Connacht Tribune - Opinion Piece
Seasoned Loughrea and Gort teams still standingOctober 31, 2012 - 9:34am
IT was a day for the old dogs for the long road at Kenny Park last Sunday. On a miserable afternoon, the senior hurlers of Loughrea and county champions Gort underlined the value of experience in a semi-final double bill where grit and resilience were essential ingredients for survival in hostile conditions.
In qualifying for a sixth county final in ten years with surprising comfort, Loughrea underlined once again their remarkable consistency.
Having been defeated in four of those deciders, Gavin Keary and company have also displayed an admirable ability to bounce back from big disappointments and the club now stand only 60 minutes away from capturing only their third ever Galway title.
Getting to finals has not been a problem for this generation of Loughrea players over the past decade, but winning them has. That is not a concern for the time being even if the manner in which they brushed a disappointing Turloughmore challenge aside last Sunday suggests that the Eamon Kelly managed outfit are now the team to beat.
The big contrast between the sides was Loughrea’s superior knowhow, craft and inherent toughness. They have been here before and know what semi-final occasions are all about. They are not fazed by big crowds and big matches. Turloughmore, however, were appearing at the penultimate stage of the championship for the first time in eight years – and it showed.
The men in black and white needed a good start and to settle early, but neither happened despite playing with the elements. And, frankly, the writing was on the wall for them when they trailed by 1-6 to 0-4 at the interval. They were edgy and fell significantly below the high tempo and quality of their display in beating title favourites Portumna in the quarter-final.
Of course, there was a lot of hype about them after that result, but they didn’t cope particularly well with the increased level of expectations and their camp will be dejected at not putting their best forward last Sunday. Still, Turlough have made significant progress this year and assuming the commitment of the players is maintained in 2013, they are potentially the emerging force on the local scene.
Some of the Loughrea players have been around a long time – the likes of Vinny Maher, Nigel Murray and Keary lined out in a county semi-final as far back as 1998 – but their resolve remains as strong as ever. They can be vulnerable as was the case the first day against Mullagh, but they have been on an upward curve since as evidenced by this emphatic victory over Turloughmore. They are rarely spectacular, but generally get the job done.
One of their lesser known performers, midfielder Emmet Mahony, has really stepped up to the plate in recent weeks and it was his surging run which paved the way for Kenneth Colleran’s decisive opening-half goal. With young players Sean Sweeney and Paul Huban doing well in the back line, Johnny Maher landing the frees, Johnny O’Loughlin zipping around the field as usual and Pa Huban pickling off a couple of points from play, Loughrea ultimately made short of Turloughmore.
The opening semi-final hardly lived up to expectations, but the heavy rain which fell throughout virtually the entire match was a big contributory factor to the mediocre fare on offer. St. Thomas’s led for virtually the entire 60 minutes with county player Conor Cooney to the fore, but never really threatened to pull away from the county champions, for whom Keith Killilea and Greg Lally stood out, with Gerry Quinn landing some critical frees.
St. Thomas’ may have made short work of Castlegar in the quarter-final, but facing their neighbours and a team they have a poor record against, was always going to ask much harder questions of John Burke’s charges. Conditions would hardly have suited their style of hurling, but they still led by 0-6 to 0-3 at the break and were in pole position to carry the day.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.