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Footballers’ flight decimates GAA clubs as players head abroad in search of work

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A host of Galway’s leading GAA clubs are facing into a mini-crisis over the peak summer months without a host of players who have taken flight to the US, Canada, and Australia.

The harsh economic climate at home and the lure of jobs and adventure overseas have decimated the senior panels of some football clubs as they face into the second round of the championship without the services of up to a half-dozen players this weekend.

Members of the victorious All-Ireland U21 winning Galway side, who beat Cork in last month’s final, are particularly ‘hot property’ on the other side of the Atlantic as clubs with strong Galway connections have recruited players from the team en masse for the summer.

Team managers can hardly argue the case with third level students in their squads, in particular, who are being offered jobs and free flights in order to ‘tog out’ with clubs in New York and Boston while taking advantage of 60 day J1 visas.

But given that a host of Galway club footballers and hurlers in their twenties are also taking advantage of one year visas for Australia and Canada, club managers have been left with selection headaches as they face into crucial games this weekend.

Some clubs have been particularly badly hit. At the start of the campaign, Caherlistrane manager Larry Bane reported that seven of the club’s seniors, all aged under 30, were unavailable for the entire 2013 senior championship campaign because of emigration.

Others have seen a temporary summer exodus since losing their first round games three weeks ago. Annaghdown, for example, have seen three of their U21s depart for the US since losing to Kilkerrin-Clonberne in extra time at the end of May, while a fourth member of the senior panel is enjoying an extended holiday overseas.

The problem is not just confined to the rural clubs as county champions Salthill-Knocknacarra, who are set to put their title on the line against Micheal Breathnach, will have two of their best players in the US when they line out at Pearse Stadium on Saturday evening.

Salthill’s neighbours on the west side of the city, St Michael’s, registered one of the shock results of the first round when they beat former champions Killererin last month. Their achievement was all the more remarkable because four of their players are currently in Australia, while two have emigrated to the UK.

Read full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune

Connacht Tribune

All out in force to cheer home one of their own

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Fiona Murtagh…back home with her Olympic medal on Sunday. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Sitting on an airplane, mid-air from Japan en route to Dublin, Olympic bronze medallist from Moycullen, Fiona Murtagh was unsure whether anyone would be at the airport to meet her and teammates Aifric Keogh of Na Forbacha, Eimear Lambe and Emily Hegarty when they touched down.

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, there was no big welcoming party planned for Dublin Airport. But Fiona need not have worried; as she strode out of airport security and into Arrivals, all her family were there to hug her.

Fiona hadn’t seen her parents Marguerite and Noel since April because of a pre-Olympic training camp in Italy; and her siblings Pádraig, Lorraine and twin Alan all turned up, too.

“Oh my God, I couldn’t believe it. It was actually really emotional, it was so lovely. I didn’t expect the full family to be there. Tears came to my eyes. I hadn’t seen mom and my dad in seven weeks,” said Fiona.

That was just the first leg of what was to be a heart-warming homecoming for a hero.

The family drove back to Galway with Fiona, who had heard “through the grapevine that there was going to be something in Bushypark”.

“But the scale of it, I didn’t expect it at all, it was incredible, it was so lovely to see everyone come out and support and see me”, she said.

Read the full story over eleven pages of coverage on the homecoming of our Olympic heroes in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Rowing heroes reunited for special day to savour

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Hero’s homecoming…Aifric Keogh with her parents Susan and Jim Keogh. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

About halfway through her homecoming on Bank Holiday Monday, Aifric Keogh spotted a very familiar face in the crowd lining the road.

It was her fellow Olympic medallist Fiona Murtagh from Moycullen, whom she’d soldiered with in Tokyo days earlier to win bronze in the Women’s Coxless Fours final.

Fiona was outside Furbo Church with her boyfriend, on the way to Pádraicín’s to meet mates. The plan was to watch Aifric’s open-top bus and cavalcade pass-by. Fiona had no intention of joining in – but she had no choice.

“When I looked down and saw Fiona, she was laughing at me, waving up. So, I made the bus stop and dragged her up there beside me,” laughed Aifric.

It meant that those turning out on the second leg of the journey from Na Forbacha to An Spidéal and back again, got two Olympic legends for the price of one!

“I made her come up with me. And then we were driving through Spiddal and we actually drove passed her aunt’s house, so her aunt and cousins and mom were outside waving up at us. It was really nice for us to be so close together here in Galway,” said Aifric.

That was just one of several special moments from a homecoming the 28-year-old rower will treasure.

Whereas Fiona came back to Conamara straight from Dublin Airport, and had a hero’s welcome in Moycullen on Sunday, Aifric stayed in Dublin on Sunday, driving down the following morning.

As she passed through Barna on the way to her parents’ house in Aill an Phréacháin in Na Forbacha, she could see flags, bunting and bonfires being prepared for her official drive-through later that evening. But what she witnessed on that journey to the home house of her parents, Jim and Susan, didn’t prepare her for the size of turnout.

“It was amazing. I didn’t know what to expect. Obviously, I was expecting some of my friends and family but seeing so many people from Spiddal, Barna and Furbo coming out along the road the whole way was just crazy,” she said.

Read the full story over eleven pages of coverage on the homecoming of our Olympic heroes in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Saw Doctors sell out – to shoot back into the charts!

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Saw Doctors...as they were in the early days (from left) Leo Moran, Pearse Doherty, John 'Turps' Burke, Davy Carton and (front) Johnny Donnelly.

It’s official – the Saw Doctors have finally sold out. Because, as of this week, it’s impossible for fans to get their hands on a copy of the Galway band’s iconic first album, remastered 30 years on from its original incarnation.

The good news is that the band are now going to do a fourth vinyl pressing of ‘If This is Rock And Roll, I Want My Old Job Back’ – but given the global renaissance in vinyl, it will be the beginning of September before they’ll be for sale.

So far, the album has sold all 1,500 copies pressed – and that has increased hopes of the band playing live again, once pandemic restrictions are eased, according to the band’s manager Ollie Jennings.

“A guy called Simon Moran is the biggest music promoter in the UK; he’s based in Manchester and he’s worked with Peter Kay in the past, who got him into the Saw Doctors.

“He has, twice in the last six months, written personal emails begging the band to tour the UK,” he says.

And that’s not some vanity project, because he knows that – the last time the Saw Docs played in the UK in 2017 – they did 20 shows that drew 30,000 fans.

“We sold out the Manchester Apollo with 4,000; we sold out two nights at Glasgow’s Barrowlands with 4,000 each night. He knows we will do the business,” says Ollie.

Up to now, the prospects of another tour seemed remote – but the success of the album has rekindled the Saw Doctors, and something magical happened when the band got together to sign the rereleased LP.

“It was a wonderful afternoon in Leo’s house in Tuam; loads of laughs and old stories; just magic – it was like being back in 1990 or 1991 again,” says Ollie.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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