The agony and the ecstasy of Galway hurling

An elderly lady once told me that “Apart from the Irish language, we have nothing more Irish in this country than the game of hurling.” I agree. It is the greatest game of them all. It is probably the number one game in the county, attendances at senior county finals being a very good criterion — the hurling final has always been the bigger attraction than the football counterpart, “even in the balmy days of our football three-in-a-row,” according to the late Jack Mahon.

The strength of the game in our county has always come from the competitive club and schools structure, and happily the game seems to be expanding to areas of the county that would not normally be associated with hurling. Many of these young boys grow up to don the maroon and white, the county jersey, and in doing so become part of the great history of Galway hurling.

On this special weekend for the game here, we think back on all of those men who went through the agony and the ecstasy of Galway hurling down through the years, and who have given us so many wonderful memories. We think today of people like the legend that was Mick Gill; of Josie Gallagher, who for many was the greatest player Galway ever produced; of Joe Salmon, that most elegant and sporting exponent of the game; of Seanie Duggan of the “How did he do that?” saves, probably the greatest goalkeeper in the history of the game; of Billy Duffy the tireless midfielder; of that natural stylist John Connolly; of ‘that speech’ by his brother Joe; of Sylvie of “Step in here at your peril” legend; of the rock that was Conor Hayes at full back; of that warrior half back line trio of Tony Keady, Gerry McInerney, and Pete Finnerty; of Ollie Canning, who had an incredible work ethic.

There are of course many more names that could be added to that short list and everyone will have their own personal favourites. Hopefully they will be joined by several others who will make history on Sunday and join the greats of the Galway game as our minor and senior teams represent us in Croke Park. Win, lose, or draw, they deserve all of our support and thanks so let’s do our utmost to be the best 16th man the county ever had.

Our photograph today (courtesy of Michael O’Donohue ) is of the Galway minor team of 1958. They are, front row, left to right: Frank Glynn, Gerry Murray, Fintan Keane, Ned Dervan, Joe Lyons, Jimmy Hegarty, Owen Gannon, and Eamonn Keogh. Back row: Séamus Gohery, Seán Daly, Tony McDonnell, Tom Flanagan, Gabriel Egan, Carl Burke, and Robert Holland.

Get out those flags and banners, those caps and scarves and don’t forget the throat lozenges. Let’s go Galway!

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