They have won 25 senior county championship titles, eight more than nearest rivals St Grellan’s, Ballinasloe, whose last success came in 1980, and whose top adult team play in the JFC final this afternoon.
The Stars have also produced some famed footballers, with the late Seán Purcell and Frankie Stockwell, along with Ja Fallon, amongst their greatest names.
Despite such a proud history, Tuam Stars have fallen on lean times and success at senior level has deserted the town for almost two decades.
Tomorrow’s county final at Pearse Stadium against city side Salthill-Knocknacarra, offers them an opportunity to end a barren spell stretching back to 1994. Having lost last year’s final (to Corofin), their captain, Tony Costello, is aware of the pressure resting on his team.
He admitted: “For sure, it is far too long to have gone without a county title. But, that is just how it is. We all have to write our own history. I am playing senior with the club since 1996 and last year was my first senior final. I was captain last year too and at 35 I know my chances of winning a first senior medal are slipping by every year. I feel as fit this year as I have ever been, which is a credit to our management team of Kevin Reidy and Jimmy O’Dea and we know that we have to take our chance tomorrow as there is no guarantee when we will be back in a final again. Last year’s manager, Alan Flynn, who is now a selector with the Galway seniors, did Trojan work too and we are building on that.”
A Garda based in Claremorris, Costello is one of the most popular and consistent players in club football in the county for the past decade and a half. And he badly wants a winner’s medal to show for his efforts.
“We have been putting in a massive effort this season. Personally, any day I am not with the lads, I will try to do a weights programme or do some stretching to keep flexible. There are no messers on the panel and we are all giving it 100%. Losing hurt us badly last year. But we learned a lot and hopefully those harsh lessons will stand to us tomorrow.”
Costello and his wife, Eithne, live in Sylane, a small hurling country hamlet just outside Tuam and they had their second son just ten days ago — Bobby — to join four year old Cameron.
For a few hours tomorrow Costello will take a break from soothing the clan’s newest arrival as he bids to quieten the likes of Seán Armstrong, Alan Kerins and Seamie Crowe in the Salthill forward division.
“It has been a terrific and hectic week two weeks. Being busy helping out and minding Bobby and work has kept my mind off the game, and a win on Sunday would cap off what has been a really positive fortnight. I would like my sons to know that after playing almost 20 years with the club I finally won a county final.”
Tuam have been on a run of rich form, defeating Mountbellew-Moylough, Milltown and Corofin in their last three outings and have been installed as 4/6 favourites with local bookmakers.
Costello has been around too long to get sucked into letting a favourites tag bother him.
“I don’t know what the odds are for Sunday. Nor, do I care about them in the slightest. We feel last year’s county final passed us by. We started badly and we are determined not to let that happen again. We are focussed totally on our performance. Nobody has mentioned it being 18 years since the club has last won one. We have not even talked about winning a county final. All we have talked about is producing a very high quality performance. We will need to have serious work-rate and intensity all over the field to win. We have some very good players such as Conor Doherty, Jamie Murphy, Gary O’Donnell, Aonghus Tierney, David Connern, Ian McGough, young Niall Quinn. Paul Doherty is back from injury this year and he is a big addition. We will all be putting our shoulders hard on the wheel to make it happen. Salthill will be doing the same. That is how finals are. They are never easily won. ”
“Salthill are a good side and they won the All-Ireland club title in 2006 and we have a lot of respect for them. We took our eye off the ball last year for the final and paid a big price for doing so. Being honest, we don’t intend making the same mistake twice.”