There is no game on earth to compare with hurling, for speed, skill, artistry, movement, and athleticism. Fitness also plays a big part in the game. The Galway teams who played in the 1923 and 1924 finals spent an incredible almost 13 weeks together in Rockfield House, between Craughwell and Athenry. There, they lived like Trappist monks with a 6am reveille sounded by team manager and county board chairman, Tom Kenny, who arrived each dawn in his pony and trap from Craughwell. Out of bed and into a cold bath was the order of the day, and the first exercise was followed by a drink of cold water laced with ‘health salts’ before a solid hour’s toning up physical exercises supervised by trainer Jack Berry. Breakfast of the plainest food, with brown bread the major ingredient, followed at 10am. After an hour’s rest, the team and substitutes played and practised hurling with the free-takers perfecting their art with countless shots at goal from all distances and angles.
Dinner — again a Spartan repast as luxuries were unknown or unavailable in those troubled days in Ireland’s history — followed at 1pm. Afterwards, the men rested for an hour. Later they were taken for a session of running, with some leg strengthening stints along the sleepers of the adjoining Athenry-Craughwell railway line. For ‘relaxation’ later, they had the use of a splendid ball alley in Rockfield House, and after supper, there were card playing sessions and reading before lights out at 10pm. Drink was absolutely unknown at Rockfield, and with the nearest pub three miles away, and money scarce, nobody took a drink.
It certainly worked in 1923 as Galway brought home the McCarthy Cup for the first time. The Galway team we have for you today is one that played against Dublin at Croke Park in 1949. I don’t know if they had a training regime like the men of the 1920s, but many of them won Oireachtas medals in 1950 and 1952, and a National Hurling League medal in 1951. They are, front row, left to right: MJ (Inky ) Flaherty, Fr Paddy Gantley (who played under the name Paddy Gardiner ), Dr Joe Glynn (Oranmore ), Tommy Moroney, Michael Joe Badger, Dick Quinn, Tom Boyle, and J Murphy. At the back are Miko McInerney, Mick Sylver (selector ), W Keane, Mickey Hughes, Hubert Gordon, Frank Flynn, John Killeen, W Fogarty, Seán Duggan, and Jack Whelan (county secretary ). Joe Egan from High Street came on as a sub, and initially the Dublin supporters jeered him because of his size and weight, but the jeers turned to cheers when they saw how light on his feet he was as he sprinted past the Dublin players carrying the ball out of defence on his hurley.
The current Galway team have played their way into this year’s League final against Cork in Thurles. Let us hope that many followers turn up to support them in spite of the attitude of the GAA, which by timing the throw in for 7pm, seems to care not a whit for the average supporters, whether they be from Cork or Galway.