It was something else, something raw tugging at so many heartstrings.
More than sport, much more than sport.
And that is why so many of us shed tears at the end; tears not just for the long wait that we have had to endure to see Galway back on top of the pile again, but for all the domestic emotions it reared.
Right at the centre of David Burke’s speech was the full expression of familial dependency that held this victory together. The sense of GAA family in the squad insisted that all squad players would tog out fully for the day, and take part in the pitch photo; and that they would get Celtic Crosses; Burke spoke of how as a 12-year-old, he became a dreamer within that family, when he yearned for days like this on a dais like this, hoisting silverware in front of an enthralled gathering.
And then he mentioned the Keady family, who stood bravely on the pitch on a day when tribute after tribute was paid to Tony; on a day when every fan in the ground stood up and applauded a man they saw as a giant within their game, and they did this because like the rest of us, at the end of the day, he was a man with a family, taking the utmost of delight in the simple things that make being part of a family the joy it is. David Burke spoke about how he hoped that this victory would provide a brief respite from their sadness — keeping them at the centre of this success was a beautiful gesture.
It was a day too when the trauma of depression and anxiety that strikes at many families was raised on the podium in Croke Park — an apt platform for the work of groups like Pieta House; an apt platform too, to remind all who were listening that it is better to talk, to share your trouble, to tell others what you are feeling so you can hear that everyone feels the same way. In sport, we don’t hear this message often enough; for a captain to express it on the greatest day of his life is welcome. If that speech saves one life, it will have been worth it, but you can be sure that it will save many. Well done captain, for raising it as a tribute to Niall O’Donoghue, ensuring that his memory was honoured on this day of glory.
A few moments later, I saw Joe Canning hug his parents pitchside. Only four or five weeks have passed since Joe spoke eloquently about the realities of being a star player, when some of the time you just want to be an ordinary guy experiencing ordinary family situations. The pride and love both from and for his parents was evident in the emotional scenes pitch side — a lifetime of work raising a son and a moment of appreciation for it all. This is what it is all about.
And then perhaps the most poignant moment of all, in Ballinasloe on Monday when Micheal Donoghue, normally a quiet thoughtful man who doesn’t speak if he has nothing to say; shed tears when he got the chance to show the McCarthy Cup to his parents. It was a touching moment, especially when his dad Miko held onto the cup — an emotional instant that was photographed brilliantly by Morgan Treacy of Inpho. It should win the photo of the year when you contextualise it; the proud son, the proud dad and a moment between them that should make all of us appreciate our family, our friends and good health.
There are so many reasons why we have welled up at Galway’s success on Sunday. No wonder we’re been blubbering fools all week. It was a wonderful sporting success, that made us feel great to be from or live or work or study in this part of the country.
Let us never forget the families, the long years of determination, the lifts to and from training, the countless hours of practise that went into it all — and when we do this, we appreciate it all the more.