Well, it’s been a productive weekend for the county, with two of its less heralded teams claiming significant wins. Both the hurlers and the Junior footballers had to battle for their respective victories but in both cases their hard work and effort paid off.
The hurlers looked to be well on their way to an easy enough win over Donegal up in Letterkenny in yesterday’s Nicky Rackard Cup semi-final, as they led the home side by ten points early in the second half. JP Coen’s men had to withstand a determined Donegal fightback, however, but they eventually pulled through on a scoreline of 1-18 to 2-11.
Their reward for the win is a trip to Croke Park on Saturday week (June 4th) where they’ll face Armagh in the Rackard Cup final. The Orchard County blew away Fingal (no established county nickname for them, I’m afraid) in yesterday’s other semi-final.
Seeing the hurlers trot out at HQ will, for sure, be a novel experience. According to Colm Gannon in the Mayo Advertiser – whose match report is here – this will be the hurlers’ first Croke Park outing since they met (and lost to) Kildare in the All-Ireland ‘B’ hurling final back in 2004.
Saturday week’s Rackard Cup decider is, by the way, paired with the final of the Lory Meagher Cup which sees Sligo take on Louth. A Connacht Mutual Support Pact would, I reckon, be in order for then.
Onto the Junior footballers who this afternoon at Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon beat Galway to claim the Connacht JFC title. It’s back-to-back titles for the county at this grade and an All-Ireland semi-final, against Leinster opposition, is next on the menu for them.
I caught most of the second half of today’s game on Midwest and it sounded like a fairly hard-fought tussle. There was only a point between the teams at the break – with our lads having their noses in front then – and the lead then switched sides a few times over the course of the second half.
With ten minutes to go, the Tribesmen led by one and they regained a one-point advantage with seven minutes on the clock. Down the closing straight, however, it was our lads who held their nerve better, with points from Darren Coen, Ronan Mallee and Coen again (a free) sealing a gutsy two-point win.
Colm Gannon’s match report on this one for the Mayo Advertiser is here.
Well done to both teams and the best of luck to them from here on in their respective quests for national honours.
Finally, it’s only right to acknowledge the sad passing in the early hours of yesterday morning of that great Galway GAA man Joe McDonagh, at the untimely age of just 62.
Joe McDonagh will rightly be remembered principally as an energetic and effective President of the GAA between 1997 and 2000. I think, though, that those of us of a certain age will forever recall him more readily as the Galway hurler who belted out a specially tailored version of The West’s Awake in the Hogan Stand just after Joe Connolly had taken possession of the Liam McCarthy Cup for the Tribesmen in September 1980 and who had himself just made an acceptance speech that would go down in history.
Although this was – and remains – an event quite rightly owned and celebrated by Galway folk, it was also a day that few west of the Shannon will forget and one that most would look back on with considerable fondness. Rest in peace, Joe, and thanks for carving your place amidst the hurling immortals in such a unique fashion: