Hurling is more than just a game, it is the most Irish thing we have apart from our language, a national passion which is woven deeply into the social fabric of Irish society, an icon of Irish culture, a game that is played for pride, not money.
Séamus King, in his excellent book The History of Hurling, has a reference to the game from Irish verbal history dating back to 1200BC. Legend has it that both Cúchulain and Fionn MacCumhaill, and the Fianna, played it. In ancient times, teams representing neighbouring villages involving hundreds of players played matches lasting several hours. This probably laid the foundation for the great strength of the GAA, the ‘pride of the parish’, ‘the pride of the street’. The rules of the game were drawn up with the foundation of the GAA. Not every county plays hurling, but Galway was involved from the beginning, and featured in the first All-Ireland final.
The minor championship, played by hurlers under 18, started in 1928. It is played for the Irish Press Cup, and is seeded in the sense that the champions of Munster and Leinster are in opposite sides of the draw, as are Galway and the champions of Ulster. Galway teams have featured in no fewer than 27 minor finals, though it took them a long time to win one. The breakthrough came in 1983 when they beat Dublin in the final by 10 points to 7. They won it again in 1992, 1994, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, and 2009, placing them fourth on the list of championships won behind Kilkenny, Cork, and Tipperary.
The Galway minor team return to Croke Park for another All-Ireland final this Sunday, so we thought to show you a team that represented us in 1965. In those days, they played in the Munster Championship. They beat Clare in their first game by 3-8 to 2-3, but they lost to Tipperary in the provincial semi-final by 5-8 to 3-9. They are, back row, left to right: Jimmy Duggan, Justin Derivan, Michael Bond, John Connolly, Tommy Madden, Ted Murphy, Tommy Lucas, Michael O’Connell, and Michael John Hurney. In front are Padraig Fahy, Ignatius Harney, Sean Cannon, Frank O’Brien, Tom Cloonan, Enda Lohan, Tom Carty, and Joe McLoughlin. Missing from the photograph was Frank Canning from Portumna.
This is one of the many photographs that illustrate John Joe Conwell’s excellent book entitled Hearts of Oak, on the history of hurling in Portumna.
Hopefully our minors will have a big support on Sunday, and let us celebrate them, whether they win or lose.
The Old Galway Society starts its season of lectures on Thursday of next week, September 8, in the Mercy Convent, Newtownsmyth, at 8.30pm. The title of the talk is ‘Galway, a World of Heritage’, and it will be given by Jim Higgins, Galway heritage officer. All are welcome.