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Inside Track

Troubled Galway must come out with fire in their bellies

John McIntyre

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Inside Track with John McIntyre

GALWAY football supporters may have developed a certain immunity to feelings of disappointment and frustration over the past decade such has been the scale of poor results for the Tribesmen, but none of them would have been prepared for the disaster which unfolded in Portlaoise on Saturday evening . . . for this was a shocker of extreme proportions.

Even by the standards of Galway’s ongoing struggles, a 15-point drubbing by second-raters Laois has led to almost unprecedented consternation and despair in the county’s football heartlands. It represents arguably Galway’s worst league defeat in living memory and has heaped renewed pressure on manager Alan Mulholland and his misfiring squad.

Galway shouldn’t be this bad, but they are. Managers are nearly always the fall guys in such situations, but the players can’t be allowed to duck their responsibilities either for an alarming trouncing which has left fans demoralised and searching for answers. The killing part was that it had looked a decent enough team – at least, on paper – assembled by Mulholland and his mentors for the trip to the midlands.

There was a fair clutch of All-Ireland winning U-21 players in Galway’s ranks, there was no shortage of experience either and with eight of the squad involved in Connacht’s long-awaited Inter-provincial triumph at Tuam Stadium the previous weekend, the expectation was that the men in maroon had a fighting chance of getting off the mark in Division Two.

But Galway hardly fought at all in O’Moore Park. Instead, they were embarrassingly submissive against a well-organised and tactically smarter Laois outfit. The lack of leadership in the squad is an old chestnut by this stage, but it was the lack of pride reportedly evident on Saturday evening which has put the spotlight on the players’ mindset and bottle.

At least, Galway had played in parts in difficult opening league assignments against Meath and Donegal, but they collapsed altogether in what had been perceived as the most winnable of the team’s early group fixtures. Now facing a desperate battle against relegation, Galway need to stop the rot as quickly as possible before the damage becomes irretrievable in the short term.

Against Laois, they were too lateral; too laboured in possession; lacking directness; and off the pace. It all contributed to a nightmare performance and the writing was on the wall when they trailed by 1-7 to 0-5 at the interval having been backed by the wind. Midfielder Kevin Meaney’s goal was the result of a turnover in the Galway defence and with Ross Munnelly and Donal Kingston kicking points for sport, Laois more or less controlled the battleground.

Naturally, it will be difficult for the management and players to lift themselves after such a humiliating defeat, but they have no choice. Every game is different and Galway do have the potential to be much better than this. Feeling sorry is no remedy and they must take a leaf out of the books of the Dublin hurlers. Remember, they were abject against Galway in the first round of the league at Pearse Stadium only to turn it around with an aggressive, high intensity effort which floored Clare just seven days later.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

Potential fallow period ahead of Galway as big mileage takes toll

John McIntyre

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Galway's Joe Canning feels the pain of Gearóid Hegarty's late tackle during Sunday's All-Ireland hurling semi-final against Limerick at Croke Park. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THE end of year report on the Galway hurlers makes for mixed reading. On the surface, reaching an All-Ireland semi-final and only falling to the perceived best team in the land by three points is not a bad season’s work and there is no doubt that the Tribesmen have the capacity to remain a competitive force in the medium term.

But when you drill down a little more, their continued reliance on the vast majority of the All-Ireland winning team of three years ago is concerning as the evidence suggests several of them are now past their peak. Of the Galway players that featured in that long-awaited final victory over Waterford in 2017, including substitute Jason Flynn, 13 of them were also involved against Limerick last Sunday.

When you consider that Joe Canning, Aidan Harte, Johnny Coen and David Burke were already part of the squad when I finished up as Galway manager in 2011, it illustrates just how many miles some of the current panel have on the clock. Many more of them were involved in the All-Ireland final defeats of 2012 and ’15. That’s a lot of hurling.

In contrast, look at the Waterford team which enraptured the hurling world with their astonishing comeback against Kilkenny in last Saturday night’s first All-Ireland semi-final. Only five started against Galway in 2017 – Stephen O’Keeffe, Tadgh De Burca, Austin Gleeson, Jake Dillon and Kevin Moran. Sure, Padraic Mahony would be still involved only for injury, but you get my drift.

Since winning the All-Ireland title three years, about the only new player who has really established himself on the team is Killimordaly’s Brian Concannon and he had to serve a long enough apprenticeship at this level as well. It’s a concern going forward and Shane O’Neill’s big challenge next year will be to try and rejuvenate the squad.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway square up to Limerick a little earlier than we anticipated

John McIntyre

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Galway’s Padraic Mannion breaking away from Tipperary’s Paul Flynn during Saturday's All-Ireland hurling quarter-final at the Gaelic Grounds. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

After the initial skirmishes in the hurling championship, the widespread perception was that Limerick and Galway were the two best teams out there, leading to an anticipation that next month’s final would end being a repeat pairing of the 2018 decider.

Of course, that assumption was premised on both teams staying winning, but after Galway were caught napping by Kilkenny in the Leinster Final all bets were off. Now as it transpires Galway and Limerick will be meeting after all except it will be earlier than expected – a semi-final instead of a final.

From the outset, Galway have been burdened with the mantle of being the only team which has the capacity to stand up to Limerick physically. It’s a fair assessment when you shift through the imposing figures on the Tribesmen team, notably Daithí Burke, Joseph Cooney, Fintan Burke, Gearóid McInerney, Joe Canning and Conor Cooney.

They have several other six footers plus as well and given the vast experience in their ranks, it’s probably accurate to suggest that if Galway can’t stop Limerick no team can. But how good are Limerick? I for one don’t think they are quite as formidable as some commentators would have us believe.

If we go back to the 2018 final, remember Galway had come into that game possibly fatigued after being taken to replays by both Kilkenny and Clare. They conceded three goals from turnovers; were eight points down after 68 minutes, and were still only beaten by a point as the Shannonsiders staggered over the line.

Furthermore, they were taken out in last year’s semi-final by an average Kilkenny team – granted their average is higher than everybody else’s – which ended up losing the final by 14 points to Tipperary. More recently, they had a lot of troubled passages in their Munster Final triumph over Waterford.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Missing out on the opportunities that lay ahead will haunt Galway

John McIntyre

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Galway football manager Padraic Joyce digests their Connacht final defeat to Mayo at Pearse Stadium on Sunday with members of his backroom team, Cian Breathnach and Michael Comer. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

NOBODY needed to tell Padraic Joyce the consequences of their narrow defeat to Mayo at a near-deserted Pearse Stadium last Sunday. Losing Connacht’s showpiece match was bad enough, but the real pain was realising that the Tribesmen’s enticing pathway to a first All-Ireland final appearance in 19 years had been completely closed off.

With an All-Ireland semi-final date against either Cork or Tipperary the reward for the winners of the Connacht title, there was a lot more at stake in Salthill than provincial glory. Had Galway got the better of Mayo, they would have fancied their chances against either of those opponents. Suddenly, they would be preparing for an All-Ireland final.

And Galway are one of those teams whose tradition suggests that they would be capable of anything in that environment. Sadly, they are now denied that prospect after a muddling performance against their arch Western foes. Yes, Mayo were the better team and spurned two goal chances, but it was still a match the home team could have won.

Though some of the officiating didn’t do the hosts any favour, it was Galway’s carelessness in possession which must really haunt them. Some of their players were turned over too easily, while their decision making going forward in the opening quarter also left a lot to be desired. Nobody could question the team’s spirit or desire, but they needed to mind ball much better.

Given their injury woes, together with no competitive championship prep for the final and the recent trauma of that league trouncing by Mayo, the hosts’ preparations were far from ideal but Joyce wasn’t inclined to go down the excuses road. He was understandably more frustrated with Galway’s own inadequacies and mistakes, along with the team’s modest scoring haul of 13 points.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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