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Inside Track

Wheels starting to come off the Connacht wagon

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Connacht out half-Jack Carty on the attack against Jack Nowell of Exeter Chiefs during Sunday's European Challenge Cup clash at the Sportsground. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

If you were told beforehand that Connacht would score four tries – and a couple of them were high on artistic impression – in their critical European Challenge Cup encounter against Exeter Chiefs at the Sportsground last Sunday, it would have been difficult to imagine any outcome other than a home victory, but the obvious didn’t happen.

And difficult as it is to face up to that disappointing outcome, the reality is that Connacht can have few complaints over losing 33-24 to their physically powerful visitors who dominated up front and turned the match around in a second half where Pat Lam’s men simply couldn’t cope with the sheer muscle and strength of the Exeter Chiefs.

On a rare benign day on College Road, ideally suited to Connacht’s expansive game, the contest ultimately boiled down to a struggle between grunt and pace, with the heavyweights winning out. This was the first time this season that the Westerners’ front eight were basically mauled into submission and over-powered in the scrums . . . and it wasn’t a pleasing spectacle.

Out wide, however, Connacht were a real threat and their backs left the Chiefs floundering in the opening-half when Matt Healy and Danie Poolman superbly finished off two attacking moves of the highest quality. They deservedly led 17-10 at the break, but there were warning signals that Exeter’s pack was something of a lethal weapon, especially when they engineered a penalty try after sustained pressure.

Still, few home supporters could have then predicted that Connacht would end up without even a losing home point – although they did manage one for touching down four times – as they were gradually worn down physically, with an intercept try from second row and team captain Dean Mumm really turning the game on its head in the 57th minute.

Exeter had controlled much of the exchanges on the resumption and their third try from Dan Armand, together with a couple of penalties from out half Henry Slade, powered them into a 16 point lead after trailing by seven at the break. The Sportsground hadn’t witnessed Connacht take such a battering so far this season, leaving their aspirations of qualifying for the knock out stages no longer a formality.

To the credit of John Muldoon and his team-mates, they never dropped their heads and worked hard to engineer a second well taken try from Healy in the 75th minute, while replacement Darragh Leader could have snatched a losing bonus point only to see his long range penalty attempt drifting wide of Exeter’s right hand post.

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.

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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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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