With Galway preparing for Sunday’s All-Ireland Hurling final, one Galway island is preparing to host their own All-Ireland.
Inishbofin Islander Simon Murray, and those before him on the Island, have a dedication and conviction to succeed, having been affected by the people leaving their neighbouring island Inishark in 1960.
Although the island does not have a club team that regularly plays in competition, their GAA pitch is a physical symbol of their identity and is preparing for next month’s All-Islands Gaelic Football Tournament.
Their dedication has been celebrated in Guinness’s 'Behind Every Great Town' campaign, praising volunteers who willingly give their time in communities across Ireland all year round and represent the thousands of people throughout the Island of Ireland who find enrichment, enjoyment and a sense of community by immersing themselves in their local GAA club.
Inishbofin islander Murray said, “I think when the last of the people had to leave Inishark back in 1960, it did cast a shadow over Inishbofin. They were so close to us and I think it kind of seeped into our psyche where people on our island said: ‘that’s not going to happen to us’. Once an island becomes depopulated, that’s it.
“We used to kick ball down in a commonage area called Duach and it just wasn’t good enough. When you are soloing a ball and dodging rabbit holes, that’s when you need a pitch.
“With first thought about having our own pitch in the early nineties. It took five or six years to get a site, planning permission and fundraising and another two years to develop it. We just needed somewhere to have proper training, to play a few challenge matches every year and feel like a proper team.
“We have the asset now and we want to keep it as its best. If you have a handful of willing people to drive it on the rest will follow. One of the core reasons our pitch was done was to build for the future. I remember the day the posts went up at each end and I was standing there saying to myself, ‘yeah, we now have our football pitch’.
“People come to visit and see a small island on the edge of Europe and see things are happening like having a well-looked after pitch or creating our own broadband network. They reflect on that, go back home and say in their own communities, ‘look what they are doing in Inishbofin, why can’t we do that?’.
“That does fill us with pride when these people take note of what we are doing.”
Murray is also one of the founding members of the All-Islands Gaelic Football Tournament which takes place every September since its inception in 1998.
It brings nine off-shore islands together to a different Island annually in what has become the social and cultural event of the year for islanders, and this year, Inishbofin is hosting the weekend tournament.
“Having the All-Islands Gaelic Football Tournament coming back to Bofin this September is a huge personal sense of achievement.
“One of the core reasons for it was to give a platform to connect with other Islanders and share ideas. Islanders have a commonality in that we don’t have a lot of things that they have on the mainland and, therefore, have to fight for everything ourselves.
“Things like having a pitch on an island makes you stronger as a community. I have no doubt the tournament will stay going for years to come because it’s a real symbol of identity and a way to show pride of place.”