All Ireland Hurling Final September 1980

The Connacht Tribune, Friday, September 12, 1980

By Tom Rooney

Galway Hurling Team, 1980

All—Ireland champions 1980. Back Row (left to right), Conor Hayes, Steve Mahon, John Connolly, Michael Connolly, Michael Conneely, Frank Burke, Noel Lane, Sean Silke. Front Row (left to right), Niall McInerney, Seamus Coen, Jimmy Cooney, Joe Connolly (captain), Sylvie Linnane, P. J. Molloy, Bernie Forde

Diary of a Weekend That Will Forever Live in the Memory — Home are the Heroes

Unprecedented scenes of euphoria gripped the City and County on Monday night as Galway hurlers, now folk heroes and legends, came home to a welcome unparallel in modern Irish sporting history. Old men and women, who lived to witness a life long dream wept openly as two coaches carrying their All—Ireland conquering heroes journeyed through hurling strongholds throughout the County. Bonfires blazed against the backdrop of a typical Autumnal night as the five mile long motorcade headed by a Garda squad car paraded the McCarthy Cup through the towns and villages of East Galway. But the emotion had swept across the globe. For in New York 8,000 people gathered in Gaelic Park on Sunday night to celebrate the most romantic victory in modern hurling. After the team set out on the victory trail they were greeted by a wash of maroon and white banners and blazing bonfires in the towns of Kinnegad, Kilbeggan, Tyrrells Pass, Moate and Athlone.

Up to 5,000 people headed by a brass band converged on the Shannon bridge, Athlone to see the McCarthy Cup go West of the famed river for the first time in over half a century. The delay in Athlone left thousands of home supporters hovering for hours in pockets around bonfires along the roadsides of the County hoping to catch a glimpse of their heroes. The motorcade crossed the county boundary at 9.15 p.m. and thousands of people lined the towns and villages of Ballinasloe, Kilrickle, Loughrea, Craughwell and Oranmore before the homecoming reached a crescendo at Eyre Square in the centre of Galway City.

The Mayor, Councillor Bridie O'Flaherty, members of Galway Corporation, dignitaries and up to 30,000 fans kept late night vigil in the City before their heroes finally arrived at 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

Team Captain, Joe Connolly, waving the McCarthy Cup sent currents of ecstasy humming through the air with his opening remark — "The All—Ireland champions of 1980 are Galway" and as he went on to tell the crowd: "It was for ye that we won the All—Ireland". The team stayed for about half an hour at Eyre Square before retiring to the Sacre Coeur Hotel for a mayoral reception that ended at 6.30 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

The Journey

The scenes at Eyre Square were unrivalled in the history of the City and at times the excitement reached panic proportions and several people, including Gardai, had to be treated for injuries and shock as Galway celebrated its greatest sporting achievement since the balmy years of the three—in—a—row football ride in the mid—sixties.

The journey to the victory that was to fill an almost unbreachable void in the lives of thousands of men and women and leave an indelible mark in the memories of their children, started in the City at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Two coaches owned by Michael Donoghue from Clarenbridge carried the panel of 28, their wives and girlfriends on a journey that was to result in such spectacular success.

The players were making the same journey to Dublin that they had undertaken twice in the past six years, each of which had ended in heartbreak and failure of such an extent that with the passing years the county's only All—Ireland victory (the 1923 final played in 1924) was almost becoming fictitious.

The coach journey took almost five hours but as they travelled out of the country every town and village was decorated with maroon and white banners willing them to end the long wait. And as they journeyed towards the Westmeath borders the message was clear — every county with the obvious exception of Limerick were thirsting for a Galway win. Kinnegad, Moate and Kilbeggan were bedecked with maroon and white banners expressing the hope that Galway would do it this time. But as the arduous journey was coming to an end the players' excitement and expectations were dampened by the horrific sight of a wrecked car and a van outside Leixlip, the aftermath scene of a tragic accident which claimed the lives of a Galway supporter and a Leitrim man.


The coaches reaches the team headquarters at the Clarence Hotel, just off the City centre at about 6 p.m. and after checking into their rooms the party sat down to an evening meal which they finished at 8 p.m.

Supporters from both counties invariably found their way to the quayside hotel and outside the atmosphere was already smacking of All—Ireland Final fever as rival fans invaded the capital. Back in the Clarence, the players mingled with the supporters who wanted to hear the last minute views of the men determined to change the course of the ancient game.

By now Niall McInerney and his captain Joe Connolly had departed for Na Fianna Club grounds at Moibhi Road for a dress rehearsal on their free taking.

Sean Silke and Conor Hayes among others opted for a film in a City centre cinema, while some of the players relaxed over a beer, their thoughts on the most crucial hurling game of their lives. As the night wore on the hotel became crammed with Galway supporters and a small Limerick contingent voicing their respective submission as to why their favourites would make worthy champions. It was approaching midnight and the players had gone to bed, hoping to relieve their tautened nerves and overcome the inevitable bout of insomnia.

Ticket Rush

Beneath them on the second floor resident supporters enjoyed la dolce vita, playing their own All—Ireland Final in the process. Just then a flood of Hogan and Cusack Stand tickets came back from Donegal to the grateful hands of the Galway Hurling Board Officials.

Like a rush on the stock market County Board Secretary, David McGann and Hurling Board Treasurer, Mark Heneghan were surrounded by followers in search of the gold dust.

The tickets were sold in a matter of minutes and as the Limerick section becomes slowly inebriated the background chorusing gained in momentum.

It's 1.30 a.m. and the singing goes on. Tuam manager, Cyril Farrell and selector Bernie O'Connor appeal for quiet explaining to the gathering that the players were trying to get some sleep. Their appeals were heeded and the talk of the big game continued before the last of the residents finally retired around 4 a.m. on All—Ireland Final morning.

The big day arrives and the players enjoy a light breakfast before Fr. Iggy Clarke celebrates Mass for the team at 10 a.m. on the second floor of the hotel.

The panel depart in their coach at 11 a.m. for the Phoenix Park for a light workout to acclimatise themselves to the damp drizzly conditions.

The players returned from the Phoenix Park at mid—day and the appearance of the sun through the Metropolitan cloud is the first good omen for the day. After a light meal the players gather their equipment, the supporters give them their best wishes and it's onwards to Croke Park. The crowds are already pouring into the stadium as the team arrives shortly after the throw—in for the minor match.

The Pageantry

The minor decider is drawing to a close and there are no more tickets available for the big game. The crowds continue to pack the terraces and the traditional All—Ireland Final day atmosphere permeates the great stadium.

It's 2.55 p.m. and the pageantry begins. Dr. Morris the patron of the GAA and Archbishop of Cashel and Emily is greeted by the traditional salute from the Artane Boys Band.

2.57: Clad in their green and white tracksuit tops the Limerick panel pose for a gallery of photographers who also take a team shot.

2.58: The referee Noel Dalton and his officials arrive.

2.59: Croke Park erupts as Joe Connolly and his team speed onto the sacred turf in their traditional maroon and white.

3 p.m. Connolly and his panel face the photographers and the team stay on the bench for another shot.

3.01: Connolly lands a practice free over the bar from 35 yards. Seconds later he meets rival captain, Sean Foley surrounded by photographers.

3.04: President Hilary's arrival is greeted by the Presidential Salute from the Artane Boys Band.

3.05: The big match parade begins and the teams march behind the band to the voluminous cheers of their respective supporters Joe Connolly leads his men and Noel Lane brings up the rear.

3.10: The parade is over and Galway move to the Canal End to face the wind, while Limerick defend Hill 16.

3.11: The crowd and team stand to attention for the playing of Amhrain na Bhfiann.

3.12: The National Anthem is over and the noise is shattering.

The months of pain and preparation and the recounting the heartbreak of last year's defeat are all over, Galway are within seconds of the start of their greatest opportunity to relive the glory days of 1923.

Noel O'Donoghue throws in the sliothar and the story of the next seventy minutes will be enshrined in the memory of Galway people and the sporting public to the end of time.

4.40: Noel O'Donoghue sounds the whistle. The big sleep is over — the West's Awake — and some of the greatest moments in sport followed as Galway celebrate the end of over half a century of waiting and frustration.

The Galway players slump on the Croke Park turf in a trance, unable to decide whether the victory is a dream or reality. Instantly they are immersed and mobbed by the hordes of supporters intoxicated with the ecstasy of their heroes achievement.

Their congratulatory pats to the players border on the dangerous and already a force of about 40 Gardai form a human tunnel at the entrance to the Hogan Stand.

The delighted masses threaten to dismember the human chain but the Gardai succeed in quelling the onslaught. The frustration of 50 years of deprivation is being unleashed and the banners prove prophetic "Noel makes lanes through Limerick"; "Iggy is gone but Galway march on": and "Silke is not a soft touch".

4.45: Joe Connolly treads the steps to the Hogan Stand to deliver a speech he has had on his lips since he was a boy.

The youngest of the four brothers on the panel, the left hand side of his neck matted with blood and sweat his appearance depicts his heroism and the lengths to which Galway were prepared to go to achieve the ultimate success for their supporters.

Crowd Erupts

Connolly is introduced to Dr. Morris by the President of the GAA, Mr. Paddy McFlynn. The Dublin man is appreciative of Galway's victory and he compliments them on their historic victory, but his voice is immersed in the rousing cheers of the masses below him.

4.50: Connolly is presented with the McCarthy Cup. He waves the cup with a force that reflects the years of waiting. The crowd erupts and the 24 years old Castlegar man delivered an ad lib speech in Irish that shook the foundations of the famous stadium.

The potency of his oration and the response from his listeners left hardened journalists and grown men and women in tears and the appearance of Iggy Clarke coupled with Joe McDonagh's powerful rendition of the West's Awake provided the final lines of the most romantic story in modern hurling. The journey to the dressingroom seemed as long as the wait for their All—Ireland victory. After the RTE dressingroom interviews, the players and officials finally made it back to the Clarence for a well deserved meal.

A busy schedule was about to commence and at 8 p.m. Joe Connolly and his men were back to RTE studios in Montrose to take in the Sunday Game. This section of the show was recorded. It was a memorable visit to the Montrose studios for Michael Conneely, for the big goalkeeper, widely considered as the weakling in the side answered this critics to such an extent that he was presented with the Man of the Match Award.

11 p.m. The players arrive at the Clare Manor Hotel for a victory reception organised by the Galwaymen's Association in Dublin. An estimated 1,000 people are in the reception room when County Board PRO, Ciaran Muldoon announces Joe Connolly and his men to the attendance to the sound of "Congratulations".

The inevitable crowd problem raised its ugly head once more when a number of people tried to force their way into the reception and a glass door at the entrance to the reception was smashed.


The attendance include the Bishop of Galway, Most Rev. Dr. Eamonn Casey, the Co—Adjunct Bishop of Clonfert, Dr. Cassidy, Councillor Henry O'Connor, deputising for the Mayor of Galway, Liam Mulvihill, Director General of the GAA and members of the Galway Hurling Board.

2 a.m. Monday: The players depart from the Clare Manor and return to the Clarence to relax with their wives and girlfriends and close friends over a quiet drink. But ?? in the Clarence was about as freely available as ??? Dublin over the weekend and the intimate gathering disbanded.

11.30 a.m. The players and officials along with their Limerick counterparts attended a video recording of the match at the RTE studios in Montrose. Earlier Joe Connolly and tem manager Cyril Farrell had brought the Cup to St. Joseph's School in Fairview, where the ??? ??? man teaches.

1 p.m. The parties assembled at the Burlington Hotel for a Central Council reception.

4 p.m. The reception is over and the players from both sides chat freely with each other. The Limerick players and official are exemplary sportsmen in defeat.


4.30 p.m. Prior to the teams departing ????? gives John Connolly ??? congratulations and Limerick captain Sean Foley ??? the great Castlegurteen that he is unlikely ??? witnessed anything like the reception ??? his native heath that night.

4.45 p.m. The Galway party ??? over two