The ace in Loughrea’s pack is still going strong

Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon

THERE has always been an association between squash and the GAA – with the likes of hurling legends Christy Ring of Cork and Noel Skehan of Kilkenny using the racket to hone their skills – and it would seem, in Loughrea at least, this relationship is being nurtured once again as members of the hurling fraternity lead a revival of the sport.

To the fore is former Galway goalkeeper Peter Murphy – a member of the Tribesmen’s senior hurling panel from 1982 to 1990 – and he recently guided Loughrea to their second consecutive Connacht Squash League title.

Indeed, as he did in 2012, it was Murphy’s victory in the deciding game in their league final against Galway Lawn Tennis Club – which, ironically, he is also a member of – that secured Loughrea the honours for the second year running in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd.

In addition to Murphy, the Loughrea team consisted of club secretary Eoghan Lynch and renowned hurlers Fergal Healy (Craughwell) and Kenneth Colleran (Loughrea) while also part of the seven-man squad were club treasurer Leo Larkin, Ronan Kelly and Sean Mahony.

After a lengthy sabbatical, the league itself was only revived in recent years by Mayo woman Helen Reapy, with Loughrea joining it two years ago. “She got it going and she got the clubs back involved,” says Murphy.

“There are six clubs in the league, Ballina, Ballinrobe, Claremorris, Loughrea, of course, Galway Lawn Tennis Club and Sligo. You play home and away over a six-month period. The squash season usually runs from September to May.”

For the Galway side’s part, Murphy was the only one with experience at this level, having competed with the club throughout what was a golden era for the sport in the ‘80s. “Last year, it was most of the lads first time involved in it and they really enjoyed it.

“This year, we went through the League unbeaten. Galway Lawn finished second to us and they had won all their games except those against us. It was the top two then who met in the final, which was held in Galway Lawn. The final had been in Loughrea last year. It just worked out that way.”

In the final game of the showpiece, Murphy defeated Andre Davis to win the silverware but chatting to the popular Loughrea man, it is evident the journey is as important to him as the destination. For him, that voyage began back in 1978 when the club was first formed under the direction of national school teacher Frank Joyce.

“He had been in Dublin, so he played squash, and the new court was just built in Temperance Hall,” continues Murphy. “A lot of people started playing back that time and there were the guts of a hundred members. Of course, it was a new game too and that was another reason it took off really well.

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