There was sadness in Tuam and Galway this week with the end of an era for Galway football with the death of the great Frank Stockwell at the age of 80 after a long battle with illness. Frankie was the second member of a foot-balling double act, which was almost as famous and successful as Laurel and Hardy in their prime.
The famed “Terrible Twins” – Stockwell and Purcell -inspired their beloved Tuam Stars to a record seven Galway SFC titles in a row from 1954 to 1960, and Galway to the 1956 All-Ireland final where Stockwell, lining out at full-forward scored 2-5 in their glorious win over Cork on a score-line of 2-13 to 3-07. Stockwell's 2-5 was never beaten in a 60 minute final. Indeed such was the high regard that they were held in Tuam, that two new roads in Tuam were named after them over the past decade. Those two men cast a long and glorious shadow on Galway football over the past 40 years with their famed skill, success, and humility. Even after the exploits of the three-in-a-row team, those men were still mentioned regularly as the benchmark for talent and sportsmanship. Hopefully they are back re-united and selling a few dummies and hitting a few scores again up in headquarters this week. We will not see their like again. Ní bheidh ar leitheidí arís ann.
All Ireland club final’s the day of days
Since I packed in competitive football the most regular question that I have been asked on numerous occasions is;
“Which was better? – Winning the All-Ireland with your club? Or with your county?” Both are special obviously, however making the trip to Croke Park with men that you have played with since you were knee high to a grass-hopper is a very special thing and one that you hold closer to your heart in many ways than the bonds that are there at inter-county level.
If you look at Portumna or Crossmaglen this weekend, you have lots of brothers, cousins, close families, and a whole community of hurling and football people and their supporters heading off up the road to represent their place on a national stage. The obvious names for Portumna are the Cannings, the Hayes and the Smiths. And let’s be honest here, it is the big name players who invariably get most of the headlines, nevertheless, there are numerous other families, business people, committee members, club officers, in the back-ground doing Trojan work to keep the show on the road.
It is hard to believe that Portumna only won their first Intermediate Galway county title in 1992 after the heartbreak of losing two finals, one a replay at that grade, and their first Galway senior title did not arrive until 2003.
And yet here they are, six years later, now on the cusp of winning their third All-Ireland senior title in four years. That is rapid progression by any yardstick and proves that with the right application, work-rate, and commitment, clubs can make serious advancement.
Where there is a will, there is a way
It is impossible to look past the Galway men in the hurling final against De La Salle of Waterford and after their filleting of Ballyhale Shamrocks and their tally of 5-11 they are completely un-backable and are already in the winners enclosure in most people’s eyes. Will the De La Salle rearguard will be able to close out the stupendous talent and scoring potential that is in the Portumna attack?
I have my doubts. Damien Hayes hit 2-1, Joe Canning 2-5, Kevin Hayes 0-2, and all the other forwards scored, while Leo Smith also joined the scalping party from midfield with a point against the Shamrocks. With such an omnipotent attack and with a very powerful half-back line of Gareth Heagney, Micheal Ryan, and Aidan O’Donnell providing plenty of supply, Portumna are odds on favourites to become the third Galway club to record back-to-back All Ireland victories. In the football, it is difficult not to look past the All-Ireland final specialists Crossmaglen even though I think that Kilmacud Crokes will put it up to the Armagh men.