Major overhaul of second level hurling is underway

Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon

In the history of All-Ireland colleges hurling, St. Raphael’s, Loughrea is the only Galway school to win the coveted Croke Cup. However, following the recent restructuring of second level colleges GAA, Galway Post Primary Schools Committee Chairman Tommy Fox hopes this will change.

No doubt, the new format, which sees vocational schools absorbed into the post primary schools structure in both codes, should greatly benefit, in particular, second level hurling in the province and it may also help to bridge the gap since Raphael’s – and Galway’s – only All-Ireland success in 1995.

For years, St. Brigid’s, Loughrea have dominated the vocational schools championship – at Connacht and All-Ireland levels – with only Athenry VS to stand in their way locally, while a major drawback for the post primary competition has been the lack of competition between the top schools.

It was this scenario that led Gort Community School, at one stage, to consider applying to join Munster and, to some degree, it forced a rethink in Connacht as a plethora of amalgamated colleges teams, such as Mercy Colleges and Galway City Schools, was set up to strengthen this competition.

Under the new structure, there will be no combined side allowed to field in Connacht – not so in Munster and Leinster – but every hurling school will now compete in ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’ competitions. The opportunity to progress to an All-Ireland series is also on offer at each grade.

“Since Vocational Schools hurling is so strong in Galway, our secretary Eamonn Veale sent a motion to the All-Ireland Post Primary Schools [Committee] that the two Connacht Senior ‘A’ hurling finalists would go through to the All-Ireland series,” says Chairman Fox. “And that motion was passed.”

The re-structuring has meant that new Cups will now be on offer in Connacht. As it was hurling, responsibility for naming the silverware was handed over by Connacht Colleges to Fox and his Galway committee of Vice Chairman Ciaran O’Donovan, Veale and Treasurer Niall Canavan.

Fox explains why they honoured the men they have, beginning with the John Ryan Cup, which will be contested for by Portumna CS, Gort CS, Athenry VS, Pres. Athenry and St. Brigid’s. “John Ryan (Senior ‘A’) was on the 1980 Galway team. He played with Pres. Athenry and they were beaten [by St. Flannan’s of Ennis after a replay] in an All-Ireland final in 1976.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.