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Westerners get the job done but not without some stress

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Connacht's Eoghan Masterson is challenged by Newport Gwent Dragons' Nick Scott and Nick Crosswell during Saturday evening's Guinness Pro12 tie at the Sportsground. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Connacht 29

Dragons 23

THE sun will be shining on Connacht over the next three months. Every single one of their opening seven fixtures are winnable based on last season’s form. The World Cup has decimated many forthcoming opponents and if Pat Lam’s men are to take another stride forward this season, this is the time to make hay.

More than anything else, the four points were all that mattered on Friday. As opening day games go, it was compelling with plenty of exciting flourishes but it also had the familiar opening day rustiness with disjointed spells costing Connacht during a topsy turvy second half.

The Dragons will feel they should have won this. Why wouldn’t they, they had the ball on the edge of the Connacht 22 with three minutes remaining, trailing by two points and seemingly on the brink of salvaging a result. However, Connacht had the answer, up stepped young Kiwi signing Neipa Fox-Matauma as he robbed possession at the breakdown for an invaluable turnover.

The visitors were now off guard in defence and Connacht exploited this with a quick attack. Bundee Aki got the ball and ran crossfield first before bursting through a gap and making what turned out to be a 40 metre break that paved the way for Fionn Carr to score a try just minutes after being introduced as a replacement. Game over.

This was a finish full of fine margins and this will be a season full of tight decisions just like this. Year three for Pat Lam promises to be the most challenging, especially after the progress of last season where Connacht finished just shy of the top six with more points and wins than ever before.

There have been no big signings whatsoever. Promote from within is the policy across the board, laudable when it comes to both coaching, where the likes of forwards coach Jimmy Duffy and Assistant Attack Coach Conor McPhillips have been elevated, and playing, where great strides have been made in player development over the last few years.

The big signings of the past three years have largely failed to work. Second row Craig Clarke was besieged by dreaded concussion problems and Mils Muliaina just didn’t make the on ield headlines they had hoped he would make. That leaves us with Bundee Aki as a possible success, but his undoubted talent still hasn’t come through over a consistent period the time for the team and he is yet to score a try.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

CITY TRIBUNE

Tribe Talk gives local hurling supporters plenty to listen to

Stephen Glennon

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Founders of the Tribes Talk podcast, a show on Galway hurling, are Patrick Earley (left) and David Connors (right).

ONE of the podcasts that became a regular feature of every Galway hurling enthusiast’s season last year was Tribe Talk – The Galway Hurling Podcast, which was founded by local journalists Patrick Earley and David Connors.

Airing for the first time in July 2020, the podcast, also available on YouTube and, later in the year, on Spotify, proved a major success, often receiving well in excess of 2,000 hits per episode between their listenership and viewership figures.

Earley, a freelance contributor to The Connacht Tribune and other publications, says the podcast was something he and Tuam Herald reporter David Connors had discussed doing for some time.

Given their strong hurling backgrounds – Earley is a versatile exponent with the Beagh senior team while former St. Thomas’ underage player Connors was a selector with Athenry intermediates last year – their focus was always going to be on the small ball.

“We kicked it off with an interview with Damien Hayes and we previewed all the first round games in the senior and intermediate championships,” begins Earley. “The response was very good and it (success) was instant enough. Pretty much every episode was clearing the thousand mark on YouTube and has been ever since.”

Earley says that they really enjoyed working on the episodes, some of which ran up to two hours, and they received great help from their regular contributors and guests, most notably from the affable Kevin ‘Chunky’ Hayes, a former Galway player and All-Ireland club winner with Portumna.

“Chunky is kind of the third member of the team in many ways, because he was with us for an awful lot of episodes,” says Earley. “His knowledge of the club scene is fantastic, especially when you are doing the club coverage. You need to have someone that has a knowledge of it, an understanding of it and follows it.

 

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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CITY TRIBUNE

It’s win or bust for Connacht in crunch tie with Munster

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Connacht out half Jack Carty whose varied kicking game is admired by Munster Head Coach Johann van Graan.

IT might only be early March but the PRO14 season is coming to a conclusion. The early finish is now set in stone and Connacht have just three fixtures remaining. To make the final of the competition, they have to make up a nine point deficit on Conference B leaders Munster who they face in Thomond Park on Friday (7:35). Unlikely as that might be as a target, meeting the side they are chasing in the run-in at least keeps things interesting.

Even if Connacht were on top of the table, they would be outsiders coming into a fixture at a venue that has proved to be a mood killer for four decades now. Just one win in 36 years and oh what a win that was. Bundee Aki’s try after Robbie Henshaw’s brilliant break saw Connacht win there in their title winning season of 2016.

The memories of that night will linger long after all the players have retired. The sight of Aki pounding his chest after that score, the roars from the thousands of Connacht fans in the stadium at full time, the emotion in Eoghan Masterson’s voice during the post game interviews. It was an amazing night at a venue where Connacht had suffered some of their heaviest defeats in the years before that.

The stakes don’t seem as high this weekend and the drama might not end up being as visceral, but the size of the task is arguably as big if not bigger. Sure Munster have numerous players away on international duty, but they have rotated squads for this fixture plenty times in that past and will still field a strong side on Friday.

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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CITY TRIBUNE

McCormack and Rowe both forced off in preseason friendly with Sligo Rovers

Keith Kelly

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Padraig Cunningham talks with assistant referee, Allen Lynch, about his decision to disallow his 10th minute goal as the pair walk to the dressing rooms at half-time of Wednesday's 1-1- draw with Sligo Rovers.

Galway United continued their preseason campaign with a tough workout against Sligo Rovers in Eamonn Deacy Park on Wednesday afternoon, but things did not go entirely to plan, with a couple of players forced off through injury.

Conor McCormack picked up an arm injury just midway through the first-half while Mikie Rowe hobbled off five minutes into the second-half of a game that finished 1-1 at a bitterly cold afternoon just across from the banks of the Corrib.

Neither injury is thought to be of the serious variety – McCormack picked up a gash to his arm after Jordan Gibson’s accidentally stepped on the United midfielder after fouling him; while Rowe felt a slight strain to his calf and, after getting a bang on his ankle, he went down for attention before being substituted.

“It was just one of those ones,” United manager, John Caulfield, said about the McCormack incident after the game.

“The fella stood on his hand, so we took him off. It was stinging him for a bit, but he thinks he is okay, he felt he could go back on but we couldn’t make that change. For that first 30 minutes he was typical middle of the park busy, cutting out the danger, he did well,” said the United manager of a player who led the side out for the game, and is likely to be named as captain for the season in the next week or so.

“Mikie Rowe, he was doing well, but he felt the calf a bit and he got a kick on the ankle so you know, just a precaution, you take him off. He got a game against Finn Harps, and 50 minutes today, so we’re happy,” Caulfield said of Rowe.

Caulfield started the game with a 3-man defence of Maurice Nugent, Gary Boylan and Stephen Walsh, who were flanked by Conor O’Keeffe and David Hurley operating as two wing backs.

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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