Inside Track with John McIntyre
The dust is starting to settle on a momentous afternoon for Galway hurling at Croke Park last Sunday week when the unprecedented achievement of winning the All-Ireland senior and minor titles for the first time ever in the same year sparked a huge outpouring of joy and celebration around the county.
The massive crowds which turned out for the homecoming of the two all-conquering teams in Ballinasloe and Pearse Stadium was a fitting tribute to their exploits at GAA headquarters on the sport’s biggest day, leading to genuine hopes that Galway are on the brink of becoming hurling’s dominant force in the years ahead.
Of course, there were similar assumptions about Tipperary in 2010 and Clare in 2013 after winning All-Ireland titles, and though the Premier County did capture the Liam McCarthy Cup again last year, the anticipated haul of silverware hasn’t materialised after their swashbuckling display in ending Kilkenny’s ‘drive for five’ seven years ago. They had also swept Galway aside in the U21 final the following week and a Tipp takeover looked on the cards.
Clare were also a young team when galloping to a surprise championship triumph in 2013, while they were also unbeatable at U21 level over three seasons. Yet, the Banner have failed to drive on in the intervening years even if they remain a competitive squad. They did beat Limerick in this year’s championship, but simply weren’t precise enough when bowing out to Tipp at Paírc Uí Chaoimh subsequently. Clare ought to be better than this.
Now, it’s Galway turn to be burdened with the expectation of further glories ahead and while nothing is guaranteed, the Tribesmen look well equipped to at least make a strong defence of the All-Ireland title in 2018. The squad will have been liberated by finally going all the way in this year’s championship, while many members of the team are only reaching the peak.
1980 captain Joe Connolly is right when he says Galway now have a golden opportunity to become hurling’s standard bearers in the years ahead. With the minors also delivering All-Ireland glory, the U21s rattling a highly touted Limerick outfit in Thurles last month and good juvenile structures in place, the sport is in a very healthy place in the county at present.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.