Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon
IT was a sad day when the ‘General Liam’ was laid to rest. He had been a good, faithful servant and, although prone to the odd breakdown, he was never found wanting when the game was in the melting pot.
For those of you who didn’t know ‘General Liam’, he was the 1998 Audi adorned in the maroon and white that you would see flying up the motorway – within the speed limit of course – whenever Galway’s senior hurlers were on the road to the Croker or, indeed, other GAA venues.
Unfortunately, as the wheels were coming off Galway’s All-Ireland ambitions against Tipperary on Jones Road in August, ‘General Liam’ was having a similar crisis of his own. Somewhere between Ballinasloe and Athlone, his clutch had blown. The diagnosis was not good.
“We were just coming down the motorway and the clutch went in it,” recalls Noel Kelly, the man who gave birth to the notion of the ‘General Liam’. “I got out and got on the phone to Éamonn (Gilligan) and I said this car is f@*ked. I actually threw a kick on the side of it.”
If they had been a few miles down the road in Westmeath, they possibly could have kidnapped referee Barry Kelly and thrown him into the boot of the car to delay the throw-in time but that wasn’t an option. As it was, Kelly’s kick worked. The car purred back to life – minus the clutch!
Driving the car at the time was Damien Ryan, a Tipperary supporter who lives in Craughwell. “We weren’t happy with that but he was the only one who could get it insured,” chuckles Kelly. “Anyway, we got it going and he drove it from Ballinasloe to Dublin and back with the accelerator and brake and no clutch!
“We had great fun at the toll bridge (in Enfield). There was a van from Tipperary behind us recording it and I would love to get a video of it – of us pushing the car through the toll bridge. John Donoghue from Upper Roo, a big Craughwell supporter, had the toll bridge paid for us so at least we didn’t have to stop to pay. All we had to do was push it through. Sure, we had days with that car that were just mighty,” he laughs.
Listening to Kelly, along with Éamonn Gilligan, ‘General Liam’ certainly captured their imaginations – as it did the hurling fraternity in Galway. For a close circle of friends – one of whom, David Prendergast, donated the vehicle which had been parked out in a field in Connemara – the car was their ‘Herbie’ or ‘Lightening McQueen’.
Initially, there were five friends involved, namely Gary Kelly, Robbie Donoghue, Willie McMahon, Conor Hawkins and Kelly himself while Christy Moran of Moran Refuse Services also rowed in with his support. The aim, says Kelly, was to generate a bit of fun and fanfare around the Galway senior hurlers’ games.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.