HAVING players from one’s club involved with the county panel on All-Ireland final day heightens the interest within the club, Gort club chairman John Quinn believes but he equally holds the view that being involved in the All-Ireland final means as much to the clubs that don’t have a player on the panel.
“Having club members involved creates additional interest and gives a connection with what is going on. It also creates a problem with the distribution of tickets, which is a challenge as well and it’s a nice problem to have. It is a policy in our club that members will be looked after first, in particular working members who are active in the club week in and week out. It would be the right thing to do to distribute the tickets amongst the grassroots of a club.”
Aidan Harte and Greg Lally from Gort are part of the Galway senior panel this year, Jack Grealish is a member of the Galway minor panel while another club member, John Commins is a selector.
According to the Gort official, “Our club and our parish is proud to have two members on the senior panel, together with a player and a mentor on the minor panel for Sunday’s finals. Being county champions at this time is great. Last year we made our own bit of history when we won the title 100 years on from when we won it for the first time in 1914, which was amazing. There has been a big focus on Gort in the last 12 months since we won the title. These are things that bring it all home as to how big the event is.”
The Quinn family operate a successful fruit and veg business, which has two outlets in Ennis and John readily admits that this leads to great banter each year when the hurling season is in full swing.
“Gort is mad hurling country, as we are in the heartland of hurling. We are surrounded by a few parishes from Clare, like our nearest neighbours, Tubber and Crusheen, who are steeped in hurling. We might play different challenges with these clubs during the year. There is no distance involved, it’s only five minutes each way; it’s home away from home.”
Currently, the Gort senior team manager is Mattie Murphy, who has managed Galway teams at all levels.
“Mattie has led Galway to many successes. He has a great track record. He is, if you like, the Brian Cody of the minor championship. He gave it a great stint of time. Being involved every year takes a lot of time and a lot of people don’t realise that. There is a lot of commitment and you wouldn’t have a lot of free time. I admire people who give their time.”
Continuing, Quinn said, “We trust both managements next week to do the right thing. There will be no-one more than themselves who will want to win the titles. Galway have been so close and the game needs a change. I have been talking to a lot of Kilkenny people over the last two weeks, especially those that live locally. They are proud Kilkenny people and I admire people who never forget where they come from but the hardest of Kilkenny fans recognise that the game needs a change and they would not begrudge Galway a win.
“To win a final, you have got to play above yourself on the day and Galway can certainly do that. There is no team better to do that than Galway. If we can keep our defence tight, I believe we can get the scores up front. Kilkenny have four or five exceptional hurling men, as good as I have ever seen. I don’t believe that you can fully stop them but I believe you can curb them and limit them to a certain amount. I believe we will do that. It will be very tight and I will take a one-point win.”
Turning to Sunday’s minor final, he said, “At the begining of the year, the talk was that our minors weren’t the best. I admire the minor management team. They set about their work, kept plugging away and getting stronger and stronger and they have improved along the way. We had two really competitive games against Kilkenny, one of the top counties in the grade, and Galway won.”
A major talking point among GAA people in the past decade concerns the way the club championship seems to be delayed in counties where the county reaches the latter stages of the championship.
“The downside to this is the fact that clubs must wait. Clare saw that in 2013, when they were in a replay. It was wonderful that they won it, the championship and the whole scene needed a new face. The side-effects for club players is that the guys not involved in the county panel must wait and this presents its own challenges but when it gets going, it goes. We have two group games to go and we hope we will qualify from the group, which is what every team wants,” the Gort chairman said.
Concluding, the Gort man paid tribute to the manner in which the county officials were handling the arrangements.
“Everything is being handled well and we are not getting carried away with the euphoria. We are working nice and quietly and that’s the way. If you win it, you can do what you want then.”
By Seamus Hayes, sports editor