Why this week is different

Joe Byrne - Galway Hurling Board chairman

“I’ve been involved in hurling my entire life. Thirty years ago I played in the All-Ireland minor final and though I featured with the U21 side, I was one of those young lads who never made the progression to senior.

“Ironically one of my chief priorities as Hurling Board chairman has been to try and develop senior players out of our successful minor teams.

“We were criticised in the past for not building on those underage titles but over the last three years we have been working extremely hard as a board to ensure that there is a pathway for those youngsters to make the breakthrough. We set up a Hurling Review Group to tackle the issues and by doing so it focussed minds in Galway. We had men like Ollie Canning, Cyril Farrell, Joe McDonagh to name just three, coming together to look at where Galway hurling was and where Galway hurling could be. Their work set out a path for hurling in the county and hopefully it will lead to many more days like Sunday. Given that this is our first All-Ireland final in seven years, there is an incredible sense of excitement amongst the young children in particular. For many, this is an unique week. Our sponsors Supermac’s organised an open day in Athenry last month and over 2,000 kids were there to meet their heroes. And for them, that is what these Galway hurlers are, heroes.

Though there are plenty of banners, flags and buntings about, nobody is underestimating the challenge facing the team at Croke Park. The buildup is cautious, nobody is getting carried away. Everyone in Galway realises that we are facing one of the greatest teams of all time and that the Leinster final result counts for nothing come 3.30pm on Sunday. What was interesting though was the lack of any major celebrations after that win. The general public, like the team, viewed it as just another step along the road to getting to an All-Ireland final.

From my perspective this has been an interesting week. All-Ireland final tickets have been the topic of conversation, morning, noon and night. The biggest issues are two-fold — people can’t get tickets and then some that have tickets aren’t happy with where they are in the stadium. Unfortunately we don’t determine the quality of tickets which we receive from Croke Park but our chief focus is making sure that we can satisfy the requests of as many Galway hurling fans as we can. Huge credit is due to our secretary Pat Kearney who has done a great job in coordinating the distribution of tickets over the last couple of weeks. Our primary aim has been to ensure that genuine supporters will be at Croke Park on Sunday afternoon.

Apart from the issues of tickets, much of this week has been taken up with work assisting the management with any issues or request them may have. I read the piece with Jim Freeman from the Kilkenny Supporters’ Club in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, and like him, we have been blown away by the generosity of people towards the county side. We have had tremendous support throughout the year and have a number of other events lined up this week. We have a concert in the Galway Bay Hotel with Mike Denver and friends tonight while there is a night at the dogs in Shelbourne Park tomorrow night which has been organised by Galway supporters in Dublin. Even in these tough economic times, people are still willing to put their hands in their pockets and support their GAA stars.”

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