Availability of Conor Cooney boosts Galway ahead of Cats clash

Reversal of red card for forward means Tribesmen at full strength for Sunday’s final

Galway’s Conor Cooney: his red card in the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship semi-final against Offaly has been rescinded, so he will be free to play in Sunday’s showdown with Kilkenny. Photograph: Tom Beary/Inpho

Galway’s Conor Cooney: his red card in the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship semi-final against Offaly has been rescinded, so he will be free to play in Sunday’s showdown with Kilkenny. Photograph: Tom Beary/Inpho

 

There is a sense of quiet optimism coming over Galway hurling this week, partly explained by the availability of Conor Cooney. He has successfully appealed the red card picked up in the Leinster semi-final, and with that is cleared for Sunday’s final showdown against Kilkenny at Croke Park.

Cooney was on fire in that semi-final win over Offaly, scoring 1-3 from play before being sent-off, with 11 minutes remaining, for an apparently innocuous swing of the hurl. Cork referee Colm Lyons consulted his linesman, who brought the incident to his attention, before flashing a straight red card, which would have meant an automatic one-match suspension.

However, Galway took the case to the GAA’s Central Hearings Committee (CHC) earlier this week, where, on the presentation video evidence, it was agreed to downgrade the offence to a yellow card – freeing Cooney to play on Sunday.

Full strength

“I would say we’re travelling up quietly confident,” says Galway County Board secretary John Hayes. “There is certainly a good level of interest in the game in Galway. We were also confident we’d get Conor cleared, on the presentation of evidence to Croke Park, and he’s definitely now available for selection on Sunday.”

Indeed both Galway manager Michael Donoghue and Offaly manager Eamonn Kelly had questioned Lyons’s handling of the game in the aftermath of Galway’s 10-point win, particularly as it was played in such wet conditions.

Offaly also had their captain Colin Egan sent off after 27 minutes for a heavy shoulder on Fergal Moore. Kelly said afterwards: “I think common sense needs to prevail in situations like that when conditions are so bad . . . There wasn’t a dirty belt in the game and it was competitive.”

Although Offaly also appealed his automatic one- match suspension, unlike Cooney, Egan wasn’t successful, and with that will miss their knock-out qualifier against Wexford, in Wexford Park, on Saturday afternoon. Offaly will also be without the injured Jason Sampson ) and Cillian Kiely.

No such worries for Donoghue, the Galway manager facing his first championship meeting with Kilkenny since taking over from Anthony Cunningham. Sunday’s game marks their 10th meeting since Galway joined the Leinster championship, in 2009 (they met twice in 2015-2014-2012).

Still, Galway’s only win from those six games was in the 2012 Leinster final. The 2012 All-Ireland final and the 2014 Leinster semi-final were drawn, while Kilkenny won in the 2015 and 2012 (replay) All-Ireland finals, plus the 2014 Leinster semi-final replay.

“I think at the outset you could see the pathway to it,” said Donoghue of Galway’s path to the final, following their expected wins over Westmeath and Offaly. “I’m not being disrespectful to the two teams we’ve played, but at the back of our mind in everything we’re doing it’s been there. Obviously it’s going to be a totally different challenge in terms of intensity and what Kilkenny are going to bring to the table, but the lads have been through a lot and have big experience so there’s a good spirit, there’s a good vibe in the group at the minute.”

Also cleared to play in Saturday’s round one football qualifier refixture is Laois forward John O’Loughlin, who missed the original game against Armagh due to a one-match suspension. Although Laois then recorded a three-point win over Armagh last Saturday week, it was then declared null and void, after Laois were deemed to have used seven replacements, one more than the permitted six.

Options

However, that original does count for suspension purposes, which means O’Loughlin is available to Laois.

Armagh may be glad of the chance to make amends, but their manager Kieran McGeeney will be without several key players, including captain and defender Ciarán McKeever, who broke a bone in his foot training with his club Parnell’s of Dublin. Three other players – James Morgan, Ethan Rafferty and Mark Shields – are definitely out with hand injuries, while Ciarán O’Hanlon and Colm Watters are doubtful.

Meanwhile, the GAA has announced the appointment of Kilkenny’s Martin Fogarty as their first national hurling development manager. Fogarty was a selector/coach with Brian Cody and the Kilkenny senior teams from 2005 to 2013, during which time they won six All Ireland senior titles, and his new role will involve working towards the delivery of the Hurling 2020 Committee report findings, a review of county games programmes for club players, plus devising other activities and initiatives with the aim of maximising participation across all levels of the game.

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