The Sporting Year of 2021

The European Super Soccer League was announced on Sunday April 19. It would be the Bees Knees, the Cat’s Pyjamas, the last word, and whatever you’re having yourself. But it was dead and buried by Wednesday April 21 thanks to the vocal fury of the English fans and even Boris helped save the day! And then the American owners started issuing apologies, pathetic. Relegation, yea, there’s an idea.

We remember Brother Linus who died on March 13. The Bish teacher spent a lifetime promoting the game of rugby and at times it was tough going. He fought to the end. Thanks Linus.

* Well done to Kevin Dowling from the Laser Swimming Club who has been elected president of Swim Ireland. The Waterford native has loads of ideas for the development of the game. We wish him well. We salute Emma Slevin, who became the first Irish woman ever to qualify for the finals of the European Gymnastics Championships. She enjoyed the title of ‘Rising Star of the Year’, but had to endure a long lay-off before the European games in Basel with a stress fracture in her back. Fingers crossed for the World Championships in Japan in October. What a house! Her twin sister Kate is a leading football and soccer star with Galway. Kate played soccer for Ireland too. Emma finished in the top 20 in the Women's All Around Final at the Gymnastics World Championships in Japan a month ago. Her international record is truly extraordinary. Sports star of the year?

Sarah Quinn of NUIG and St Colman’s AC Mayo was a member of the Irish 4x200m relay team that won a silver medal at the world relays championships in Silesia Poland. She earlier helped the Irish women's 4x100m relay team to a new Irish record at the same championships.

The NHL started on the weekend of May 8 and the NFL commenced on the weekend of May 15. Our hurlers walloped Westmeath (5-34 to 1-16 ), while our footballers were walloped by Kerry (4-21 to 0-11 ) on their first outings.

David Clifford played Paudeen with three goals, in fact he had 3-6 to his credit. And the brother Paudie scored another goal. Our hurlers beat the All Ireland champions Limerick (0-26 to 1-17 ). Evan Niland scored 0-14. Every one of them a placed ball. He had 0-13 against Westmeath with 10 from frees. The good times.

Aifric Keogh and Fiona Murtagh are going to Tokyo for the Olympics as of Sunday May 16 having qualified in Lucerne, now just 67 days away. Six crews, 11 rowers, not bad. Our girls in the four boat beat China, Italy, Germany and Ukraine. Now what can go wrong? On Friday the June 18 iit was announced they had their seats confirmed in the boat for Tokyo. They were joined by sprinters Cillin Greene and Robert McDonnell of the Galway City Harriers club together with Cathal Daniels with Rioghan Rua on the equestrian team. It was the biggest Irish Olympic team ever with 116 athletes competing in 19 different sports. Mustn’t forget Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers RFC ) who was a member of the Irish rugby Sevens squad. And we congratulate canoeist Patrick O’Leary and cyclist Ronan Grimes who made it to the Paralympics. The past President Pat Hickey himself would hardly be able to keep track.

* Zak Moradi. Leitrim hurler drives a BMW. True or false? True. Sligo Rovers have big plans for the Showgrounds development. Sligo RFC want to bring the Connacht Rugby team to the Sportsground, correction, to the Showgrounds in turn. Can’t fault ambition. True or false? True. And then Sligo Rovers went top of the League of Ireland table, true or false? True. Denis Buckley won his 200th cap v Benetton on Saturday May 29. Now third in line after John Muldoon (327 ) and Michael Swift (269 ). Unfortunately he lasted just 32 seconds. As a consequence he missed out on the last game of the season against Ospreys, caused by an injured knee. He’ll be back next season, but time and luck is running out for the Roscommon Barbarian who has missed out on the cap (well so far ) he so richly deserved. Connacht had their last game of the season against Ospreys in the Rainbow Cup on Friday of the June Bank Holiday. But it was without Denis Buckley. Yet the game was a cracker in a deserted Sportsground. Connacht won 26-19, four tries to three tries. We said good bye to coaches Nigel Carolan and Jimmy Duffy and we applauded Shane Delahunt on reaching his 100th cap. Delahunt even scored the first try of the evening. Jack Carty’s kicking was immaculate. As we said 26-19 at full time and it was also 26-19 at half time. Yes and the second half was even better than the first half. We had a look at loads of replacements and discussed two yellow cards, one to each side.

Billy Clery stepped down from Galway WFC duties mid season so what do we do then? Duty calls and into the breach steps, well you know, Stephen Lally, who else? And life goes on. The Irish Sevens qualified for the Olympics v France (28-19 ), Sorry that the women let the Camogie League final slip against Kilkenny. But then they beat Kilkenny in the All Ireland semi-final. Galway footballers now play division two football. We let matters slip on Sunday June 13 in Clones against Monaghan 1-21 to 2-17. I suppose we’ll have to get used to it.But the hurlers beat Cork 3-25 to 2-3 Páirc Uí Chaoimh with a last 30 minute flurry of 3-13 to 0-10 on the same weekend.

The (then ) Mayor Mike Cubbard said sound men to Galway Hibs stalwarts Paddy Connolly and Joe O’Reilly for a lifetime of service to the Galway club. Peter McDonagh retired after 41 years keeping order on sporting matters in NUIG. The Gaelic games man Michael O’Connor made the presentations for his services from Fahy’s Field to Dangan. Cillin Greene (GCH ) set a new PB of 46.18 for the 400m in Geneva on Saturday June 12.

So sorry to hear that Seán O’Brien had to retire from a most promising rugby career. Capped for Ireland at under 18, under 19 and under 20 level. He captained the Ireland under 20s at the Junior World cup in 2014. He played 60 times for Connacht. He won a Connacht schools Junior cup with Calasanctius and captained Roscrea to a Leinster Schools senior Cup semi-final. And won the ‘the try of the year’ against the Scarlets. He suffered many injuries in his day, but a concussion playing with the Connacht Eagles in February decided his destiny. An awful blow to Seán himself and to his legion of well wishers. Sometimes things are just not fair.

We lost the larger than life Galway hurler the legend called Pakie Burke on Sunday June 20. Pakie played full-back for Galway for 11 years in the fifties and sixties. He captained Turloughmore to their senior county title in 1956, the first of seven titles won between 1956 and 1966. He even won a county junior medal in 1954. He played against the best from every county and on one occasion left Christy Ring scoreless from play in a Railway Cup match. Glory days. Is he in the Croke Park museum?

We’ll not welcome home Roger Rushe after a road race or any other athletic pursuit again. The Tuam AC man went to his reward on Sunday June 20. The man from Dereen Abbeyknockmoy gave great service to Tuam AC. He gave more, he gave time and encouragement to all around him. Bon voyage to Nigel Carolan who after long fruitful service with Connacht moved to Glasgow Warriors in June to continue his specialty as attack coach. We wish the former Ireland U20 head coach (2014 to 2017 ) the very best. Glasgow’s gain is our, ah you know yourself.

Hard to believe Mayo v Dublin and Tyrone v Kerry in the All Ireland football semi-finals and Waterford Limerick Cork and Kilkenny in the hurling semi-finals. We were cock sure we were going to be involved! Oh dear! We were saddened to learn of Frank Pettit’s death. Frank was a founder member of Creggs RFC, a winner of the Mr Boots Award and he was President of the Connacht Branch IRFU. He gave great service always with a smile and good humour. Good company.

The extraordinary good weather of mid July reminded us of the late Bart Faherty, who designed the diving tower at Blackrock, designed on the back of an envelope (well so they said ). Bart was the borough engineer. Jack Stewart built it and we are using it damn near every day since. Even the national television news network use it as an iconic reminder. The lifeguards were employed nearly full time regulating the jumpers. By the way Gay Heskin put on a wonderful diving exhibition on the opening day back in 1955. How about a plaque for Bart Faherty?

The damn Covid raises its ugly head all the time. The Knock Novena is called off. The Dublin City Marathon cancelled for the second year in a row.The weather was sweltering and we had to go home to watch the opening of the 32nd Olympiad in Japan and Galway’s biggest representation with five athletes, and watch the Lions in South Africa. Conor Murray stepped into the captaincy of the Lions and then gets drops for the first test. Galway played Mayo in the Connacht final. They played it in Dublin. Did it ever happen before? Don’t think so.

The good weather broke on Monday 26 July, the very day the pubs and restaurants re opened after being closed for 497 days. The Galway Races got under way, but there was nobody in attendance, well about a thousand sprinkled here and there. A thunder storm threatened the Olympic Games in Tokyo, and Galway were out of the All Ireland series in both hurling (lost to Waterford 1-30 to 3-20 ) and football (lost the Connacht final to Mayo 2-14 to 2-8 ). But incredibly two Galway women won Olympic bronze medals in the Irish Women’s Coxless Four, Aifric Keogh from Na Forbacha and Fiona Murtagh from Moycullen. Olympic medals are rare enough items in this country. Galway beat Dublin to win the Leinster U20 hurling title 2-15 to 0-15 in Portlaoise. Adam Challoner from Mountbellew won the Munster Boys U16 and was runner-up in the Irish Boys' championship. Then he teamed up with Luke Cunningham from the Galway Bay GC on the Irish Boys' U18 team for an international outing at Woodhall Spa in England. Busy man.

We lost Peter Casey on July 14. He was one of the greatest Galway soccer players ever to grace the game at any level. He covered the full canvas of the soccer world from a signing on fee of a new overcoat from Galway Hibernians to Galway Bohemians and playing for Ireland against England at Dalymount Park while enjoying a fruitful career with Blackburn Rovers under the watchful eye of Jackie Carey. And we lost Finbarr Gantley on July 16. We remember him from the successful 1980 hurling final, and much more. He set up John Ryan for the insurance point at the end of that final. He enjoyed a wonderful career with his native Beagh, Galway and with St Finbarr’s of Coventry and St Gabriel’s in London. A man of many talents, he was a joy for any team that he was involved with.

A young Connacht Golf side won the Senior Interpros back in August when beating Leinster in dramatic fashion at the Shannon Golf Club. Damien Coyne of Tuam captained the team that contained two Galway golfers in Joe Lyons and Liam Nolan. Athenry provided Allan Hill and David Kitt, Roscommon was represented by Simon Walker and Jack McDonnell, TJ Ford is from Sligo and Portumna was represented by Sam Murphy. Strange to think that Connacht has only four titles in total, 1967, 1983, 2011 and 2021. Portumna won the Connacht Senior Cup for the first time ever away to Sligo with young Sam Murphy getting the vital win. John Cleary captained the side. And the Galway Bay Golf Resort made it to the final of the AIG Womens Junior Cup. And the Connacht Boys U18 took interpro honours as well.

Dr Karen Weekes from Kinvara will be away for a while over the Christmas. She set out two weeks ago to cross the Atlantic Ocean single handed. She’ll be gone about 70 days. Keep an eye out for ‘SHECANDO2021’.IS this a record? Three sets of fathers and sons on the same team, the Galway Hockey Club. Dermot and Jack Nolan, Alan and Tom Stevens and Martin and Harry Hughes did the honours. They played a cup match against Mullingar HC recently.And we welcome a new hockey club, Athenry Swans Hockey Club for men and women.

* Congrats to Kathryn Casserly (Castlegar AC ) who won the Senior Women’s race at the Connacht Cross Country Championships at Bushfield Loughrea. Ireland had three wins from three outings in the November series of rugby internationals. Memorable ones too with Japan 60-5, New Zealand 29-20 and Argentina 53-7 all biting the dust. Ray McLoughlin died on Saturday November 20. He was 82, a Garbally College man from Ballinasloe, well a day boy from Derrymullen, he cycled the six miles to school each day. He was probably the best and most successful player ever to represent Connacht. The first Connacht man to captain Ireland and the first to be a member of the British and Irish Lions. A world leader as a prop forward, tight head. It is well documented the number of times he played for Connacht (1959-1975 ) and Ireland (1962-1975 ), but what is not documented is that during that period he suffered an injury that kept him out of the game for years. He fought his way back to full fitness and resumed at the top! But before all that he won both a Galway minor football and a hurling championship with Ballinasloe in the Sean Keely era. He was accomplished at both shot and discus and represented Ireland at the Catholic Student Games while learning his trade as a No 8 in the oval game. It is well documented that he served Gosforth in England and Blackrock College during his career. It should also have been recorded that he gave outstanding service to both Athlone and Ballinasloe with whom he won a Connacht Junior Cup in 1958 (as a No 8 of course ). Not surprising he was just as successful with his business interests and academic pursuits. It is not often we can say with conviction ‘world class’, we do so now.

Mountbellew Moylough won the county football title beating Corofin comfortably 1-12 to 0-9. It was a long wait since 1986, 35 years. A long time for Galway hero and Mountbellew Moylough manager Val Daly, who captained the side in 1986 to have to wait. It was just their fifth title in all 1964, 1965, 1974, 1986 and 2021. Naomh Anna Leitir Móir won the intermediate football championship over Dunmore Mc Hales, 2-07 to 1-9. St Thomas’ are county hurling champions again achieving their fourth in a row and their sixth in all, 2012, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021. The captain Conor Cooney led yet again by example. He scored eleven points in their 20 points to 17 points win.

Stephen O’Donnell who led St.Pats to victory in the FAI cup final, learned from the master John Joyce of Newcastle here in Galway. He’s on his way to Dundalk FC. Then I saw the heading in the local paper Molloy and Geoghegan were to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Seats in parliament maybe if I know my history! Well I was flummoxed. Ah then I figured Claire Molloy and Simon Geoghegan. That’s it, we look forward to the Six Nations, Galway v Mayo in a Connacht quarter final, and Galway v Kilkenny on May Day or thereabouts Can’t wait. Oh and a happy New Year!

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