Galway supporters at the 1966 final

In 1966 Galway were fortunate to get out of Connacht by beating Mayo. To an extent they were also lucky in a hard fought semi-final against Cork. They eventually won what was regarded as the best game of football seen in years, by a score of 1-11 to 1-9. And so they were into their fourth All-Ireland final in a row and going for three wins in a row and the question was, would this team reverse the three losses in a row that Galway suffered at the hands of Kerry 1940, Kerry 1941, and Dublin in 1942? Meath still stood between them and Sam.

I was on Hill 16 that day and was nervous like everyone else, but in the event, Galway got off to a great start with John Keenan scoring a point after about a minute. Cyril Dunne then pointed from a free, and John Keenan got another before Mattie McDonagh scored a wonderful goal. Galway were really motoring now. Liam Sammon and Seamus Leyden added points before Meath finally registered their first score in the 26th minute. Cyril Dunne scored another point to leave the half-time score at Galway 1–6, Meath 1 point. The game was virtually over.

Meath improved a little in the second half, but Galway were comfortable throughout, especially in defence. Johnny Geraghty did not have to make a save until well into this half. Everyone on that team was a hero that day, and from our perspective Noel Tierney was the man of the match. The game was tough, but generally clean and sporting with Galway victorious by five points at the end.

The team was Johnny Geraghty, Mountbellew; Enda Colleran, Mountbellew; Noel Tierney, Milltown; Bosco McDermott, Williamstown; Cóilín McDonagh, Fr Griffins; Seán Meade, Ballinasloe; Martin Newell, Fr Griffins; Jimmy Duggan, Claremorris; Pat Donnellan, Dunmore; Cyril Dunne, Ballinasloe; Mattie McDonagh, Ballygar; Seamus Leyden, Dunmore; Liam Sammon, Fr Griffins; Sean Cleary, Ballygar; and John Keenan, Dunmore. The subs were Frank McLoughlin; John Donnellan, Dunmore, who came on as a sub; Tom Sands, Ballygar; Mick Reynolds, Tuam Stars; and Christy Tyrrell, St Pauls.

Looking at the game today, as you can do on a DVD produced by a company called Sideline (and available in good bookshops ), one is struck by how the game has changed. Thirty minutes a half seems very short, there was a lot more kicking and a lot less handpassing then, in fact in those days, you had to punch the ball. The touch judge placed the ball for sideline kicks, there was a liberal use of the drop-kick and there was a lot less cynicism in the game... no such thing as standing on the ball if a free was awarded against you. There was plenty of noise from spectators, but they were not nearly as colourful as they are today.

Our photograph today (courtesy of Fáilte Ireland ) shows some of those supporters, identified by scarves and those awful paper hats that turned your face and hair maroon when it rained. Notice the enormous transistor one is carrying. This image is just one from a remarkable collection of beautiful illustrations in a new book just published entitled The GAA, A People’s History. It was written and compiled by Mike Cronin, Mark Duncan, and Paul Rouse. This is not a book of statistics or scores or team photographs... it is about the ordinary people of the GAA, whether they be players or supporters or onlookers or hurley makers or linesmen or even buskers outside the stadium. It combines an informed and informative text with the wonderful photographs and the result is a real celebration, a quality production, the best book on the GAA since Breandán O hEithir’s Over the Bar. Very highly recommended.

The Galway Archaeological and Historical Society will host a lecture on Monday next, November 9, in the Harbour Hotel at 8pm. It will be given by Martin Jones under the intriguing title ‘From early-Medieval Industry to Early Modern Iniquity; The Archaeology of the N6 Ballinasloe to Athlone Road Scheme’. It sounds fascinating. Admission is free and all are welcome.

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