The All-Ireland Minor Gaelic Football Championship for under-18 boys was introduced in the late 1920s by the GAA, the first champions were Clare in 1929.
Galway won the title for the first time in 1952. The weather was so bad on the day of the final that the minor game was cancelled. The senior game was played but it ended in a draw, so the minors lined out against Cavan before the replay of the senior game. Galway, who were captained by Brian Mahon of Dunmore McHales, won the game by 2 – 9 to 1 – 6.
Our second victory came in 1960 when the team led by Seán Cleary beat Cork by 4 – 9 to 1 -5. Ten years later, Joe Corcoran of St Michael’s was the captain of the team that drew with Kerry 1- 8 to 2 - 5, but Galway won a thrilling replay by a single point, 1- 11 to 1 – 10. Our fourth title came in 1976 when we beat Cork by 1 – 10 to 0 – 6. Gerry Burke from Corofin was the captain who raised the Tom Markham Cup in Croke Park.
In 1986 it was the turn of John Joyce from the Salthill/Knocknacarra club to lift the trophy as Galway beat Cork by 3 – 8 to 2 – 7. Our most recent winning final was against Derry in 2007 when Paul Conroy from St James’ Club led the team to a one point victory, 1 – 10 to 1 – 9.
So today we have for you a photograph of the star-studded 1960 champions. Six members of the team had already won All-Ireland Colleges medals with St Jarlath’s College, Tuam. The legendary three-in-a-row senior team of the sixties greatly benefited from this minor side as several of the players went on to distinguish themselves at the higher level. The minors’ first championship game was in Tuam Stadium on June 26 when they beat Mayo by 2 – 6 to 0 – 4. They next defeated Sligo by 3 – 8 to 1 – 7, and in the Connacht final which was held in Sligo, they beat Roscommon by 4 – 11 to 0 – 3. In the semifinal in Croke Park, they beat Offaly by 2 – 12 to 2 – 3 and so went on to the final where they were the victors over Cork by 4 – 9 to 1 – 5. As you can see, they won all of their games by substantial margins.
The team was, front row, from the left: Johnny Gavin, Enda Colleran, Gabriel Cohan, Christy Tyrrell, Sean Cleary, Gerry Prendergast, Eamonn Slattery, Andy Donnelly. Back row: Michael King, Larry O’Brien, Johnny Smith, Seamus Leyden, Harry Anderson, Noel Tierney, and Tony Ryan.
Johnny Geraghty once asked Ollie Shanley, a gifted footballer from County Meath, what was it like being marked by Enda Colleran. Ollie quoted St Patrick’s Breastplate... “Christ to the left of me, Christ to the right of me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ no matter which way I looked, Enda was right beside me.” What a wonderful compliment to one of our greatest footballers.
So let us hope that, on Sunday, Desmond Conneely from the Moycullen club can become the seventh Galway captain to raise the Tommy Markham Cup. He and his fellow minor footballers have already done their county proud, so let’s give them all the support we can this weekend.