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Inside Track

Unsettled Galway should still make short work of Laois

John McIntyre

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Inside Track with John McIntyre

IT’S a fixture which has seldom caused Galway hurlers undue difficulty in the past and the expectation is for that trend to continue when the Tribesmen make their championship debut against Laois at O’Moore Park on Sunday. There is no prospect of a shock result in the Leinster semi-final as the gulf in standard between the two teams is simply too great.

Naturally, the sound bites emanating from the Galway camp will be respectful of the Midlanders’ challenge, but this is the classic routine assignment for them and anything bar a convincing victory would be disappointing against a team which was campaigning in the third tier of the National League this spring against the likes of Kildare, Wicklow, Kerry and Derry. Laois eventually made the Division 2A final where they recorded a 3-14 to 1-9 victory over Westmeath.

That result turned the tables on Brian Hanley’s charges from the teams’ group clash and Laois have built on that performance with clear-cut Leinster championship wins over Antrim and Carlow to reach their Leinster semi-final for the first time since 2005. Under new manager Seamus Plunkett, they have definitely made some progress even if they were starting from a very low base, while home advantage won’t do them any harm either.

The expected loss of defender Brian Campion with a groin injury is a blow they could have done without, but they have a few decent forwards in the likes of Stephen Maher, Willie Hyland and Zane Keenan while Cahir Healy is their midfield pulse. Team boss Plunkett was bullish in his post-match commentary after the Carlow game, saying that they ‘didn’t fear Galway’ and would be going all out for the win.

That positive if hard to justify vibe underlines the improved spirit in the Laois set up, but the bottom line is that they will be taking a huge step up in class when Galway roll into Portlaoise on Sunday. Things will be happening a lot faster than they were against both Antrim and Carlow, and it’s extremely doubtful if the home team will have be able to cope with the movement, pace and stickwork of last year’s All-Ireland finalists who haven’t been seen in public since their disappointing league semi-final loss to Kilkenny.

Galway were disjointed that day and reports from the camp over recent weeks have been mixed in relation to squad morale and the individual form of players. They have played challenge games against Dublin, Tipperary and Cork over the past few weeks with their displays regarded as being of the ‘up and down’ variety and offering no clear indication of who will be lining out in the central defensive positions against Laois.

It’s hardly helped either that a team management directive to their players not to line out in the Kilbeacanty Sevens tournament on the Bank Holiday Monday was not adhered to by the six-strong St. Thomas’ contingent, especially as the Gort and Ardrahan county panellists did what they were asked. The fact that it was Anthony Cunningham’s own club which was involved compounded the sense of anarchy.

Stuff like that can permeate down through a panel and it is known that a number of Galway’s more seasoned players were taken aback by the St. Thomas’ snub to the county team mentors. It’s hardly Cunningham’s fault as he would have given the instruction not to play in Kilbeacanty in good faith and the squad are bound to have moved on in the interim, but the optics of that particular episode did look bad.

Leaving all that aside, the general mood around the county about Galway’s championship prospects is largely downbeat. The lack of a settled team is causing some concern, but I have always felt too much store is placed on having a regular formation anyway. Players’ form can be so variable, there is also the disruption of injuries and management can’t be a slave to what happened the year before. For instance, can Iarla Tannian repeat his exploits when moved to midfield with such success in the summer of 2012?

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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.

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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

Galway hurlers must be careful but footballers have to go for it

John McIntyre

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Galway’s Rebecca Hennelly in the swing against Cork’s Laura Treacy during the All-Ireland senior camogie championship clash at Pearse Stadium on Sunday. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

BASING a team’s worth and probable fortunes on one match alone has led many astray – look at the transformation in Cork hurlers in the space of a week – which means there has to be a certain amount of caution in assessing Galway’s chances against Kilkenny in Saturday evening’s provincial decider at Croke Park.

In contrast to the Rebels, the Tribesmen really hit the ground running in their opening championship outing by dismantling Wexford in a one-sided Leinster semi-final. On the evening, Galway were a revelation in sauntering to a 13-point victory. Getting their match-ups right and performing with admirable purpose, Shane O’Neill’s squad looked close to their All-Ireland winning form of 2017.

But are Galway that good? We will certainly know a lot more after their latest tussle with the Cats who are bound to provide a far more searching test than Wexford despite their staggering second-half collapse against Dublin in the Leinster semi-final. Losing a 16-point lead is unheard off in the Brian Cody era and their defence struggled badly when ran at.

Kilkenny’s second-half woes, however, guarantee that they will be really up for the Galway match. Can you imagine the grief Cody has given the players in the interim? Remember too, when Kilkenny have a cause – like in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final against Limerick – they bring an extra manic desire to the battleground. Galway need to be braced for that.

Yet, they remain hugely dependent on the inspirational TJ Reid to weave his magic up front, but he’s not getting any younger and one wonders will Galway hand the versatile Joseph Cooney the brief of not letting the Ballyhale clubman out of his sights. Obviously, Colin Fennelly is a danger too with his direct style of running, while the Tribesmen won’t need any reminding of the damage Walter Walsh can cause if on a going day.

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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