Gort’s John Commins is one of a relatively small band of Galway hurlers to win All-Ireland minor, U-21 and senior hurling championship medals. He can readily appreciate what it means to be contesting both finals on Sunday.
He told The Clare Champion, “It’s great for Galway hurling to be in the minor and senior finals this year. I am delighted to be involved with the minors. From the senior perspective, it’s great to be back in the final after 2012 and I am looking forward to both games”.
In addition to his medals with Galway, Commins won a county title with Gort in 1983. He went on to add a Connacht medal, while he is the holder of two Railway Cup medals with Connacht. He was drafted into the Galway minor team in the early 1980s and won an All-Ireland medal in 1983.
He was called up to the U-21 squad and won All-Ireland honours with them in 1986, after which he was drafted into the senior team, when they reached their second successive All-Ireland final. He scored from a 21 yard free in that game but Cork emerged victorious. A year later, they were back in their third final in a row and victory over Kilkenny meant that Commins had a senior All-Ireland medal to go alongside the minor and U-21 awards.
A year later they retained the title, with Commins again between the posts and he was also honoured that year with an All-Star award. He picked up the man of the match award in the 1989 semi-final, which Galway lost to Tipperary.
They were back in the final in 1990, which saw Commins playing in his fourth All-Ireland final in five years. However, Cork emerged as winners on that occasion by 5-15 to 2-21.
The Gort man readily acknowledges that the Tribesmen have disappointed their followers more times that they care to admit. “We have been in a good few finals down through the years and, unfortunately, we haven’t won them but that will have no bearing on Sunday. The past is gone and we are looking to the future and Sunday’s finals will take a life of their own. The team that will want it the most and hurl the best will win,” he said.
He agreed that Galway minor teams have been fairly successful in the past decade. “There is a lot of hard work going on at clubs all over the county and the hard work is paying off, producing these fine players. We have won a good few in the last few years but, again, that has no bearing on Sunday. The bunch of lads that have come through here have worked very, very hard. They would have found it hard at U-16 and U-17 and they surprised a lot off people the way they performed this year.”
Commins stressed, “There is an awful lot of good work being done in the schools also and this success is coming from the work being put in by club members, teachers in the schools and proper coaching systems. They have all been coached very well and they are coming to us when they are starting their real hurling careers”.
The All-Ireland-winning goalkeeper got involved in the promotion of underage hurling in the county “because I want to give something back to Galway hurling”.
“I was lucky enough to be invoved in a good minor team, a good senior team and I want to give something back to Galway hurling. I have been involved with goalkeepers at different levels and going in as a selector this year is something new. There are a lot of very good lads in clubs and ex-county players want to give something back.”
Noting that many of the players in both panels come from South Galway clubs, Commins is impressed by the fact that the fathers of a number of the players on this year’s minor team, also hurled for Galway. “Bernie Forde was there at senior and his young lad is there. Dermot Fahy played senior and his lad is there. Fintan Burke’s father Noel, from St Thomas’, has played.”
Defending senior champions Kilkenny are the standard bearers he knows. “They are the best team I have witnessed. It’s going to be hard but if we get the man-matches right, I would give Galway a huge chance. We have forwards that would bother any backs in the country. Galway must look at this positively.”
Regarding the minor final, he agreed that Kilkenny were very strong in the semi-final. “It took us two and a half games to beat them. We were in trouble the first day but the lads showed their character and came back to hurl really well. On the second day, we probably didn’t hurl as well as we can but, again, the lads showed their character and came back and to get over them was a great victory.”
He has no doubt but that in Tipperary, the Galway minors face a tough challenge. “They are good hurlers. We have seen them play Clare and Dublin. They have big men, two good midfielders, a good centre-forward and their full-forward line is dangerous. It’s a brand new ball game and we will be going out to give it our best shot,” he concluded.
By Seamus Hayes, sports editor