Connolly speech one of finest ever heard at Croker

The Allianz League finals are the games TG4 should have been broadcasting into sitting rooms across the country on Sunday afternoon.
Connolly speech one of finest ever heard at Croker

The Allianz League finals are the games TG4 should have been broadcasting into sitting rooms across the country on Sunday afternoon.

That, of course, is before GAA activity — and pretty much everything else along with it — went into full lockdown. But even at a time of such uncertainty, the thought of having no GAA match to watch on the box of a Sunday is almost sacrilegious.

TG4, never to be found wanting when it comes to their coverage of Gaelic games, went rummaging through the archives and settled on the 1980 All-Ireland hurling final between Galway and Limerick.

It was very much a novel final pairing (the first since 1955 not to feature one of Cork, Kilkenny, or Tipperary) and even though Galway secured a first Liam MacCarthy Cup triumph since 1923, the standout moments from that afternoon, certainly the ones most recalled, have nothing to do with the action itself.

Joe Connolly’s acceptance speech still stands as one of the finest ever delivered from halfway up the Hogan Stand. And who could forget the late Joe McDonagh’s stirring rendition of The West’s Awake.

Iggy Clarke, who would have been at half-back for Galway but for the shoulder injury incurred during the semi-final win over Offaly, sat with the Galway management throughout the final.

Turning the bend for home and with the Tribesmen in front, Clarke, as he recalled in his recent Laochra Gael programme, said to Galway selector Bernie O’Connor, “we are going to win this”, and so began to make his way around the field and up towards the presentation area.

“I still had the pins in my shoulder so I knew I couldn’t be caught up in the crowd [at the final whistle]. I got up into the stand and was actually seated beside President Paddy Hillary [for the closing minutes].”

Connolly namechecked Clarke during his speech, leading to thousands of Galway fans, all bunched together in front of the Hogan Stand, chanting the latter’s name over and over and over.

“That was a particularly heartwarming moment for me, that the Galway people remembered me and wanted me to be part of it. It is a moment in time I will always cherish, it is nearly better than playing fantastic on a day. It is such a lovely memory,” said Clarke.

Had Clarke been playing, it was centre-back Seán Silke he’d have been stationed beside.

Two years ago, Silke told this newspaper he’d never forget the night before the game and his interrupted sleep.

It was sometime around 4am on the morning of Sunday, September 7, when Silke was jolted from his sleep.

The noise coming from outside his hotel bedroom door is what woke him.

And it was only when he slumped out of bed did he realise that he had left his gear bag out on the corridor before turning in for the night.

“We stayed in the Clarence Hotel on the quays. I think if they had tried to organise anything noisier, they wouldn’t have been able to because everyone who was at the hotel seemed to be a fan travelling up for the match or home from England or wherever. Everyone was giving you advice. There also seemed to be a wedding on,” Silke remembers.

“I was up in one of the rooms and there was this commotion along the corridor in the very early hours of Sunday morning. It seemed there was a crowd of Limerick lads who had been at a wedding.

“What had happened was that I had left my bag, with my gear in it, on the corridor.

“The lads had found it. Here was I saying to myself: ‘Will I go out or not?’ I went out to retrieve it and now they were well inebriated, but they were very nice, great fun, great characters, and cracking jokes.

“In fairness to the Limerick people, they realised what they had found. They were as keen to return it, as I was to find it.”

Meanwhile, tributes have been paid to the late Conor Connelly who has passed away at the age of 44.

The Creggs clubman was half-forward on the Roscommon football team which beat Mayo to win the 2001 Connacht final.

He is survived by his wife Claire, their three young children (Cara, 11, Rossa, nine, and Eoghan, six), his parents Jimmy and Nora, his brothers Robert, James, and Daragh, and sister Sharon.

“I always admired Conor as a footballer, he was a fine tenacious player who gave his all when wearing the primrose and blue. Like Rossies everywhere, I really am saddened by the news,” said Roscommon County Board chairman Seamus Sweeney.

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