Family ties bind Galway’s special day

Team manager Michael Donoghue with his parents and family, and team captain David Burke at the start of the homecoming in Ballinasloe. Pic Gerry Stronge

It was a special moment on an unforgettable day as Galway’s victorious hurlers made their first stop back across the Shannon.

Team manager Micheal Donoghue disembarked the bus and made his way outside barriers to embrace his wheelchair-bound father Miko and mother Margaret who were simply longing for their son’s arrival home after his exploits in Croke Park.

A generation ago it was Miko’s bus that carried the All-Ireland champions back to the west; the pride of a father and the love of a son were clear for all to see.

This was the first stop on a homecoming like no other as Galway supporters turned out in their thousands – the streets of Ballinasloe were alive with excitement and the atmosphere was electric.

You could also sense the feeling of absolute relief – as if the shoulders of many of the dedicated fans felt considerably lighter in the wake of what happened on Sunday.

It was around 4.15pm on Monday when the two busses eventually arrived – just over an hour behind schedule; not bad considering other Galway homecomings in the past that often ran some six or seven hours late.

This was a well marshalled affair involving the Gardaí, Galway GAA, volunteers, and staff from Galway County Council who hosted the homecoming in Ballinasloe.

On their arrival, the minors led by their captain Darren Morrissey from Sarsfields were first ushered onto the podium to rapturous applause. All of the team, subs and mentors were introduced to crowd of around 15,000 and received the adulation that they richly deserved.

While this was happening the seniors hung back as a mark of respect to their younger champions, until the stage was clear for them to make their appearance.

The noise was deafening as David Burke, Liam McCarthy Cup clutched tightly, and his teammates slowly made their way to the podium. Even before they went on stage, many of the players, on witnessing the turnout, described it as something of a humbling experience for them.

From an early stage in the day, Ballinasloe was buzzing in excitement and anticipation at the arrival of the teams.

It also proved a timely bonanza for the businesses in the town, which has experienced its economic difficulties in the recent past, but all of that was put to one side for this special occasion.

See full coverage of Galway’s All-Ireland triumph and homecoming in this week’s Connacht Tribune.