The story behind our sports picture of 2017

The moment when Galway manager Micheál Donoghue met his father Miko for the first time after their All-Ireland hurling final victory over Waterford, as captured by Morgan Treacy of Inpho, has been selected as the Irish Examiner sports desk's picture of the year.

The story behind our sports picture of 2017

Here's Morgan's story behind the shot, as told to Colm O'Connor...

Given the teams contesting the All-Ireland hurling final we decided in advance to staff the homecoming of the new champions. Once we knew it was Galway the planning began immediately by working out the route and deciding where we should position ourselves. Our experience of covering homecomings has taught us one crucial lesson - the first place the team arrives is the best place to be in terms of meeting deadlines for newspapers.

I remember covering the Donegal homecoming in 2012 - the team were due to arrive in Letterkenny at 8pm but in the end they got there after midnight.

On that occasion, we sent out pictures of them crossing the county bounds and arriving into Pettigo and those were the ones used the nationals on the Tuesday. We realised that the homecoming into Galway City would be too risky in terms of filing before papers went to press and so we opted to capture the images earlier in the day.

And that is how I found myself in Ballinasloe on the Monday after the All-Ireland final.

It seemed like the entire town had shut down for the day, the crash barriers were up, a stage was in place and people were counting down to the arrival.

I parked up and got some early shots of local kids and colour while my colleague James Crombie (who was waiting for the bus as they crossed the Shannon) was keeping me updated on their progress.

I worked out where the bus was going to pull up, behind the stage, and positioned myself there and waited. Just before the bus arrived I saw a group stationed behind one of the barriers and wandered up to see if there was anything there which was worth photographing. It was a family group with a man in a wheelchair. As I wandered back to my place a fella approached me and said ‘that is Micheál Donoghue’s father and family waiting to meet him.’

I thought little more of it as I moved back to my original vantage point. Micheál was first off the bus with the captain (David Burke) following him with the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

Micheál made a beeline for his family. He came around the barrier, hugged his mother and then literally threw himself on top of his father.

I had never seen such a public display of affection between a son and a father. I remember being struck by the emotion of it all in that moment. Such a sight is really, really rare, even in modern day Ireland. And it struck another cord with me also on a personal level, as I had recently become a father myself and immediately thought of my own son. And I thought and hoped that we will have such a relationship in the future - and perhaps be able to display it in the same way. Then Micheál showed him the cup …. If ever a picture tells a story then this was it.

I did have slight reservations about sending out the picture given it was such a private moment between a father and son, albeit in a public setting. What made the decision for me was that Micheál did an interview alongside his father on the RTE Six One news and so we pressed send around 7pm. It gained massive traction on Twitter in the hours and days afterwards so much so that it became one of the top three virals tweets for the year which is quite amazing. I’ve never spoken to Micheál about the photograph. I heard an interview with him afterwards and he was circumspect when asked about. I think he would have preferred if such a moment with his father had not been captured. I knew others had got it and I knew there was a nice moment in there but I didn’t realise how it would strike a chord with people. Being honest it didn’t strike me as a great picture at the time. There is a lot of clutter with everything going on in the background. I felt it was not a nice looking picture, aesthetically speaking. But perhaps that is because I was looking at it from a photographer’s perspective. Strip all that away and the human element jumps out at you.

It is a type of picture that might never win a photographic award but does that matter?

It works on a different level. It is appreciated for other reasons and there is no harm in that.

Morgan Treacy took the shot using a Canon EOS IDX MKII (lens 16-35mm).

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