NO other team in Galway hurling has come anywhere near matching the consistency of Portumna and Loughrea in the modern era. It’s a remarkable tribute to their staying power at the top that Sunday’s Salthill Hotel senior hurling title decider is their fifth county final meeting in 11 seasons.
Others – Gort, Clarinbridge, and most recently St Thomas’ – have come and plundered Galway hurling’s biggest prize on a one-off basis, with two of those even going on to win All-Irelands, since these two teams first met in a Pearse Stadium decider back in 2003.
But none have come anywhere matching the consistency of these two sides. Portumna, arguably the greatest club team in history at their peak four or five years ago, have won five Galway titles and three All-Irelands since Ollie Canning captained them to their first title, a 2-13 to 2-9 victory over Loughrea that historic November afternoon.
Loughrea might not have won as much as their sometimes bitter rivals, but their seventh county final appearance in 11 years is a tribute to the remarkable endurance of Johnny O’Loughlin, Vinnie Maher, Johnny Maher, Tom Regan, Damien McClearn, Kenneth Colleran, Brian Mahony, and Nigel Murray – players who are still fighting for the Town’s cause after all these years.
It’s a source of pain that they have won only one of those six finals – the controversial 2006 victory over Portumna, after they overcame an eight point deficit at half-time – but their ability to bounce back, year after year, sets them apart as a remarkable group of players.
Their litany of county final disappointments includes bringing Clarinbridge to a replay in 2010, before losing by just two points, and a narrow 3-11 to 2-11 defeat to the newcomers from St Thomas’ – after a spirited late comeback – last year.
But it’s Portumna who have caused the most hurt of all . . . ruining their hopes of a first title success since 1941 back in ’03, watching Joe Canning and Damien Hayes score 3-17 between them in a seven point defeat in ’05, and suffering an unmerciful 19-point hiding when they last met in a decider four years ago.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Galway 2020 set aside cash for defamation case
Galway 2020 set aside money last year for a defamation claim that was expected to be taken against the company.
The company, set up to deliver the European Capital of Culture – which has registered as a charity – has advised that its possible liability for the claim was €1,500.
The accounts for the operating company Galway Cultural Development and Activity Company, which have just been published, give details of its ‘contingent liabilities’, which is a liability that may occur depending on the outcome of an uncertain future event.
It said: “The company’s solicitors estimates €1,500 for a defamation claim, but proceedings have not yet issued.”
Galway 2020 spent €7.38m last year, up by about €4 million on 2018. It said €6.4 million of this was for “charitable activities”.
Its wage bill was €1.5 million last year, and its employee headcount at December 31 was 41.
It spent €750,000 on promotional activities and a further €340,000 on communications. Governance costs amounted to €170,000.
It spent €65,000 on legal fees; €42,000 on consultancy; €50,000 on monitoring and evaluation; and €21,000 on Board expenses.
Galway 2020 spent just over €447,000 on ‘raising funds’, almost the same amount that it raised in ‘sponsorship income’ (€477,000).
Its income from the Department of Culture in 2019 was €5.1 million; a third of the €15m in total central government has pledged.
In his introduction to the accounts, Chairperson of the Board, Arthur Lappin, said Galway 2020 “is likely the single largest and most complex cultural undertaking ever in Ireland”.
“Like events of similar scale internationally, the necessary preparatory work in the years prior to the event itself, requires very substantial investment in order to be ready to deliver the programme.
“This includes investments in cultural organisations and individual artists as well as the associated investment in promotional strategies for the Galway 2020 programme.
“This promotional investment has rightly featured Galway as a unique tourist destination for visitors to Galway in 2020 and was a significant factor in Galway being recognised with prestigious international awards during the year,” Mr Lappin said.
He said the organisation’s activities “directly supports approximately 350 artists and 300 businesses within the local and domestic economy”.
Mr Lappin added that the impact of coronavirus on Galway 2020, including widespread cancellation of events, would be reflected in its 2020 accounts, which will be published next October.
Cooney and McInerney pass on winning mentality to sons
When Galway last won back-to-back All-Ireland senior hurling titles in 1987 and 1988, Joe Cooney and Gerry McInerney and their team-mates were giants living in a world of ordinary men. There was no social media, yet they were iconic figures known the width and breadth of the country.
As former masters of the game, they still enjoy cult status. That will never change although both were more than happy to pass on the torch when the Tribesmen ended the 29-year famine for the Liam McCarthy Cup last September.
What made it even more enjoyable was that both had sons involved in that historic success – Joseph Cooney and Gearoid McInerney – as they will have again today. As they recounted earlier this week, it was, in some small way, like getting to relive those glory days again.
GMc: Ah, it was. It was mighty. There was a bit of ‘been there, done that’ and it was good to be able to give them that bit of advice. If they ask your advice, at least you might know. So, it was good.
JC: You would enjoy it a bit more when you are looking in at it rather than being caught up in it. It was even nicer because you could take it all in. And you would have relived some of the memories from our own time as well. So, we got to be both sides of the fence. It was a relief really though (last year). When we won it, I also remember it was a pure relief. You would never think at any time that you might get to tog out in an All-Ireland final at Croke Park – and win one. We were able to do that and we were awful lucky that way. That we were there ourselves and then to have the lads involved last year was great. It really was something else. Unbelievable.
SG: Times have changed since those All-Ireland victories in the 1980s – no more so than in hurling. Are you blown away with the amount of sports science going into a team’s preparation now?
JC: To a certain point, it has changed completely but, at the same time, when you hit the pitch and the ball is thrown in, it is the same. It is about the ball. You have to go and win your area, win the ball, get your scores and stop scores. It all comes down to those 70 minutes. That is the way it is. So, it hasn’t changed that way.
GMc: I suppose, whatever was going on at the time, you were going to do it. And it was different times when we were playing. You had to go with the flow. That was the way it was. It was a man’s game – and still is too. You still have to stand up for yourself and if you don’t you will be walked over. No matter what you are at now, be it hurling or life, you have to stand up for yourself every day.
SG: From your own experiences in ‘87 and ‘88, how difficult is it to put titles back-to-back?
JC: To keep yourself right for the two years was the thing. Probably, you might think you were going better than you were and you might take the foot off for a small bit but you can’t afford to do that now. I don’t think these lads are doing it now. They have been fairly consistent and they are hard to beat.
I suppose, it is hard to keep it right when you are after winning it; every team is trying to beat you and pick holes in you. So, you have to be able to stand up to that and that is the difference when you are up there. Everyone wants to knock you and it gets harder and harder and harder.
For me, though, there is a great mix in this team and you need that when you are playing. We had a good mix of players and these guys seem to be the same as well. Also, when you are after winning one, you will get it into your head too that you are harder to beat. That is the way these lads are now and we were probably the same.
SG: Do you ever feel disappointed that the three-in-a-row didn’t materialise, particularly given much of it was down to circumstances – such as the referee – outside your control?
GMc: We probably took our eye off the ball as well. We could have beaten them (Tipperary, 1989 All-Ireland semi-final) – referee and all.
JC: There was not a whole pile in that game . . .
GMc: No Joe, there was not. 1989, the refereeing was putrid but you could say the refereeing in 1990 was no better. He gave frees for nothing. But we took our eyes off the ball in 1990.
SG: You had an unbelievable first half against Cork in the 1990 All-Ireland final Joe, so for you it must have been even more disappointing?
JC: That was just how the game went. We didn’t get as many opportunities in the second half. But they were definitely two matches and two years that we left it behind us.
GMc: But this team is far more focused. They have it upstairs. They have that mental strength. There is no messing and it is tunnel vision. If we were minded like that we would have gone on and won as many titles as Kilkenny. I mean, you have to pull in the reins an odd time but, in fairness to these lads, it is very professional and very well run.
SG: Why you think you might have lost focus? Was it a West of Ireland thing?
GMc: We were always confident going up. Weren’t we Joe, in fairness? It wasn’t upstairs.
JC: No, but you have to take your chances when you are there. It doesn’t come around that often. You will get a few years and that is it. You have to do it. The last one we won was in ’88 and we were still young enough but we didn’t win one again until last year. We thought, surely to God, we would get another one before we finished. So, when you are there, you have to make the best of it.
Galway teams named for All-Ireland hurling double header
There is one change on the Galway Senior team that meets Waterford in Sunday All Ireland Final. Ardrahan’s Johnny Glynn starts his first game since the 2015 All Ireland Final with Niall Burke being named on the bench. Glynn came on against Tipperary in the All Ireland Semi Final.
Elsewhere, the Team is along expected lines with Daithi Burke and Gearoid McInerney manning the central defensive positions, while Johnny Coen and David Burke continue their midfield partnership.
Joe Canning and Conor Cooney will operate at centre and full forward respectively, with Cathal Mannion, Joseph Cooney and Conor Whelan all joining Johnny Glynn in attack.
1 Colm Callanan
2 Adrian Tuohy
3 Daithi Burke
4 John Hanbury
5 Padraig Mannion
6 Gearoid McInerney
7 Aidan Harte
8 Johnny Coen
9 David Burke Captain
10 Joseph Cooney
11 Joe Canning
12 Johnny Glynn
13 Conor Whelan
14 Conor Cooney
15 Cathal Mannion
Meanwhile, the Galway Minor hurling team to play Cork in Sunday’s All-Ireland Minor Hurling Final has been announced.
There is one change from the side that beat Kilkenny in the semi-final with Cappataggle’s Donal Mannion coming in to the team in place of Conor Molly.
Throw-in in Croke Park for the Minor final is 1.15pm.
The team in full is:
- Darach Fahy (Ardrahan)
- Darren Morrissey (Sarsfields )
- Daniel Loftus (Turloughmore)
- Caimin Killeen (Loughrea)
- Ronan Glennon (Mullagh)
- Conor Caulfield (Kilconieron)
- Mark Gill (Castlegar)
- John Fleming (Meelick Eyrecourt )
- Conor Fahey (Padraig Pearses)
- Sean Bleahene (Ahascragh-Fohenagh)
- Conor Walsh (Turloughmore)
- Ben Moran (Tynagh-Abbey Duniry)
- Donal Mannion (Cappataggle)
- Jack Canning (Portumna)
- Martin McManus (Loughrea)