A clash of deadlines and emotion at the final frontier

The way we were: Emotionally charged scenes for the return of Liam McCarthy, as Joe Connolly is mobbed by fans at the homecoming banquet for the Galway hurlers on the Monday night of September 8, 1980, at the Sacre Coeur Hotel, Salthill. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.
The way we were: Emotionally charged scenes for the return of Liam McCarthy, as Joe Connolly is mobbed by fans at the homecoming banquet for the Galway hurlers on the Monday night of September 8, 1980, at the Sacre Coeur Hotel, Salthill. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

It does seem only like yesterday, but 37 summers have now passed since Galway’s breakthrough hurling success of 1980, a final victory against Limerick, that bridged a 57-year gap since the county’s only other success of 1923.

The after-match scenes in Croke Park will of course never leave the memory bank of those lucky enough to be there . . . the emotional speech of captain Joe Connolly and the stirring rendition of The West’s Awake, given by the late Joe McDonagh.

At the time, I had just finished a four-year stint at the then UCG and was straying into diverse means of making a few bob every week, from working on the buildings to writing sports pieces on a freelance basis for the Tuam Herald and its then editor, the late J. P. Burke.

A frisson of excitement and apprehension gripped me, when I got the call, that there was a press pass for me to write about the All-Ireland final in the following week’s edition of The Herald, not a bad little perk for someone who had been working a shovel for the previous week.

Expectations were high in the run-up to that final although the emotions were kept in check by memories from the All-Ireland of the previous year when Kilkenny dished out a bit of a drubbing to us.

In that summer of 1980, holiday employment had been secured with a firm by the name of Cassidy Construction, operated by a former Irish rugby international, the late Padráig Cassidy.

One of the lads ‘on the job’ that year with us was Mullagh’s Seamus Coen, who lined out at left-half-back on the team, alongside Sylvie Linnane and Seán Silke. A combination of circumstances had changed the shape of the Galway half backline with illness having ruled out Joe McDonagh while a semi-final injury also had sidelined Iggy Clarke.

Such are the decrees of fate that dictate whether a name will forever feature on an All-Ireland winning line-up or whether an individual, who has put his heart and soul into the game, will face the disappointment of missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime sporting opportunity.

In the end, Galway had to graft all the way to pull off a 2-15 to 3-9 win over Limerick, and after that, the next day and a half (or so) was just one swirl of hysteria, so much so that the departure from Dublin on Monday, slipped from early morning to late evening.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.