No buck­ling this time as years of hurt are chan­nelled into glo­ri­ous lib­er­a­tion

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - GAELIC GAMES - DER­MOT CROWE

THIRTY years ago or there­abouts I met some­one who has been a friend since, through thick and thin. He hails from east Gal­way.

We cy­cled to the 1987 Na­tional Foot­ball League fi­nal be­tween Dublin and Kerry, while stu­dents in Dublin, and in that year’s hurl­ing equiv­a­lent he saw his Gal­way, al­ready de­feated in suc­ces­sive All-Ire­land fi­nals, al­most am­bushed by Clare.

But for a missed goal at­tempt by Gerry McIn­er­ney (the Clare ver­sion, not the white-heeled son of Kin­vara) Gal­way would have been beaten. It is my friend’s con­tention that this might have been the fi­nal straw. They might have snapped.

In­stead the win em­bold­ened them. They drove on, re­ju­ve­nated, to win the All-Ire­land later that year, aton­ing for the dis­ap­point­ing fi­nal losses in 1981, ’85 and ’86. They re­tained it the next year for the first time in their his­tory and then, as­ton­ish­ingly, the win­ning just stopped and the los­ing, like ivy, be­came all-en­velop­ing.

Last Sun­day, this friend of mine would say he was re­lieved more than any­thing to see the county re­turn to the podium as All-Ire­land cham­pi­ons. In that time he has gone from be­ing a teenager to mid­dle age.

In that time all the hordes that fol­lowed Gal­way when they were cham­pi­ons in the late 1980s van­ished, or the great bulk of them, and now they have re­turned again.

In that time he kept go­ing, mys­ti­fy­ingly at times when at­tend­ing Walsh Cup games in Fresh­ford in early year and hav­ing to rely on the lim­i­ta­tions of pub­lic trans­port, for he never drove nor bought him­self a car. There are sup­port­ers like that there still. They did not go soft. I guess they never broke nor lost hope.

Gal­way’s cur­rent lib­er­a­tion shows some sim­i­lar­i­ties to ’87, though this time it was pre­ceded by an All-Ire­land semi-fi­nal de­feat, pre­ceded in turn by an All-Ire­land fi­nal re­ver­sal.

There was a league win in the spring but this time you had an em­phatic vic­tory, not the jit­tery win of 30 years be­fore against Clare. And they didn’t beat a county, like Clare were at the time, age­ing and hav­ing reached their pin­na­cle when push­ing Cork in the Muster fi­nal in Kil­lar­ney the pre­vi­ous sum­mer. They de­stroyed the All-Ire­land cham­pi­ons.

Then, when the af­fa­ble Micheál Donoghue, the ninth man­age­rial change since Cyril Far­rell’s hey­day, said last Sun­day evening that they’d de­cided “enough is enough”, you could hear in his voice an un­mis­take­able ring of truth. They reached a point where they had their fill of ex­cuses and sur­ren­ders and near-misses. They were harder in mind and body. They found a man-bear for cen­tre-back who demon­strated a new level of hurl­ing in­tel­li­gence to go with it. There were lots of things that vis­i­bly im­proved but it came from the in­vis­i­ble place deep within.

The weight of re­cent his­tory still nearly pulled them down. The goals were avoid­able, es­pe­cially the sec­ond, and some of their mis­takes were not what you would ex­pect of a team on the brink of win­ning an All-Ire­land.

John Han­bury picked a ball clean off the ground as if his hand was be­ing guided by the same mis­chief which makes a boy do some­thing in class he knows he shouldn’t, and Adrian Tuo­hey caught the ball three times which he may never have done be­fore and will prob­a­bly never do again. Each led to a Water­ford point.

Throw in those Water­ford wides, the one from the war­rior Kevin Mo­ran in the sec­ond half that looked set to put them a brace clear when they were be­gin­ning to re­ally perk up, and those four that de­flated them after Tommy Ryan’s rous­ing score off the stick in the 59th minute. Gal­way were never al­lowed to breathe com­fort­ably de­spite the feast of points they nailed, many of them works of art.

Water­ford left more than enough to suggest they can come back again. Austin Glee­son didn’t reach the sum­mit of his pow­ers and the team’s age pro­file for the most part is on their side.

Tadhg de Búrca was im­mense. Jamie Bar­ron and Noel Con­nors too. There are no guar­an­tees an All-Ire­land will come but they don’t look the kind will­ing to be­lieve that or pre­pared to stop try­ing.

It was clear from the re­ac­tion of Joe Con­nolly that Gal­way took ex­cep­tion to some of the crit­i­cism they’ve re­ceived over the years, no­tably the charge that they were too soft.

This was an af­front to the char­ac­ter of peo­ple like Con­nolly, no doubt, and many more like him, but there were nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions when Gal­way too eas­ily turned the other cheek. There were times when they lost their nerve. When they had the hurl­ing, but buck­led. Not this year though.

Enough was enough, as their man­ager ex­plained. The West has reawak­ened.

There were times when they lost their nerve

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.