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How Exactly Did Galway Get On In The Munster Championship Before? Yes, They Did Have A Home Game!

How Exactly Did Galway Get On In The Munster Championship Before? Yes, They Did Have A Home Game!

Late on Monday night, the Galway convention passed the Liam Mellows motion proposing that the Galway senior, minor and U21 teams play in "a single provincial system." It didn't specify which provincial system. It was passed unanimously, according to the Irish Examiner's Eoghan Cormican. The motion will now go to Congress.

The club had also raised the possibility that the Galway county board make "an immediate application" to join the Munster championship.

Galway played in the Munster championship between 1959 and 1969. The experience was said to have killed the county's appetite for participating in another province's championship for a generation.

It's relevance to the current situation is limited. The Galway hurlers were less of a draw in those days. With the Galway footballers slap bang in the middle of their finest era, the county's hurlers toiled away with zero reward among the sharks in Munster.

"My recollection of that period is that they got walloped a lot around that time but of course they are a different proposition now and a much different team," said Munster council chairman Jerry O'Sullivan in the Irish Independent today.

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For many people, Galway's life as an elite hurling county began in the mid-1970s, when longtime ex-player Michael 'Inky' Flaherty coached the side to a stunning victory over Cork in the 1975 All-Ireland semi-final. That  was six years after they said goodbye to Munster hurling.

One could draw a parrellel between Galway in 1975 and the Dublin hurlers in the Anthony Daly era. In that light, one would anticipate Galway's efforts in Munster, should it ever come to this, to be more fruitful this time around.

It was Galway's lot, as Cyril Farrell said, to be cut off from the rest of hurling "by both history and geography."

Not that the game was ever wholly ignored there.

The club championship in Galway always attracted feverish support. The county boasted a relatively strong team in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The won the Railway Cup in 1947, the National League in 1951, and the Oireachtas Cup in 1952. Indeed, Formula 1 mogul Max Mosley, son of the old Blackshirt leader, lived in south Galway in his youth and recalled in his autobiography that "that corner of Galway (Clonfert) had some inspirational hurling players at the time."

But they fell short of an All-Ireland.

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They beat Kilkenny in the 1953 All-Ireland semi-final. But they narrowly lost a controversial final to Cork, during which star defender Mickey Burke was struck off the ball by Christy Ring. Burke had rendered Ring nearly anonymous at that point but by the time the final whistle blew, he was having his teeth fixed up in a Dublin emergency unit. With Burke dazed and taken out of action, Cork pulled ahead and won by a couple of points.

In retaliation, Ringy was attacked on a flight of stairs in the Gresham Hotel by an unidentified Galway player. The box in the head caused Ring to lose his footing. The following morning in Barry's Hotel, a posse of Galway players went to rough up Ring at breakfast but they were met by a gang of Glen Rovers players who'd rallied around their man. While some Cork journalists praised Galway for their "attractive" and "constructive" hurling, the Cork Examiner's Tom Higgins accused the Galway support of unruly behaviour and said he hoped it would be "at least another 24 years before Galway are seen in an All-Ireland final."

Higgins's article did prompt outrage in Galway hurling circles. A myth grew that Galway supporters burned a copy of the Examiner in Eyre Square, though Dermot Crowe and Ronnie Bellew, who've written about the game in 'Hell for Leather: A Journey through hurling in 100 games', say there's no evidence that this occurred. The Galway trainer, Padraig Fahy, demanded that Burke's attacker, aka, Ring, be expelled from the GAA.

After a few more years of beginning their season in August, it was decided that change was badly needed.

Between 1959 and 1969, Galway competed in the Munster championship. They won one match, against Clare in 1961. Otherwise, it was first match exits every time, and some of them were rather heavy.

The Munster championship was a hard thing to wade into in those days. Tipperary, in particular, had a terrifyingly good team in the early 1960s, though Galway only actually met them once. Also it was clearly in this era that Galway's hoodoo against Waterford was born.

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It's a mark of how little the Galway hurlers worried the Munster powers that the province even allowed them a home game.

Leinster will only allow the likes of Kerry and Antrim home games. But they're not conceding an inch to Galway on that front.

Galway's only home game in the province came against Clare in 1965, a match they lost by a point. The bulk of their games were played in neutral venues, usually in Limerick. Their solitary win was achieved in MacDonagh Park in Nenagh.

Some of the scorelines are hard to look at, though, to be fair, it should remembered that scorelines tended to be more lopsided across the board in those days. Here's every match Galway played in the Munster championship.

1959: Waterford 7-11 Galway 0-8

1960: Waterford 9-8 Galway 4-8

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1961: Galway 2-13 Clare 0-8

1961: Tipperary 7-12 Galway 5-6

1962: Limerick 2-13 Galway 2-7

1963: Limerick 3-9 Galway 2-7

1964: Cork 4-14 Galway 2-7

1965: Clare 4-8 Galway 3-10  (match played in Pearse Stadium, would you believe!)

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1966: Waterford 2-16 Galway 1-9

1967: Clare 3-13 Galway 1-11

1968: Cork 3-15 Galway 1-6

1969: Cork 3-15 Galway 1-10

Galway eventually left Munster because they were struggling to compete. The 1970s and 80s would prove a much, much happier time for Galway hurling.

Ironically, they may end up leaving Leinster because several counties in the province fear that they may not be able to compete with Galway, particularly at underage level.

Read more: Prospect Of Galway Hurlers Moving To Munster Now A Real Possibility

Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney

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