“Full back is Noel Tierney of sturdy proportions,
Have you ever beheld him in orbital flight
As he soars to the sky in magnificent fielding
To clear down the centre, a wonderful sight.”
A verse there from a ballad composed by Mícheál Ó Corbáin in ómós to the Galway football team, All Ireland champions of 1964. The very term ‘full back’ could have been invented for Noel Tierney. He had many gifts, but it was his fielding that was most memorable, as he soared into the air with those long hands of his and seemed to catch almost everything that came his way and clear it to safety. Just look at this photograph taken during the All-Ireland final of 1964 against Kerry... he is head and shoulders over the opposition. Also in the picture are Bosco McDermott, Mick O’Dwyer of Kerry, and Seán Meade.
Galway had beaten Sligo, Mayo, and Meath to get to the final. Kerry were hot favourites, but Galway opened brilliantly with four points from Cyril Dunne, and they led by 0-7 to 0-3 at half time. Kerry threw everything at them in the second half but a terrific save by Johnny Geraghty and a superb defence marshalled by team captain John Donnellan held firm, and Galway won by 0-15 to 0-10. Their teamwork and combination were a joy for Galway supporters to behold. As Mick Dunne wrote in the Irish Press, “This was a victory complete and undeniable, untarnished by ‘ifs’ or ‘might have beens’, and splendidly achieved by a team without a weakness”.
The team was Johnny Geraghty, Enda Colleran, Noel Tierney, Bosco McDermott, John Donnellan, Seán Meade, Martin Newell, Mick Garrett, Mick Reynolds, Cyril Dunne, Mattie McDonagh, Séamus Leyden, Christy Tyrrell, Seán Cleary, and John Keenan. The subs were Frank McLaughlin, Kieran O’Connor, Michael Coen, Pat Donnellan, Brian Geraghty, Tom Sands, and Tommy Keenan. Pat Donnellan sat out the entire championship with an injured knee. During the championship, Galway used only one sub, Michael Moore for Johnny Geraghty, in the Sligo game. The team managers were Frank Stockwell, Brendan Nestor, and John ‘Tull’ Dunne. This team went on to win two more All-Irelands in 1965 and 1966.
Sadly, during the game, John Donnellan’s father Mick (himself a former Galway captain ) died, and later that day it was discovered that another former Galway captain, Mick Higgins, had passed away while watching the game on television.
This photograph is one of many superb illustrations in a newly published book entitled The GAA, County by County written by Mike Cronin, Mark Duncan, and Paul Rouse, the team who produced The GAA, A People’s History a few years ago. This new title has a brief history and recounts some of the sporting highlights of every county in Ireland, but it is the photographs that really steal the show, a marvellous collection of images of players old and new, male and female, of supporters and spectators, of celebrations and pitches. This book is a must for every GAA fan, an ideal gift for any member of your family abroad. It is published by Collins Press and is available in good bookshops.
Birdwatch Ireland is hosting an illustrated lecture in the Anno Santo Hotel tomorrow evening, October 21, at 8pm. The title is ‘Barn Owls, their habits and habitats’ and it will be given by John Lusby who is the raptor conservation officer with Birdwatch Ireland. All are welcome.