History shows hurlers shine in times of economic strife!

Galway minor captain Darren Morrissey with the Irish Press Cup and David Burke with the Liam Mc Carthy in Ballinasloe. Photo: Gerry Stronge
Galway minor captain Darren Morrissey with the Irish Press Cup and David Burke with the Liam Mc Carthy in Ballinasloe. Photo: Gerry Stronge

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

It may seem churlish to even mention this in a week that has seen Galway embrace the unadulterated joy of bringing Liam McCarthy back across the Shannon – but, up to now at least, our great Croke Park days have so often coincided with Ireland’s worst recessions. In other words, Galway’s fortunes in hurling seemed to be in inverse proportion to the political landscape.

Take 1980 when the famine ended and Joe Connolly’s extraordinary speech, delivered entirely as Gaeilge, remains unmatched for its eloquence and its passion.

And the late Joe McDonagh’s rousing rendition of The West’s Awake capped it all.

But outside of Croke Park, the picture was far from rosy; back then Ireland was quickly becoming the Albania of the European Community.

Fianna Fáil had won the 1977 election with a landslide. It was founded on the back of a manifesto for economic growth that was a fantasy. By the time Charles Haughey took over the helm in late 1979, the economy was going south at a rate of knots.

The new year of 1980 began with a ringing warning from Haughey, televised live to the country. “We are all living beyond our means,” he declared. As we later found out, there was not greater example of that than the Squire himself.

But the message was clear. Decisive action was needed. Unfortunately, Haughey bottled it and baulked at taking the right decisions.

By the time the first Sunday in September came, the Government was under severe pressure, because of extraneous factors but also because of a damaging internal rift caused by the divisive leadership contest.

Already, there was the flight of the earls and so many Galway people were taking the same boats that their parents had taken in the 1950s to England, or airplane over to Boston and New York and Chicago.

If there was a beacon of hope of that year, it was that extraordinary victory by Galway that brought tears to the eyes of the whole county, as last Sunday’s victory did.

Seven years later, we won again in 1987. As it happened the economy had recovered and bit in the mid-1980s and what do you know, it started to dip again.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.