke Park. Photo: INPHO Evan Treacy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THEY are a credit to the county. All the tributes flowing the way of the Galway camogie team this week are richly deserved after their storming finish floored the Rebels at Croke Park on Sunday. It was defiance of the highest order.

Team managers regularly demand of their players in all sports to be ‘carried out on your shield’, but it rarely happens. Too much tension; too much at stake; too much pressure. Well, these remarkable Tribeswomen were in no mood for compromise even when defeat was staring them in the face.

In my near 41-years in the Tribune, it’s doubtful if I have ever seen a Galway team in an All-Ireland final find such reserves of character and sheer heart when the gun was put to their heads. All day, they had hunted in packs but still found themselves three points down with ten minutes remaining in a thrilling showdown.

What more had they left to give? They had thrown everything at Cork from the off and still couldn’t protect their early established lead. It would have been easy to falter physically and mentally, but from somewhere Galway found the necessary resolve to carry the day.

It made for compelling viewing. Cathal Murray’s team were just not prepared to surrender. Instead, they were the ones who exhibited the qualities of champions in pulling the All-Ireland out of the fire. Cork, the most successful county in the history of the sport, was the team to flinch.

Galway’s triumph – their fourth All-Ireland ever – must rank as their greatest of them all. It wasn’t just the fact that it came after a terrific spectacle, but also in the manner of their victory. They had come to GAA headquarters to win and there was no turning back.

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.

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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

Even the laws of averages are on Mayo’s side against Tyrone

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Mayo's Tommy Conroy celebrates after landing a crucial point in their All-Ireland semi-final victory over champions Dublin at Croke Park last month.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

WHEN Mayo suffered their latest All-Ireland football final heartache in December of last year, most of us thought that was the end of them. They had put up a spirited first half display against Dublin, but the champions upped the ante on the resumption in going on to achieve a record breaking sixth championship triumph on the trot.

Gallant as ever, Mayo were left to grieve over a demoralising 12th consecutive All-Ireland final defeat, including the replays of 1996 and 2016, since they last took the Sam Maguire Cup home in 1951. Despite some changing of the guard, they had come up short again on the sport’s biggest occasion. It was little consolation to them that the greatest football force in the history of Gaelic football continued to pile on the misery.

After that defeat, great servants like David Clarke and Keith Higgins departed the scene. Donal Vaughan, Seamus O’Shea, Andy Moran and Tom Parsons were gone too. So close to scaling the summit on so much many occasions, they had given everything for the Mayo cause, but the passage of time had caught up with them.

Unlike previous big clashes against Dublin, there was little drama in Croke Park last December. Mayo again gave an honourable account of themselves, but Ciaran Kilkenny and company knew that they had the title in safe keeping with ten minutes to go. The fact the final was played behind closed doors might have been a blessing in disguise – after all, Mayo fans have suffered enough despair.

Of course, springtime generally brings fresh hope, and one thing Mayo footballers have never lacked for is resilience. Yet when Cillian O’Connor suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury against Clare in a league match in Ennis, the omens looked particularly grim for the championship. Sure, James Horan was building a relatively new team, but they could ill afford to be without their ace marksman.

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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