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Inside Track

Big sporting injustice just avoided in titanic hurling final

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Inside Track with John McIntyre

IT was a game from the ages and for the life of me, I still don’t know how Clare weren’t crowned All-Ireland senior hurling champions for only the fourth time in the county’s history at Croke Park last Sunday. They did so much right and performed with such unrelenting quality and verve, and yet had to engineer a dramatic injury-time point to force a replay.

In another epic final which left the near-capacity crowd breathless, the fact that Clare had to rely on a last-gasp equaliser from raiding corner back Domhnall O’Donovan, of all players, summed up the admirable economy of a Cork team which was living off scraps for much of the final. On three or four occasions, the Rebels were in danger of being swamped by fierce Banner surges, but each time they somehow found a way to survive the crisis.

As a spectacle, Sunday’s showdown will take some beating. The atmosphere was electric even before the action got underway, but what subsequently unfolded simply had the attendance throbbing. Spectacular scoring, brilliant individual feats, a multitude of talking points and enough twists and turns to have done justice to any best-selling Agatha Christie crime thriller.

With two youthful teams setting a furious pace from the start and Clare pulling a tactical surprise by opting for an orthodox formation even if their half forwards operated deep and hardly stood still for a moment, there was drama almost from the off. Darach Honan had the opening point in the third minute and Cork never led until Pat Horgan sent over a classic score in injury time – typical of the Rebels, the inferior team for much of a great struggle for supremacy, but now on the brink of poaching an unlikely triumph.

That scenario would have represented the GAA sporting injustice of the year and though Clare must have been sickened to the guts when Horgan split the posts, they had been responding magnificently each time Cork dealt them sucker-blows and kept their composure again to manufacture O’Donovan’s superb equaliser. Loose talk of a fair result permeated all round Croke Park but, in reality, Clare were significantly the better outfit, had dominated large tracts of the match and should never have found themselves in a position where a tremendous team performance was about to go unrewarded.

It is to their immense credit, however, that Clare survived the concession of three second-half goals. Each time Cork found the net, Davy Fitzgerald’s men simply drove up the field to try and undo the damage. Their players never blinked, stayed remarkably focused and maintained a ferocious work ethic even in the most trying of circumstances. It represented a huge endorsement of the team’s character and temperament. Clare obviously have exceptional hurlers, but equally possess men of great fortitude.

Of course, you could also describe Cork in the same effusive tones. On the ropes for long periods of the final, losing most of the individual battles and with half of their forward making little or no impact, it amply reflects the quality of their finishing – the men in red only registered three wides – that they managed to earn a second chance when other teams in their predicament might have been well beaten. The Rebels don’t do panic and possess such a level of inner-belief, particularly on the big stage, that you just can never write them off.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Tyrone will come out guns blazing but Galway will weather the storm

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Galway manager Fergal Healy with his wife Karen and children, from left, Finn, Tess, Rowan and Conn after their Leinster Minor Hurling Final victory over Kilkenny in Portlaoise on Friday evening. Photo: Stephen Marken/Sportsfile.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

SOMETHING very odd happened to Tyrone in the Ulster championship in early April. On their home turf of Healy Park, they were doing nearly everything expected of them when leading Monaghan by five points at half-time. You couldn’t say for definite that the match was done and dusted, but the 2021 All-Ireland champions were in pole position.

You would have expected them to drive on against an honest if limited Monaghan outfit. Instead, Tyrone didn’t score for the opening 16 minutes of the second-half and in an enthralling finale, were left stunned by defender Ryan’s Toole’s stoppage-time goal snatching the honours for the Farney men on a 2-17 to 1-18 scoreline.

A couple of weeks later, Monaghan themselves had exited the Ulster title race when Derry comfortably got the better of them (1-21 to 2-10), leaving us more puzzled than ever by Tyrone’s dramatic decline since overcoming Mayo to claim Sam barely 20 months previously. Last year, they crashed out of Ulster by 11 points to Derry and subsequently came up six short against Armagh in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Against that background, their recent loss to Monaghan shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but it did. Tyrone may have made a shambolic defence of the All-Ireland title, but there is still a lot of quality in their ranks. They have an adventurous ‘keeper in Niall Morgan, while the long-serving Peter Harte, Darragh Canavan, Darren McCurry, Cathal McShane, Conor Meyler, Mattie Donnelly, and Conn Kilpatrick are all top-class performers when in the mood.

There’s hardly been a word about them for the past six weeks. Tyrone are lying low, desperately trying to rediscover the verve and cohesion which took them all the way in 2021. Their pride is on the line. It makes them dangerous opponents for Galway in the opening round of All-Ireland group matches at Pearse Stadium on Saturday.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway footballers are shaping like a team which could go all the way

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Galway team manager Padraic Joyce with his daughter Jodie and son Charlie holding the Nestor Cup, along with Captain Seán Kelly after Sunday's Connacht Final triumph over Sligo at MacHale Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

GALWAY footballers won’t get much credit for their easy victory over Sligo in Sunday’s Connacht Final in Castlebar, but when a team achieves something that hasn’t been done for 20 years, perhaps we should be a little more appreciative of the Tribesmen retaining the JJ Nestor Cup for the first time in two decades.

To be honest, if Galway were to live up to their standing as serious All-Ireland contenders, they needed to be doing a number on Sligo. In this year’s National League, the counties were three divisions apart and though Tony McEntee’s team achieved promotion and were on a nine-match unbeaten run, a serious rise in class faced them at MacHale Park.

Granted, Sligo made a bright start with three points in the opening five minutes from Pat Spillane, Sean Carrabine and the accurate Darragh Cummins, but they would only manage two more by the break despite having the wind behind them. Though wing back Luke Towey was catching the eye with his runs up-field, Galway rarely looked under pressure.

Sligo were bravely committing numbers to the middle third, which meant they were a little light in numbers around their own posts. They couldn’t afford to lose possession coming out of their own half, but that’s what happened in the build up to Galway’s second goal. Damien Comer overturned Cian Lally and from his counter-attack, Matthew Tierney expertly finished to the net at the near post.

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

Leinster hurling race so predictable but skin and hair flying down south

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Galway’s Conor Whelan lays off a pass against Kilkenny’s Mikey Butler during Sunday's Leinster Senior Hurling Championship tie at Nowlan Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IS the Leinster hurling championship something of a sham compared to its Munster counterpart? Everybody knows who will end up in the provincial final in the east, but nobody knows the two teams who will feature in the ultimate battle for supremacy down south.

All-Ireland champions Limerick aren’t guaranteed to even make it out of the province, never mind reach the Munster final, after their narrow loss to Clare in Saturday evening’s epic at the Gaelic Grounds. Everything is still on the line for the five counties involved, although Waterford are again under serious pressure after losing their opening two matches.

In Leinster, there is little of that drama. Galway and Kilkenny are miles ahead of the rest; the only thing at stake is whether Dublin or Wexford – they meet in Croke Park on Saturday – will be the third team to emerge for the All-Ireland series. It’s a game which is hard to call. Wexford are going backwards while Dublin look callow as Micheál Donoghue is trying to build the nucleus of a new team.

Though Antrim are improving – they held the Dubs to a draw and only lost to Wexford by four points – the men from the Glens would be out of their depth in Munster; while Westmeath are proving cannon-fodder for everyone else. Since Galway headed east in 2009, they have clashed with Kilkenny in seven Leinster finals and another showdown is inevitable next month.

In contrast, every match in Munster is virtually do-or die. When Clare rolled into Limerick last Saturday, they knew another defeat after losing to Tipperary in the opening round would leave them on the precipice of exiting the championship. There’s a real dog-eat-dog appeal about all the games. In Leinster, there are two big hounds, and the rest are chihuahuas.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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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