Squeezed between the GAA’s showpiece hurling and football finals it may be – but no less significant is the other annual All-Ireland final, which was hosted last weekend on Inishbofin.
Known by the nine off-shore islander adult male and lady footballers who compete as the ‘real All-Ireland’, this year’s annual All-Island Gaelic Football tournament saw 300 off-shore islanders descend on Bofin, which has an island population of just 180.
Founded in 1998 by a group of west coast islanders including Bofin’s Simon Murray, the tournament idea was as much about getting islanders to come together in a social setting to share knowledge and their Island experiences as much as representing their respective islands on the field of play.
All nine competing islands – Galway’s Inis Meáin, Inis Mór, Inis Óirr and Inishbofin, Cork’s Bere Island and Whiddy Island, Donegal’s Aranmore and Mayo’s Inishturk and Clare Island – don’t have an official club teams that compete regularly in county leagues and championships due to geographical and population challenges.
Every September, efforts are made to come back from the mainland or from other countries to don their island jerseys in the tournament.
It was a Cork v Galway final for both the men’s and ladies’ competitions.
The hosts Inishbofin, who beat Clare Island and Inish Mór in earlier rounds, were down by three points in the final with three minutes remaining against Cork’s Whiddy Island who were led by Cork star Colm O’Driscoll.
Bofin turned to their local star and Galway goalkeeper Ruairi Lavelle who was operating at wing forward.
He scored three of the four unanswered points that Bofin managed without reply to capture the crown by a point – Whiddy Island 1-6 to Inishbofin’s 1-7. The Bofin ladies were pipped in the ladies final losing to Whiddy 4-7 to 5-3.
Tournament organiser Simon Murray – who recently featured in a Guinness TV advertising campaign celebrating GAA volunteerism – couldn’t have been happier with the outcome.
“We’re delighted to host this tournament on the Island and coming away with silverware was fantastic. Our ladies came close to making it a clean sweep. We had big crowds once again from all nine islands and it’s great to see lads toggling out for their islands,” he said.
“Some of the adults playing were not even born when some of us got together to start the tournament in 1998.
“One of the core reasons for it was to give a platform to connect with other Islanders and share ideas. Islanders differ greatly but we have a commonality in that we don’t have a lot of things that they have on the mainland and, therefore, we have to fight for everything ourselves.
“Things like having a pitch on an island makes you stronger as a community. I have no doubt the tournament will stay going for years to come because it’s a real symbol of identity and a way to show pride of place,” he added.