There’s only one place anyone can start as Sunday, September 3rd will be forever ingrained in supporters’ minds as probably the most historic day in Galway hurling history.
After 29 years of heartache and despair, the Tribesmen finally crossed the finish line and clinched the Liam McCarthy Cup for the first time since 1988.
Despite a lack of goal scoring power, Galway proved to be 2017’s finest taking three trophies and only suffering two defeats. But these successes weren’t uncommon and it was only after the 0-26 to 2-17 win over Waterford could the shackles of previous defeats finally be relinquished.
(Video – GaelicShintyHurling)
They’d began the year with routine assignments dispensing with Dublin Insitute of Technology, NUI Galway, Laois and Carlow in the Walsh Cup but found Kilkenny that bit better in the pre-season tournament final.
But after opening the National League campaign with a victory over Offaly, Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford stormed back for a 1-21 to 3-13 win in Pearse Stadium to effectively end Galway’s promotion hopes.
Those leaving Salthill on Sunday, February 19th could hardly have envisaged what the next seven months would bring. Galway did deliver against Laois, Kerry and Limerick to take their quarter-final place but the daggers were out when Waterford led by 10 points in the knock out series.
As talented as previous wearers of the maroon and white were, Galway sides were not known for turning around difficult situations. But in the final quarter, Joe Canning led the revival including a 64th minute penalty before winning scores for Padraic Mannion and Aidan Harte sent them into the semi-finals.
Limerick were dismissed in the Gaelic Grounds but Galway were only finding their gears. A Tipperary outfit heralded as unbeatable were blown apart thanks to two Jason Flynn goals and a Cathal Mannion green flag in a 3-21 to 0-14 league final trouncing.
Expectations had reached unheralded heights with former manager Cyril Farrell declaring on RTE that Galway would win the All-Ireland. His prophecy was fulfilled despite so many false dawns – this was Galway’s sixth league win since 1988 and they’d lost six All-Ireland finals.
The Road to Croker began on Sunday, May 28th as Micheal Donoghue’s team made short work of an out-of-sorts Dublin with a 2-28 to 1-17 win in Tullamore. Canning top scored with nine points with Flynn and Conor Cooney netting majors. There would be no more green flags in Galway’s year.
Conor Whelan scored five points and added another seven in their 0-33 1-11 semi-final victory against Offaly. And on Sunday, 2nd July, the Bob O’Keeffe Cup was coming west for just the second time as Galway ran out 0-29 to 1-17 winners over Wexford in front of 60,000 supporters in Croke Park.
While the final success will ultimately stand out, the semi-final was unforgettable. Again, Tipperary provided the opposition and again it went down to the wire! Galway won by one in 2015 and the Premier County returned the compliment 12 months later.
But with time running out, Johnny Coen showed amazing composure in front of the Cusack Stand before supplying Canning who struck a point for the ages despite three Tipperary players about to close him down. Galway won 0-22 to 1-18 and were into the All-Ireland Final.
(Video – Darragh Creaven)
Pundits couldn’t decide who they’d prefer to meet. Waterford were also looking to end a famine going back 58 years but being underdogs yet consistent performers, the Deise carried danger signs that couldn’t be ignored.
Kevin Moran and Kieran Bennett struck first half goals but Galway managed to lead 0-14 to 2-7 at the break. However, despite Pauric Mahony inspiring the Munster team during the third quarter, Galway would not be denied!
Niall Burke and Flynn came off the bench and got two points each; Canning hit two late frees on his way to a nine-point tally; while David Burke, Cathal Mannion, Conor and Joseph Cooney all enjoyed fruitful afternoons as Galway fans rejoiced as Liam McCarthy would finally come home.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) September 4, 2017
But they weren’t on their own as the minors set it up in the opening game. Jeffrey Lynskey’s young team won their second Irish Press Cup in three years after a 2-17 to 2-15 win against Cork. Jack Canning hit 2-2 to ensure Galway prevailed and Darren Morrissey got to walk the Hogan Stand steps.
The under 18s were impressive dismissing Clare 2-19 to 1-12 in the quarter-final thanks to goals for Canning and Enda Fahey but they were made work much harder in the semi-final against Kilkenny. The double act thrived again with Canning striking a 39th minute to the net and Fahey landing the winner after they trailed by four points.
Both teams received overwhelming receptions upon their homecoming on the Monday with over 45,000 out to greet them in Ballinasloe and Pearse Stadium. And that was just the start of the outpouring of celebration and emotion for a day never to be forgotten.
The senior club championship wasn’t without its own drama and excitement but also produced a memorable conclusion as Liam Mellows were crowned champions for the first time since 1970.
After looking solid throughout the year, Louis Mulqeen’s charges came through Clarinbridge after a replay before coming out one-point winners in their semi-final joust with Cappataggle.
And on Sunday, December 3rd in Pearse Stadium, they finished another sensational story as goals for Aonghus Callanan, Tadhg Haran and Conor Kavanagh gave them a 3-12 to 1-15 victory over favorites Gort to get their hands on the Tom Callanan Cup.
As we edge closer to the end of 2017 we have a simple question – is this one of the sporting highlights of the year? Liam Mellows GAA Club claiming their famous victory! #KingfisherRenmore pic.twitter.com/rDPRNkEYvx
— Kingfisher Renmore (@RenmoreKingfish) December 20, 2017
Dublin’s Cuala, managed by Galway’s Mattie Kenny, were All-Ireland champions on St. Patrick’s Day, when they defeated Clare’s Ballyea who’d ended St. Thomas’ hopes in the semi-finals. National silverware eluded Galway clubs as Ahascragh/Fohenagh were denied in the intermediate decider byo Kilkenny’s Carrickshock.
On the domestic front, Turloughmore’s DRA appeal was the summer’s main talking point before their June win over Portumna was annulled seeing them exit the championship. Abbeyknockmoy survived at senior level beating Carnmore 0-17 to 0-11 in the relegation final with Paul Flaherty hitting 12 points.
Ballinderreen returned to the top flight beating Meelick/Eyrecourt 1-14 to 0-13 in the intermediate decider but became the first Galway team to not win Connacht intermediate silverware losing 1-15 to 1-11 in the provincial decider to Mayo’s Tooreen.
The Galway under 21s also didn’t have their own moment to savour as their semi-final with Limerick ended in a 2-23 to 2-19 reversal.
But Sylane’s hurlers finally made a breakthrough beating Micheal Breathnachs 1-16 to 0-15 in the Junior 1 decider thanks to Oran Martin’s goal. And they finished with a triple crown as Calry/St. Joseph’s were overcome in the Connacht final before they also beat Tommy Larkins in the Junior ‘A’ showpiece.
(Video – Tallowsman GAA)
But even though matters on the field will be remembered fondly in 2017, Galway hurling was stunned into shock on Wednesday, August 9th when it was announced that legendary centre back Tony Keady passed away.
One of the greats to wear the Galway colours and Man of the Match in the seniors’ previous All-Ireland success in 1988, he’d attended the semi-final just three days later and the county united in grief with his family who was as passionate about Galway hurling as anybody else and left this world too soon at just 53 years of age.
The fans remembered him at the All-Ireland Final with a round of applause in the sixth minute and he wasn’t forgotten throughout all the celebrations afterwards. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasail.