ANOTHER nerve-jangling hurling battle in a summer peppered with them. This All-Ireland semi-final replay at Semple Stadium in Sunday was almost a carbon copy of the drawn match eight days previously, only this time we had a result as Galway finally managed to get over the line against their gallant Clare rivals.
It was an almighty close thing, however, the champions departing Thurles clinging onto the McCarthy Cup by their fingertips after the Banner men spurned a potentially glorious match-winning goal chance from Aron Shanagher in the 68th minute which would have left Clare on the brink of a big final collision with the neighbours on their Southern side, Limerick.
How Galway were again pushed to the wire is almost hard to fathom, at least in the context of another blistering start which, similar to the drawn semi-final, saw them establishing a nine-point lead during the first-half. Clare may have been braced for this early blitz and had Colm Galvin operating as a sweeper from the start, but they were soon floundering in front of a huge crowd of 44,286.
Sometimes, there isn’t safety in numbers and the Munster finalists were again staring down the barrel of a hiding when falling 1-9 to 0-3 behind after just 21 minutes. All over the field, Galway were dominant and, if anything, were sharper and hungrier than during the corresponding period of the teams’ epic stalemate encounter.
We were almost feeling sorry for Clare such was the gulf in standard between the teams. Their players were being swept away in a maroon tidal wave and the way the match was developing, it was almost impossible to imagine that Galway would end up scrapping for their lives in a thrilling finale.
A smartly-taken Jonathan Glynn goal in the 21st minute had put them nine points clear and it was an accurate reflection of the exchanges up to that juncture. There was only one team in it as Galway served up another early storm which was symbolised, in particular, by the energy and influence of Adrian Tuohey, Aidan Harte, David Burke, Joe Canning, Joseph Cooney and Conor Whelan.
After failing to finish Clare off from a similar position at Croke Park, it appeared a safe presumption that Galway wouldn’t spurn the same opportunity in the replay but, once again, they didn’t drive their advantage home and left wasteful Clare hanging on. They almost paid the ultimate penalty.
See full report, analysis and quotes in Tribune Sport.
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.
Champs St Thomas’ survive another tight battle
St. Thomas’ 0-22
ST Thomas’ collected their second brace of Group 3 points with a one-point victory over Sarsfields at Kenny Park last Friday evening and, in doing so, they ensured their bid for the three-in-a-row of Tom Callanan Cups remains firmly on track.
The result secured Kevin Lally’s charges knockout hurling and, on this evidence, they will not relinquish their county crown cheaply. Asked serious questions by Sarsfields, the champions stood up to the test – even when Sarsfields took the lead through a Kevin Cooney free with three minutes remaining, it never looked like St. Thomas’ race might be run.
Perhaps, their dramatic injury-time victory over Castlegar had influenced the perception in this regard, but with Sarsfields breathing down their necks from start to finish, St. Thomas’ showed once more just how much they relish a dogfight.
Indeed, it could be said, given the number of tight games they have won in the last three years under Lally, that they have become comfortable operating in this environment.
For this victory, though, they do owe a huge debt to Conor Cooney, who finished with 14 points, 13 from placed balls. His 59th minute point from play, in which he gathered a long-range Sean Skehill sideline cut with the deftest of touches and rifled over on the turn, was a thing of beauty. That point edged St. Thomas’ back into the lead for the ninth and final time.
That not only speaks volumes of St. Thomas’ resilience but also of what Sarsfields brought to the contest. Throughout the hour, they gave as good as they got and, all in all, they were impressive. So much so, one suspects Sarsfields will still have a say in this championship. With the influx of young players – and given what they are bringing – they certainly have the talent.
In addition, Joseph Cooney now has another game under his belt and with each championship minute, he should be edging closer to a return to form. Over the opening two games, the Galway star has produced some fine moments but there is more in the big man.
As for last Friday, one feature of the contest was the number of scores that came from frees, with St. Thomas’, as noted, hitting 13 and Sarsfields converting 10 through Kevin Cooney, who also pointed from a lineball. Such, though, was the nature of this physical contest.
For referees, it’s difficult to get the balance right between this cry from supporters (as limited as they are now within the grounds) to let the game flow and their protestations that every contact made by the opposition should be a free.
Full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune
Impressive Turloughmore blast county title warning
AS senior hurling championship victories go, this was as comfortable as it gets. Having led from pillar to post, the only question that hung over this tie throughout the 60 plus minutes was just how much Turloughmore would win this SHC ‘A’ Group 2 fixture by.
While Turloughmore looked the part, Oranmore/Maree will be disappointed with their endeavours. The talk around the county since GAA resumed has been on the physicality and intensity Gerry McInerney’s charges have brought to games but, last Saturday, they were unable to utilise these attributes or, at least, to any great effect.
Indeed, if anything, it was Turloughmore who ruled the exchanges in this regard and one only has to look at the amount of primary possession the victors claimed, not only in open play but under the puckout.
Turloughmore set the tone in the opening period when they decimated Oranmore/Maree on the opposition’s restarts, with Fergal Moore, man of the match Kevin Hussey, Conor Walsh and Jamie Holland impressing.
In addition, four-time All-Star Daithí Burke was like the conductor of an orchestra around the middle, where he was ably assisted by Sean Loftus while, up front, Sean Linnane, who finished with four points from play, was the proverbial livewire.
By half-time, this game was as good as over as a contest, Turloughmore leading 0-12 to 0-4. In the opening quarter, Linnane, Brion Connolly, Barry Callanan, Walsh (two frees) and Gary Burke were all on target as Joe Hession’s outfit raced into a six points to one advantage.
The quality of Turloughmore’s play was such that it gave no chance to Oranmore/Maree to gain a foothold in the contest and the latter had it all to do to keep abreast of their opponents in the opening half as Sean McInerney, Niall Burke (two frees) and Conor Hanniffy accounted for their modest total of four points.
In contrast, Turloughmore were consistent in adding another six scores to their tally in the second quarter as Linnane, with two superb points, Holland (two frees), Gary Burke and Moore provided the finishing touches for their side.
Eight points to the good at the interval, Turloughmore extended this advantage to 10 twice in the third quarter – Daithí Burke, Holland, Walsh (free) and Daniel Loftus their scorers – but, ironically, the 20 minutes after half-time also proved to be Oranmore/Maree’s best spell as they outscored the victors by six points to four.
Niall Burke hit four of those Oranmore/Maree points from placed balls while substitute Padraic Keane and Mark Hanniffy also made their presence felt with two neat scores. Although it cut the deficit to six points, that was as good as it was to get for them.
In the closing stages, Turloughmore, having over-played the ball with unnecessary touches and passes in that spell, tidied up their game again and outscored Oranmore/Maree by 1-5 to a point, with substitute Ronan Badger flicking home the goal in injury-time after getting on the end of a long delivery.
With Walsh and Holland converting four frees between them, and Linnane hitting a fine point from play following good work from Daniel Loftus, Turloughmore ran out deserving 14-point winners.
Full report in this week’s Connacht Tribune
Helebert’s 14-point haul helps Gort to big win
IT all comes down to the last day in Senior B Group 1 and a probable straight shootout between Ballinderreen and Gort following Mattie Murphy’s men’s 10-point victory over a game and gutsy Kinvara outfit at Pearse Stadium on Sunday.
The victory places Gort atop the group standings, marginally ahead of Craughwell on scoring difference though with Ballinderreen waiting in the wings knowing all that stands between them and a place in the preliminary quarter-final is their south Galway rivals Gort, there’s sure to be skin and hair flying when these two do battle in 10 days-time.
Gort were full value for their victory here against a Kinvara outfit who really tore into them and posed the 2014 county champions no end of problems, though Gort always looked the likely winners having been able to carve out their scores that bit easier than Brian Carroll’s men.
A superb display of marksmanship by Aiden Helebert (0-14, 0-8 frees) propelled his side over the line, while Gerard O’Donoghue’s 44th minute goal proved vital too in drawing away from their near-neighbours.
Jack Grealish, as anticipated, was the man given the unenviable role of tracking Conor Whelan for the day and credit to the Gort man, he did a fine job in holding Whelan to a point from play, though the Kinvara and Galway star did draw a host of fouls and was unlucky with a couple more efforts that drifted wide of the target.
It was a day where everything had to go right for Kinvara if they were to pick up the win that would keep their championship ambitions alive, but 10 wides and a missed goal chance in either half were always likely to cost them dearly and so it proved.
From a performance point of view, this was a much better showing than what they produced in the opening round. They got their match-ups right at the back with Shane Byrne on Richie Cummins, Shane Kavanagh marshalling either Mike Mullins or Ronan Burke while in the middle of the park, Niall Bermingham and James O’Hara were both heavily involved.
In attack, young Conor Burke had a fine outing alongside Whelan as did Tom O’Donovan and substitute Eanna Linnane, but it wasn’t enough against a Gort side which again lined out without Aidan Harte, though Jason Grealish and Sylvie Óg Linnane both made their return to the fold.
Kinvara opened brightly and led 0-4 to 0-1 after seven minutes with Colm Callanan (two frees) and Whelan (one free) both on target twice.
Gort were level by the water break with Aiden Helebert on target along with Greg Lally but Kinvara’s Barry Britton had the opportunity to goal for his side and send Kinvara in for the first interval in rude health after great work by O’Hara, but Britton’s shot was straight at Kris Finnegan who saved well.
Extended report in this week’s Connacht Tribune