Shooting for the Stars

THE Tuam Stars club and their status as a legendary GAA unit with magnificent footballers over the ages has an aura about it few clubs can match.

Legends like Sean Purcell, Frank Stockwell and more recently Ja Fallon are readily associated with the north Galway town. The fact the Sawdoctors have recorded a few songs which revere their legendary status has only added to the mix.

The club has a tremendous history of success in the Galway county championship and tomorrow it will be going for its 26th county final success.

However, those successes have become very erratic over the past few decades and the club has not been anyway near as successful as it used to be in the illustrious days of Purcell and Stockwell.

When the ‘Terrible Twins’ were in their pomp, the club collected an historic seven senior titles in-a-row, from 1954 to 1960. In fact, the late and great Seán Purcell annexed ten county senior medals in his career. His first in 1947 and his last in 1962.

It was the retirement of players like him, Stockwell, Jack Mangan, Seamus Colleran, Cyril Kelly and Mick Garrett that ended the feast of success the Stars enjoyed in the 1950s. Indeed the club had to wait 22 years for their next senior success.

It finally arrived in 1984, with the next generation of Purcells and Stockwells on the field of play. Why did their star wane so suddenly and for so long?

Chairman, current Lotto manager and assistant treasurer Alan Talty (brother of former Galway star Brian) has a theory on that vexed question: “When your senior team is winning everything in sight, there is often no focus on the underage structure.

“Perhaps the next generation was forgotten. We were not the only town club to suffer. Ballinasloe [St Grellan’s] won 15 county titles up to 1945 and did not win another one until 1979, and they have not won one since 1980 now. Castlebar Mitchells used to be the top club in Mayo and they struggle to repeat that success. These things are cyclical.”

His father Paddy knows more about Tuam football than anyone. Paddy was on the Tuam Stadium committee from 1954 to 2010. He will be 83 next February remembers the seven-in-a- row team fondly.

“The bottom line is that some of the newer guys that came in after many of those players of the 1950s were good but not good enough.

“At that time Dunmore MacHales had a formidable team with the Donnellans and the Leydons. They won five senior titles in the 1960s and were hard beaten. Mountbellew also won two with Enda Colleran on board in 1964 and 1965. We just were not good enough. There is no shame in that.”

Paddy Talty was born in Kilkee in county Clare in 1929 and he first arrived in Tuam in 1947. He smiles when he remembers the quality of the footballers he met when he first togged with the club.

“I considered myself a fairly good footballer until I started training with the stars. Players like John Nallen from Mayo, Jack Mangan, Seamus Colleran. Purcell and Stockwell were marvellous.

“I quit football fairly quickly after that and started playing snooker and went into the administration side of things. I loved looking after Tuam Stadium and I still go up the stadium every single day. I call it the farm and there is always a few things to be done.”

The Stars finally came good again in the 1980s and won three titles in that decade.

Alan said: “We won five minor titles between 1978 and 1983 and four U21 titles. “A lot of lads like John and Murt Fallon, the late Aonghus Murphy came through at the same time and blended well with older stars like John Tobin, Padraig Oxy Moran, Joe Kelly, Declan Dunne and Pat O’ Neill.

“We won our last title in 1994, beating Corofin in the final.

” There are two soccer teams and rugby is strong to in the town, so we have to fight hard to keep the young talent sticking with Gaelic.”

The last title was 17 years ago and the town side is keen to break that famine.

Alan Flynn has been team manager for the past three years, his father TJ is a selector and former club chairman, and he believes his side can do it.

“We have worked hard all year. After playing championship for the past four consecutive weekends we have momentum behind us and thankfully we have no injuries.

“All the lads have been doing terrific work with over the past few months and they have given their all for the team to get to this stage. We have some good young players like Conor Doherty, Jamie Murphy, Noel Henry and Aonghus Tierney who have added a lot to the mix.

“We know that Corofin will be a step up in class on anything we have met all year, but we will set-up the best we can, to meet them head-on and see where that takes us.”

For the Stars, that journey has often meant a county title.

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