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Inside Track

Tough week on Connacht fails to get any better in Coventry

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Inside Track with John McIntyre

IT was always going to be a big ask for Connacht to get something from their away European Champions Cup clash against in-form Wasps last Sunday, but in a week where the camp must have been rocked to the core by Pat Lam’s revelation that he would be standing down as Head Coach at the end of the season, the Westerners’ prospects of upsetting the odds had to compromised even further.

Though the Connacht squad live and work in a professional environment, it can’t have been easy for John Muldoon and company to stay focused on the trip to Coventry given the massive fallout and publicity over Lam’s shock decision. At best, it was a challenging and emotional week, and it is to the players’ credit that they didn’t look a distracted outfit against Wasps in the Ricoh Arena.

In fact, with 60 minutes gone on the clock, Connacht had a great chance to equalise but, unfortunately, Jack Carty was narrowly wide from a relatively routine penalty and from there to the finish, Wasps put the squeeze on. Carty, whose overall conversion rate is below average this season, was also off-target with a similar effort in the opening half.

In a match of such tight margins over the first hour of action, those misses were real body blows. Connacht had enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and territory during that period, but simply didn’t make it count despite a terrific try from the outstanding Kieran Marmion – following a great off-load from Muldoon – and an opportunist effort from reserve Rory Parata after he intercepted a loose loose from Wasps out half Jimmy Gopperth.

Connacht were given their English Premiership hosts no shortage of grief in the scrums, but their line outs were a disaster area in the opening 20 minutes. It prevented them from exploiting some typically crisp handling as they carried the fight to Wasps. Overall, the visitors just weren’t clinical enough when they were in the opposition 22, but injuries in their back division was also a big mitigating factor.

Australian Kurtley Beale, on his debut for the club, may have given the Wasps the lead in the seventh minute when he managed to spin out of Stacey Ili’s tackle, but Connacht didn’t blink and they were still bang in the contest when only trailing 13-10 at the break. However, their hopes suffered a big blow when the influential Nathan Hughes crashed over for a try early in the second-half, with Gopperth’s conversion leaving ten points between the teams.

Wasps were upping the ante but were immediately knocked back on the heels with Parata’s intercept try. The game was back in the melting pot, but the closing 20 minutes proved tough on Connacht. With injuries forcing the retirements of Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher and Ili, the resulting disruption did them no favours as the pressure mounted from the hosts. It resulted in tries from the Joe Launchbury, who had earlier forced a couple of vital turnovers, and winger Josh Bassett in securing a bonus point 32-17.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Turlough’s thumping of title holders opens up the hurling championship

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St Thomas’ v Turloughmore Senior Hurling Championship game at Kenny Park, Athenry. Dara Whelan, Turloughmore and Victor Manso, St Thomas’

Inside Track with John McIntyre

TURLOUGHMORE blew the Galway senior hurling championship wide open with an unexpected thumping of title holders St Thomas’ at Kenny Park on Saturday. With questions to answer after fading badly in an earlier group tie against Clarinbridge, Franny Forde’s charges achieved a statement victory which must have sent shock waves throughout the county.

Having come up narrowly short in the 2020 decider against St Thomas’ in front of empty terraces in Athenry, Turlough looked like a team primed to exploit significant under-age success, but they had a blow-out in last year’s preliminary quarter-final when surrendering a 10-point lead to rank outsiders Kilnadeema/Leitrim.

That left the team with questions to answer heading into 2022, and that disappointing 0-24 to 0-17 loss to Clarinbridge in August appeared to confirm that Turloughmore were missing the level of substance and belief in their ranks which potential champions require. But all bets are off after last Saturday’s demolition job of St Thomas’.

Carrying the day by a scarcely believable 2-23 to 0-14 against an admittedly out-of-sorts champions must do wonders for the squad’s confidence, and with Seán Loftus continuing to hurl up a storm in the group stages – seven points of his 1-12 total came from play – Turloughmore are now serious contenders for title glory.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

McStay getting Mayo post means Galway must be wary about 2023

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Mountbellew-Moylough's Leo Donnellan and Mikey Culhane of Salthill Knocknacarra battling for possession during Sunday's Senior Football Champiomship tie at Tuam Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

Those of us who were thinking that a protracted period of dominance in the province lay ahead of the Galway footballers are probably revising that opinion in the light of Kevin McStay taking over the unluckiest team of all-time. When it comes to bad breaks, Mayo are in a league of their own.

Losing six All-Ireland finals – including the 2016 replay against Dublin – over the past decade has been gut wrenching for both players and supporters. There is only so much big-day misery a county can take, but Mayo remain the eternal optimists; their spirits unbroken. Football is their lifeblood, the pulse of everyday life up there.

Yet, even their most optimistic fans must have thought that the All-Ireland dream is finally over for Leer Keegan, Rob Hennelly, the O’Connors, Kevin McLaughlin and Aidan O’Shea after a tame quarter-final exit to Kerry this summer. Coming on the back of last year’s demoralising final defeat to Tyrone, the general presumption was that Mayo faced a significant period of transition.

It was no surprise when James Horan stood down as manager in the wake of the Kerry loss, with four candidates interested in filling the vacancy – McStay being joined in the race by Ray Dempsey, Mike Solan and Declan Shaw who all put together strong backroom teams with the likes of Armagh’s Oisín McConville and Sligo’s Eamon O’Hara seemingly willing to throw in their lot with Mayo.

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.

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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

Donoghue and Kelly join the list of outsiders hoping to work the oracle

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Ardrahan team manager Syl Dolan supported by his grandchildren Jack, Shay, Leo and PJ against Portumna in the county hurling championship in Gort last Saturday.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

Why is it that a majority of hurling counties regularly shun homegrown local managerial talent in favour of high-profile outsiders? Sure, such a scenario remains an anathema to the traditional powers of Kilkenny, Cork and Tipperary, but most of the rest regularly have their heads turned by non-natives.

The reality is that no county in nearly 25 years has lifted the McCarthy Cup with someone from beyond their borders in charge. Of course, Offaly are the one team which has benefited from having an outside influence, with Diarmuid Healy, Eamon Cregan and Galway’s own Michael Bond between them leading the Midlanders to All-Ireland glory on four different occasions.

But still the fad persists. Look at what’s ahead of us in 2023. A Galway man (Micheál Donoghue) taking over Dublin; another Galway man (Johnny Kelly) about to be installed as Offaly boss; a Tipperary man (Darragh Egan) in charge of Wexford; another Tipperary man (Darren Gleeson) still occupying the Antrim role; a Clare man (Davy Fitzgerald) back with Waterford, and the prospect of a Waterford man (Derek McGrath) filling the vacancy in Laois.

It has caught most Galway hurling observers by surprise that Donoghue is throwing in his lot with Dublin for a three-year term, especially as it’s only the Autumn of 2019 that he pulled the plug on his management of Galway, citing family reasons and a difficult working relationship with some local GAA officials.

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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