No playing safe as determined Tribesmen finally return to the top in Connacht

Galway players, Man of the Match Danny Cummins, and Gary Sice celebrate their Connacht Final replay triumph over Roscommon at McHale Park on Sunday. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.
Galway players, Man of the Match Danny Cummins, and Gary Sice celebrate their Connacht Final replay triumph over Roscommon at McHale Park on Sunday. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

WILD horses couldn’t drag them away from the Castlebar pitch.

The Mayo man on the public address system used the four minutes of injury time to repeatedly remind Galway football supporters to stay off the MacHale Park sod.

“Please don’t encroach onto the pitch . . . More stewards! More stewards!  . . . Please refrain from climbing over the barriers . . . Please don’t . . . Stewards!” he roared.

Was he having a laugh? He certainly gave us one.

There was no way the maroon army weren’t going to swarm on to hail their heroes. No siree, Bob! Not this time, a mhac!

There was no stopping the Roscommon supporters leaving early either – with 15 minutes remaining a steady stream of them began filtering out of the stadium. It’s never a nice sight. Not even when you arrive with high hopes to a Connacht Final replay and your team is blitzed, early-on, eventually losing by 3-16 to 0-14.

But back to the celebrations.  Only once before has Galway ever gone nine years without winning a Connacht title – and that was more than a century ago, between 1902 and 1911. For a proud, traditional footballing county like Galway, eight years is a famine.

So the outpouring of relief and joy and delight and release of tension that had built up since the county’s last provincial success at senior level in 2008 was understandable. And it was deserved. Utterly deserved.

Galway had this game wrapped up by half-time, but that didn’t dampen the celebrations. It meant Kevin Walsh, and his selectors Brian Silke and Seán Conlon, could afford to empty the bench, and allow substitutes to bask in the glory.

And so the substituted players who came off, many of them who had leading roles in this Connacht Final triumph, led the charge of the on-field invasion.

It was special. Two of the day’s main protagonists, forwards Gary Sice and Damien Comer, were hoisted high on the shoulders of supporters, surrounded by hundreds and hundreds more ecstatic followers.

The Fields of Athenry rang out; so too, the obligatory ‘Championes’ chant. It was pure class. Even more so because we’ve not seen these scenes for so long.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.