Just six years and a few months ago, Noel Grealish walked along the prom in Salthill. He strolled alone, deep in his thoughts. It was a balmy summer evening, the likes of which we can only now drool about. For that short walk, many thoughts went through his mind on this, one of the most important evenings of his life.
He strolled undisturbed, because at that moment, he could. Not many people recognised him. For a brief respite, there was no-one pumping a handshake and asking for a favour. Nobody knew that just a few hundred yards away in Leisureland, the vote counters were about to confirm a result that would change his life.
He hadn’t brought in a suit with him, because to be honest, he hadn’t really positively expected to win. He had hoped that he could take the last seat but it would require a massive vote collapse from Margaret Cox, and an unbelievable showing from himself and his team. They had to be at their very best and they were.
This week, Noel could do with another walk along the Prom to collect his thoughts before he makes the decision that will again change his life and re-shape Galway politics for some time to come. If as expected he makes the jump to Fianna Fail, he will complete a team of three FF TDs in the Galway West constituency who have strong seats and who look like they intend to hold on to them for a while.
Noel was meant to meet with his party colleagues last night, look them in the eye and tell them how he felt — a decision that would no doubt be quickly released to the public. However, the death of a neighbour and close friend resulted in that meeting being cancelled, but before long, in the coming days, that eye contact will have to be made. And with Biffo’s Travelling Circus in town next week, it would be remarkable choreography if he were to be unveiled as the new pony.
It is ironic that one of the great nights of the PDs was in Galway, on that momentous occasion in Leisureland when Bobby strode onto the stage and made his declaration — and now a quarter century or so later, it will be in Galway that the fate of the party will be decided.
To that end, it will be very insensitive if Noel is unveiled in the Clayton next week, hammering the final nail in the coffin.
In football parlance, Noel is akin to Dimitar Berbatov, the enigmatic Bulgarian striker who left Tottenham this summer to join Manchester United. Like Berbatov, Noel will, if he jumps ship, be joining a stronger team, a team that can provide more for him that his current outfit, who can put in better crosses and provide more open goals. More importantly, they are a team that has the means and the support necessary to ensure that he stays elected for a long long time.
Whatever decision he comes to, and it is looking increasingly likely it will be one to leave, his departure will reverberate more in Galway politics than anywhere else in the country, because the ramifications for the other PD councillors are massive.
Many will flip to other parties and the tensions that this will increase, just nine months out from an election will make for many interesting spats. The grassy Noel could be the platform for many a political assassination in the days and months ahead.