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Inside Track

Wheels starting to come off the Connacht wagon

John McIntyre

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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

Hurling we have a problem: there are too many scores in the game

John McIntyre

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Galway attacker Brian Concannon comes under pressure from Waterford’s Conor Prunty during Sunday's hurling league tie at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IT’S the summer of 2006 and a mistake-ridden Leinster hurling semi-final at Nowlan Park is unfolding. Two nervous teams chasing a big prize in a tight-marking, uninspiring battle for supremacy. In the end, Wexford somehow manage to stagger over the line despite only scoring a paltry nine points.

Imagine holding the opposition to a total score in single figures and still not winning the match. Unfortunately, I was the Offaly team manager that day and we were the ones who had to cope with that reality. Our tally only came to eight points and, in the process, a golden opportunity of victory had been spurned.

Between both teams only 17 points were registered and while that is an extreme example of when hurling was more defender friendly, what’s happening nowadays is arguably worse. There are just many scores in the game now – a scenario which reduces our appreciation of exceptional score-taking simply because they have become so frequent.

Sure, players have never been better conditioned, the sport’s stakeholders are much more tactically aware and the sliotar has become really user friendly, but spectators – If they were any! – are being turned off by this literally ‘score a minute’ phenomenon. It’s actually not unusual for three scores to be registered in just a minute.

God, I’d hate to be a defender these days with the ball whizzing all-round the place and your opponent never static. Grand, if you are a Calum Lyons or Ronan Maher who can bomb forward with impunity to fire over long-range points, but for most present-day back men, the game is nearly passing them by.

Teams have become so good at protecting possession, creating overlaps and isolating their shooters that opposition defences are left chasing shadows. An astonishing 58 scores were accumulated at Pearse Stadium last Sunday with eight players – Lyons, Dessie Hutchinson, Jack Prendergast, Joe Canning, Evan Niland, Conor Cooney, Conor Whelan and Brian Concannon all scoring at least three times from play.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway’s positive response to their Tralee trauma continues

John McIntyre

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Galway’s Peter Cooke gets his pass away against Dublin’s Sean McMahon during Sunday's National Football League encounter at Tuam Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

It’s barely three weeks since the Tralee thrashing and all the resulting criticism – much of it over the top and irrational – but Galway footballers have admirably rallied in the wake of that demoralising reversal and can now look forward to the upcoming Connacht championship with a certain sense of optimism.

Sure, nobody can disguise the reality that the Tribesmen have lost five of their last six competitive matches and are bound for a Division One league relegation battle against Monaghan, but Galway still showed a lot of promise in their weekend four-point loss to All-Ireland champions Dublin at Tuam Stadium.

The display built on their win over Roscommon the previous weekend and had Galway not bungled a great first-half goal-scoring opportunity, they would have shaken up the Dubs even more. Falling six points behind in the third quarter would really have tested the home team’s team mettle, but significantly heads never dropped.

Granted, Dublin were missing the likes of Stephen Cluxton, James McCarthy and Dean Rock, but the suggestion from a couple of pundits that they were only in ‘third gear’ in Tuam is a load of tosh. They were made to work hard for their victory with Cormac Costello, Con O’Callaghan and Ciaran Kilkenny achieving most to get them over the line.

Overall, Galway’s response to their heavy defeat against Kerry has been positive. There was no public blood-letting with management and players backing each other in their hour of need. That type of environment builds character and the manner in which they had a crack against the Dubs was heartening.

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

Post-Covid normality will have a very different feel

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin announcing the easing of restrictions.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

No sooner does one crisis come to an end in politics, but – before you can draw breath or pat yourself on the back – a new one is coming down the track. On the upside, we’re reaching the end of the lockdown. Last weekend’s good weather gave us a small preview of the kind of summer we will have, once the shackles of all the restrictions have been thrown away.

A weight will be lifted off our shoulders; problem is that somebody somewhere will come up with a brand new weights.

It reminds me of a joke from the great American comedian Jerry Seinfeld. He talked about going on a family holiday and the hassle and stress of packing the car with luggage, holiday paraphernalia and rowdy kids, and the prospect of a long hot drive in August bank holiday traffic.

This was his pay off line. “So you finally get the last item into your trunk (boot) and close it. You know the walk between the trunk and the driver’s door? You might not realise it but that in fact is your holiday.”

The point of all that is that the transition back to normality is not going to be a seamless affair. The first question is – what is normal going to look like?

For sure, it’s not going to be like the status quo ante. Sure, reopening is happening at a scale and a pace that nobody anticipated. Hotels and guesthouses are already open. By next Monday we will have outdoor hospitality and the return of many amenities including cinemas

By July there will be outdoor gigs, hundreds of spectators at sporting events, indoor dining and drinking, and even the return of international travel.

I was surprised that the normally conservative National Public Health Emergency Team agreed to the changes. When I spoke to a Minister last week, I asked what kind of resistance NPHET had put up to the proposed reopening. I was not expecting the response.

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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