It was the first of many that eventually would follow. Castlegar senior hurlers set the standard, winning Galway's first All Ireland senior club hurling crown in 1980, a competition previously dominated by Cork clubs since 1970. It took 11 years before another Galway club, Kiltormer, would succeed, while Sarsfields, Athenry, Portumna Clarinbridge, and St Thomas have all having delighted hurling fans throughout the county, demonstrating the strength of the game in the west of Ireland.
All-Ireland victory at last
Galway Advertiser 5 June 1980
At last Galway's resurgence in the game of hurling is bearing fruit. No longer is winning such a big deal. All the old myths are being cast aside slowly but surely. Cork or Munster hurlers hold no special fears. And it has all happened on the field of play.
Last Sunday Castlegar senior hurlers brought Galway hurling its first senior All-Ireland win since 1923. It has been a long wait. The result at Navan, after a close enough encounter, was Castlegar 1-11, Ballycastle McQuillans 1-8.
Congratulations are then in order for every man on this winning team. So let me parade them all now. Tommy Grogan, superb goalkeeper and genial shop executive; Ted Murphy ever-reliable staunch and true; Padhraic Connolly; John Coady, solid as a rock; Gerry Glynn, one of the stars supreme in this year's campaign; John Connolly, master hurler, doyen of Galway; Michael Glynn, the star in the win over Blackrock; Tom Murphy, versatile in all sports; Seamus Fahy; Jimmy Francis; Joe Connolly, still playing the best hurling of his career; Pakie Connor, Gerry Connolly, ever-improving; Michael Connolly, the captain who has recovered so well and whose availability is such a boon to the county team this year; Liam Mulryan, the popular auctioneer whose goal meant so much last Sunday; and finally substitute Patrick Burke.
The historic hurling area of Castlegar received its greatest ever boost last Sunday, but it was that superb win over "The Rockies' in Athenry the previous Sunday that really laid the foundation stone for victory
But titles are not won in semi-finals, and we in Galway hurling have grown too used to winning titles for others. So there were understandable fears and anxieties that the final might once again prove frustrating. It didn't. Let me never again hear about the curse on Galway hurling. That was a safety valve in the past. We don't need it now.
Even Bob McDonald (Connacht Tribune ), who believes "nostalgia is a thing of the past", will forgive me if I delve into Castlegar's hurling folklore and recall some of the men who built the tradition of hurling in the area.
Castlegar, even before last Sunday, was known throughout Ireland in the same way as Boherlahan, Carrigtwohill, Bennetsbridge, Moycarkey, Ahane, so often spoken of by Micheal O'Hehir. There were no All-Ireland SH club championships in the days of Matt Hackett, Bill Cullinane, the Fahys, Connors, Gilmores, Molloys, Egans, Shaughnessys, the Nolans, Burkes, Abbertons. Yet it was the great hurling skill and prowess of men like Matt Hackett, Willie Fahy, Mickey Burke, Johnny Molloy, Padhraic Nolan, Seamus Cullinane, Paddy Egan, Stephen Francis, Mickey Glynn, Eddie Abberton, Ted Murphy (of the present team ), who soldiered down the years to build that great tradition.
It was they who sowed the seeds of ambition in the present squad and made hurling a way of life in the area. All these men and the teams of the past deserve congratulations for keeping the hurling torch alight. But it was last Sunday's victory which put the seal on Castlegar hurling history. I hope the victory is captured in verse for posterity.
So fitting too that Galway's most celebrated hurler of today, John Connolly, should get an All-Ireland medal at last. The man who is compared so often with Mick King, Paddy Gantley and Joe Salmon has so often been frustrated in the past. All his old experience and skill bore fruit in the last two games to inspire his team-mates to All-Ireland triumph. Galway's hurling king has come home in triumph at last.
Antrim, so often the Cinderella of hurling, and the county to maintain a great hurling interest over the years, deserve credit for their great efforts to promote the game despite so much adversity and lack of competition. Their minor championship success over Kilkenny the previous Sunday will have given them new-found hope. The barriers they hope to cross are bigger than Galway's, but they are taking the right road.
In the final last Sunday they put up a marvellous show, led Castlegar once, and were only behind by a point at half-time, 0-8 to1-4. Their day will come, hopefully.
It is a great day for hurling when Galway's champions meet the Antrim standard bearers in an All-Ireland club final.
Finally congrats too to Castlegar team trainer Tony Regan, whose run of successes this year is like a fairy tale. He certainly has the winning touch. Galway hurlers would do well to employ him.