All day yesterday, hundreds of hopeful Galway supporters descended on Pearse Stadium with the slim hopes of claiming a precious ticket for the big match, but the majority of fans left empty-handed and disappointed as supply and demand failed to match up.
Joe Connolly captained Galway to their second All-Ireland title in 1980 and has predicted a win for Micheál Donoghue’s side at Croke Park tomorrow afternoon, which would end a 29-year wait for their fifth Liam MacCarthy victory.
A win tomorrow will trigger huge celebrations across the county, and, according to Connolly, it could have a huge effect on the future of the game in Galway.
“We haven’t cultivated the excellent underage talent we have had. It’s our fault in Galway and I hope to God this is the start of an era,” he said.
“I think the winds of change are closing in Galway hurling, I think there is something happening and something stirring.”
Schools all across the county held maroon jersey days as excitement in the county reached epic levels, while small businesses continue to get in on the act as bunting, cars, and shop windows have all been decked out in the county colours.
One shop, Duane’s Daybreak Foodstore in Kiltullagh, even went a step further and parked a maroon and white car, and two painted round bales of hay, beside its door to drum up the local atmosphere.
“We’re well decorated all right. There is great excitement around the place, we’re all on a high in Kiltullagh and the county. We’re in the heart of the hurling here,” said shop owner Frank Duane.
“Tickets are impossible to get, I don’t know where they are all gone this year. It’s time we got a win, but it will be tough against Waterford.”
Connolly was full of praise for the Galway supporters who are getting behind their team in their droves before throw-in, with hundreds of the county’s diaspora making the trek home from abroad to join the thousands that will abandon the county tomorrow.
The Castlegar man said he hopes the long wait for glory will end tomorrow. “After the 29 years of heartbreak, if these lads could just bring it across and start a new era it would be wonderful. This goes way beyond a game. It’s a statement of where we’re from and who we are and what our values are,” Connolly told Galway Bay FM.
“I think a lot of the talk about All-Ireland finals is very cliched. You are trying to sanitise what is an absolute thundering thing going through your veins, for our county — as Waterford have too.
“It is great to see the colours up. I think maroon and white are very beautiful, rich colours, but to see every corner of Galway the way it’s decked out brilliantly.
“Remember when David O’Leary was taking that penalty, George Hamilton said ‘A nation holds it breath’? For next Sunday a county holds its breath.”
Plans have already been made for the homecoming of the Galway team — be it a night of celebration or commiseration — with the senior and minor teams due to arrive back in the county headquarters of Pearse Stadium on Monday at 6.30pm.
Already the revelries have began in earnest and a massive street party took place in Galway’s Latin Quarter on Thursday evening where the local businesses got out in force to add their support.
“We turned Mainguard St completely maroon. We want to get the momentum starting. We have thousands of people down here, stilt walkers, live music, and we gave out a few pairs of tickets,” said local Labour councillor Niall McNelis.
“We want to create this brilliant atmosphere. The businesses got behind it and it looks amazing. There is maroon and white everywhere and everyone is really in support of this weekend.”