In sport when your team cross that white line, the amount you can do for them is reduced by about 90 per cent. Months and nights of training, in all kinds of weather, to prepare them for all eventualities puts your desires at the centre of theirs, but once they cross that white line, once the whistle blows, you can only but hope that what has been said to them and drilled into them will be retained so that it becomes instinctive. In that regard, you want those teams who represent you to be bright, intelligent, to be able to retain the importance of what you have stressed, and to use it when most opportune.
This afternoon, 10 people will go forth to represent Galway in what could be the biggest match of them all, one that will leave an imprint on this region for generations. They will leave their chairs and stand in front of a panel of judges and make a case for Galway. And for 30 minutes they will put forward all that is contained in the bid book to make sure Galway gets into the final shortlist for the European Capital of Culture designation.
And I hope that when they walk smartly out of that room in Dublin Castle, that they will have conveyed to the judges just how much this all means to us and to the next generation of custodians of our culture. That is us. We are all custodians, creaters and consumers of our culture. And Galway is at the heart of all of this. It is a reason we live here and work here. It is a beating heart for Irish culture. So I want the Galway team to not leave anything on the pitch. Give it your all.
Tell them how much we want this. I mean we want this. That it’s not a case of we’d like this, but that we bloody want this. And we want this because we know we can make it the best Capital of Culture ever, one that will last a hundred years, one that won’t fade at the first strike of midnight on January 1, 2021. Have ye told them that we’re not just putting on a show to prove that we like culture, but that we are of culture. That for every beer mat in Neachtains, there’s a potential Man Booker Prize winner scratching away at a manuscript in the corner; that for every plucked guitar string at the Wilde statue, there’s an Ed Sheeran singing outside the Treasure Chest; that rock stars and pop stars and film stars can stroll the streets of Galway and we don’t gawk, because we know they are of culture, so we let them enjoy ours. Have ye told them that by granting us this incredible honour we will hand it carefully to our children who will hand it to their children’s children and who will ensure that Galway is always a place of the arts — a microcosm of the culture of Ireland, a place as far west as you can get in Europe where you can escape to and dream. Have you told them that it’s not about the money or the pubs or bednights - that we’d do it for nawthing because we all firmly believe that Galway is the true cultural capital of Ireland.
Have you told them that this accolade would mean so much to us, a real city which resounds in our heads, a soundtrack of music and song and dance and poetry. Have you told them that there’s a streak of daycent honest to goodness madness in many of us who live here by the banks of the Corrib, a sort of eccentricity created by the mixture of fantasy and reality, that odd juxtaposition of life’s characteristics.
Have ye told them that this bid book is not the exclusive preserve of the academic liberals or the artified crustified hippified singer songwriter poet author types. That its soul belongs to everyone who went along to a Speak Out this year. Or everyone who said something good to someone going along to a Speak Out this year. That the words within it contain the heartbeat of the towns and villages of Galway, from the people who did not always know they were of culture. That the strange things they do would form part of it are colourful threads on the rich tapestry of Galway’s uniqueness.
I hope you have told them this and more. And that they will get the opportunity to find this out for themselves when they stroll our streets. Good luck Team Galway2020. You walk from your seats with the hopes of us all on your shoudlers. Bear them well, throw back the lugs, clear the throat and bellow forth with the heartiest of voices “Galway is THE Capital of Culture and this is why….”