A tribe of brothers: 1998 was a special year for Galway football

Galway captain Ray Silke lifts the Sam Maguire Cup. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

The marauding de Paor, the fielding of Walsh, the dash of Donnellan, the jinks of Ja and the poise of Pauric Joyce — the Galway team of 1998 are among the most stylish All-Ireland winners of recent decades; an iconic team dripping with talent in every line.

Most of them cemented their legends by following up that win over Kildare with a second All-Ireland title, overcoming Meath in 2001.

And 20 years after that first breakthrough title they gathered yesterday in the City of Tribes to share golden memories at an event sponsored by the Galmont Hotel, Murray Spelman Insurance & Finance, and the Tribesmen GAA Supporters’ Club.

Among them was captain Ray Silke, an ever-present rock in the half-back line of 1998. He recalls a special year for Galway football and profiles the heroes that made it possible.

Martin McNamara (Corofin)

‘Mac’ had a super 1998. His form was outstanding that spring when Corofin defeated Erin’s Isle (Dublin) in the All-Ireland club final and he went from strength to strength from there.

Stunning place-kicker when on his game and a player who was well ahead of his time with his ability to find teammates with both short and long restarts. Always cool in possession.

An All-Star that season, McNamara was a huge factor in Galway’s All-Ireland success.

Owned his own pub for a good few years in Tuam and is now a highly sought-after coach for clubs in both Galway and Mayo.

Tomás Meehan (Caltra)

A Hogan Cup winner with St. Jarlath’s College in 1994, “Mossie” was a slight corner-back who had lots of pace.

Very good reader of the game. His motto was ‘get it and lay it off’.

Made a crucial save in the last few minutes of the final from Kildare’s Brian Murphy that kept Galway’s goal intact.

One of his finest personal displays was in the All-Ireland club final against An Gaeltacht in 2004 when he did a very fine job shadowing Kerry’s Darragh Ó Sé.

Graduate of DCU and Trinity, Tomás works as the chief information officer in Croke Park.

Gary Fahey (Killanin)

Fahey had made his debut with Galway back in 1992 and was a very experienced inter-county full-back in 1998.

A physically strong player with a tremendous attitude, he always gave his best and was very professional in his approach. Rarely kicked the ball, preferring to hand-pass or punch the ball to a better placed teammate.

Did a top class man-marking job on Mayo’s John Casey in the crucial Connacht first round game, holding him scoreless. Went on to captain Galway to 2001 success when the Tribesmen defeated Meath by nine points, 0-17 to 0-8.

Gary’s eldest daughter plays soccer with Ireland at U15 level.

An engineer by professsion, he works as a regulatory affairs director in Athlone.

Tomás Mannion (Monivea/Abbey)

Magnificent player. Superb in the semi-final, cleaning out Joe Brolly (Derry) who was substituted early doors by Brian Mullins.

Challenged Michael Donnellan as man-of-the-match in the final, totally outplaying Kildare’s danger man Martin Lynch from corner-back.

Pound for pound one of the best sportsmen Galway ever produced, he collected senior hurling and football county medals with his club and was a very accomplished rugby and soccer player too.

Rarely beaten, due to his pace, power, and all-round footballing ability, he was hugely respected by the entire panel and one of the first names on John O’Mahony’s team sheet if injury free.

Missed the final in 2000 with back injury, however he was at centre-back in 2001.

Farmer by profession.

Ray Silke (Captain, Corofin)

Corofin captain and centre-back in March 1998 when the club broke new ground in the province as the first Connacht club to annex the Andy Merrigan Cup on St Patricks Day.

Won seven senior county medals and three provincial medals with Corofin and provincial medals with Galway in 1995, 1998, and 2000.

Hard-working and efficient wing-back who made up for a lack of real pace with very good reading of the game.

Galway captain again in 1999 when the county was beaten by Mayo in the provincial final in Tuam Stadium, and corner-back in 2000 when Galway lost out to Kerry in AIF.

GAA columnist with the Galway Advertiser and regular analyst on RTÉ Radio 1 Sport and contributor to the Irish Examiner. Teaches Economics and Business and coaches football at Coláiste Iognáid SJ in Galway city.

John Divilly (Killkerrin/Clonberne)

‘Divo’ was known as ‘John Delivery’ by many Galway supporters due to the Scud missiles he regularly powered down to the forward division.

His long clearance created Derek Savage’s goal against Mayo and Padraig Joyce’s crucial goal in the final.

Had good hands and enjoyed breaking out of defence when in possession.

Has excelled in coaching in the past few years and has led UCD to a number of recent Sigerson Cup victories.

Works in recruitment in Dublin with PJ Recruitment and is a GAA columnist with the Irish Examiner.

Seán Óg de Paor (Carraroe)

Fantastic wing-back with a real eye for attack. Possibly the best number 7 in the game for seven or eight years from 1995 to 2002 and made the Galway team of the century.

Scored many inspirational and spectacular points, including two fine efforts in the All-Ireland final — the first a real gem at the end of Michael Donnellan’s awesome run.

Collected All-Stars in 1998 and 2001.

Former Galway senior selector and currently coaches underage football in Oranmore/Maree and in St Mary’s college in Galway city where he teaches.

8 Kevin Walsh (Killanin)

Inspiring player in the 1998 set-up. Huge and powerful man who could win a phenomenal amount of ball around the middle, and use it well, as evidenced by the All-Stars he collected in ‘98, ‘01 and 2003.

Struck up a terrific relationship with Martin McNamara who seemed to be able to find him with kick-outs when Galway’s need was greatest.

Rarely if ever lost a throw-in and was one of the team’s most important players, well able to score from distance.

Was Sligo manager for a few years and is currently in his fourth year as Galway senior manager leading the county to a provincial title in 2016 and the Division 2 title in 2017.

Works in the financial services area.

Seán Ó Domhnaill (Carraroe)

Had a great season in 1998 culminating in his awesome point from a colossal distance in the All-Ireland final. Also raised a white flag in the semi-final.

A very powerfully built and tall man, Seán was very difficult to beat in the air and was a perfect foil for Walsh who used to pick up a lot of the pieces from Ó Domhnaill.

Has coached a few clubs in Galway and worked on TG4’s The Underdog in the past and was a regular on Seó Spóirt.

Manager of a Community Development organisation in Carraroe and is also a retained firefighter with the Carraroe Fire Service.

10 Shay Walsh (Glenamaddy)

‘Mattie’ as he was called by most of the panel was a very good fielder and also a really accomplished free-taker.

Came on for Fergal Gavin in the semi-final win over Derry and held his place for the final.

Shay was one of the most popular members of the Galway panel due to his humility and terrific wit.

Interestingly, the only positional change to any starting team in Galway’s six-game run (including the replay with Roscommon in Connacht final) to the All-Ireland victory was at right half-forward — with Paul Clancy (twice), Declan Meehan, Tommy Joyce, Fergal Gavin, and Shay Walsh all starting championship games in the number 10 jersey.

Shay lives in Galway city and works with Irish Water.

11 Ja Fallon (Tuam Stars)

Ja was a really sensational Gaelic footballer and also a very talented rugby player. He had it all.

Pace, power, great swivel, huge levels of skill, great hands, and an outstanding left peg.

‘Jinky Ja’, as he was known, scored three fantastic points in the final including a stunning sideline effort from under the Hogan Stand.

His second-half performance was central to Galway winning.

The Tuam Stars man suffered a lot with injuries — knee and shoulder — and missed the 2000 final with Kerry before bouncing back for an All-Ireland win in 2001.

Won All-Stars in 1995 when he was team captain and in 1998.

Works as a postman in Tuam and is a retained firefighter with Tuam Fire service.

12 Michael Donnellan (Dunmore McHales and Salthill/ Knocknacarra)

‘Donners’ had searing pace and was the fastest player on the Galway panel.

He was sheer poetry in motion when in full flight.

His acceleration and ball-soloing ability was breath-taking and his lung-bursting sprint up the pitch in the 1998 All-Ireland final was voted the greatest GAA moment of all time a decade ago.

Serious pedigree — ‘an inch of breeding is worth a tonne of feeding’ — and both his grandfather and father also won All-Ireland medals with Galway.

Won a Hogan Cup title with St Jarlath’s in 1994 and was a crucial player for Salthill/Knocknacarra when they won the All-Ireland club title in 2006.

Player of the Year in 1998 and also deservedly won All-Stars in 2000 and 2001.

Works as a trainer in Allergan in Knocknacarra Business Park in Galway.

BAND OF BROTHERS: Galway’s All-Ireland winning squad celebrating their 1998 success at a function in The Galmont hotel yesterday.BACK ROW: Tommy Wilson, Ja Fallon, Neil Finnegan, Shay Walsh, Seán Ó Domhnaill, Kevin Walsh, Peter Warren (selector), Tomás Mannion, Pat Comer, Gary Fahey, Paul Clancy.CENTRE ROW: Padraic Joyce, Brian Silke, Padraig Boyce, John Divilly, Michael Donnellan, Tommy Joyce, John O’Mahony (manager). Robin Doyle, Damien Mitchell, Kevin Fallon, Ja Duignan (team doctor), Eddie O’Sullivan (S&C), Aofáine Walsh (physio).FRONT ROW: Declan Meehan, Richie Fahey, Stephen Joyce (selector), Tomás Meehan, Derek Savage, Ray Silke (captain), Michéal Geoghegan, Kevin ‘Terry’ McDonagh, Seán Óg de Paor, Michael Cloherty.Pictures: Andrew Downes
BAND OF BROTHERS: Galway’s All-Ireland winning squad celebrating their 1998 success at a function in The Galmont hotel yesterday.

BACK ROW: Tommy Wilson, Ja Fallon, Neil Finnegan, Shay Walsh, Seán Ó Domhnaill, Kevin Walsh, Peter Warren (selector), Tomás Mannion, Pat Comer, Gary Fahey, Paul Clancy.

CENTRE ROW: Padraic Joyce, Brian Silke, Padraig Boyce, John Divilly, Michael Donnellan, Tommy Joyce, John O’Mahony (manager). Robin Doyle, Damien Mitchell, Kevin Fallon, Ja Duignan (team doctor), Eddie O’Sullivan (S&C), Aofáine Walsh (physio).

FRONT ROW: Declan Meehan, Richie Fahey, Stephen Joyce (selector), Tomás Meehan, Derek Savage, Ray Silke (captain), Michéal Geoghegan, Kevin ‘Terry’ McDonagh, Seán Óg de Paor, Michael Cloherty.

Pictures: Andrew Downes

13 Derek Savage (Cortoon Shamrocks)

Savage was a class number 13. For a physically small man he was a really tough nut and ‘Savo’ knew how to take care of himself.

Had superb close ball control and allied to real pace and a low centre of gravity he was very hard marked.

Won a Sigerson Cup in UCD and another All-Ireland medal in 2001 and was a magnificent servant for his club who he played with at adult level for about 20 years.

An engineer by trade, he works as Vision Platforms & Technology R&D Director at Valeo in Tuam.

14 Padraic Joyce (Killererin)

Most prolific and stylish inside forward in Ireland for a few seasons in the late 90s and early noughties.

PJ had a serious eye for goal and a really sweet left foot, shooting 10 points in the 2001 All-Ireland final and Galway’s only goal in 1998.

Won six Connacht championships, his last was in 2008 when he scored 1-3 as team captain from centre-forward.

Collected three All-Stars.

Became the team’s playmaker later in his career from centre-forward. Retired from inter-county action in November 2012 and from club football only three years ago.

Captained Ireland in the International Rules series and later joined up as a selector with Joe Kernan.

Padraic runs a very successful recruitment business for the construction sector called PJ Personnel that is based in Tuam and Dublin.

15 Niall Finnegan (Salthill/ Knocknacarra)

Niall was the team’s free-taker in 1998 and saved our bacon in the drawn game with Roscommon in Tuam Stadium when he scored a tremendous equaliser from distance with a wet ball in injury-time.

Very underrated player nationally, but not within the panel.

Notched four points in the All-Ireland final win.

Possibly his best display with Galway was in 1997 when he hit 0-9 from full-forward in a narrow defeat to Mayo.

Works as a solicitor in Dublin.


16 Pat Comer (Salthill/Knocknacarra and Carraroe)

Comer or ‘PC’, as he was known to the panel, was coming to the end of his career in 1998 having won Connacht titles with Galway from 1984 to 1995.

Was Ireland’s goalkeeper in the International Rules in 1990.

Won county senior titles with both Salthill in 1990 and Carraroe in 1996.

A filmmaker by profession, he made the documentary A Year ‘Til Sunday which recorded the 1998 season and has made several highly successful documentaries since — including one on the Ó hÁlpín family.

17 Paul Clancy (Moycullen)

Clancy was picked to start against both Mayo and Leitrim in the early rounds of the Connacht Championship before he suffered a broken bone in his leg.

Did not recover from that injury until just before the All-Ireland final when he came on as a second-half substitute.

Was wing-forward for a good few years after 1998 and won another All-Ireland medal in 2001 lining out at centre-forward.

Subsequently won provincial medals at centre-back.

Has managed a number of club sides and is the current manager of his home club, Moycullen.

Works with the ESB.

18 Declan Meehan (Caltra)

‘Tas’ — short for Tasmanian Devil — was also the known as the ‘Pocket Rocket’. Plied his trade as a forward back in 1998.

Deccie saw action in a few championship games that season as a wing-forward, however, when he went to wing-back in 2000 and 2001 he really came to national prominence and won All-Stars in that position two years in a row.

Scored a stunning goal in the All-Ireland final replay against Kerry in 2000 and was outstanding against Meath in the 2001 final.

Won an All-Ireland club medal with Caltra in 2004.

Works in Offaly County Council.

19 Fergal Gavin (Mountbellew/ Moylough)

Very good and experienced midfielder who started the All-Ireland semi-final against Derry at wing-forward.

Was unfortunate that Walsh and Ó Domhnaill gelled so well together and became an unbreakable partnership.

A move to Dublin with work curtailed his Galway career in subsequent years.

His son — Darren Gavin — won an All-Ireland U21 medal with Dublin in 2017 at midfield.

20 Tommy Joyce (Killererin)

‘Tom The Bomb’ was a fantastic passer of the ball and had terrific positional sense.

Was a key member of the 1998 panel and came on against Mayo, Leitrim, and Roscommon and started the replay against the Rossies at wing-forward.

Was on the 2000 team and the 2001 winning team as a free spirit/third man midfielder which gave scope to his many talents.

Like Padraic, Tommy won four county senior titles with Killererin.

Has coached a few senior clubs in Galway over the past few years.

21 Damien Mitchell (Menlough)

Came on in the replay of the Connacht final at centre-back and did a superb job on Fergal O’Donnell.

Was really close to a starting spot in the All-Ireland semi-final, but missed out with a hamstring injury.

Had been a regular with Galway for a few years and was terrific in the 1995 season which ended in defeat to Tyrone in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Married to Mary Barrett from Kerry whose father JJ Barrett won All-Ireland medals with the Kingdom.

Works as an engineer in Galway County Council.

22 Richie Fahey (Killanin)

Came on as a substitute in the drawn 2000 All-Ireland final and started the replay. Won a medal at left corner-back in 2001. Galway senior selector for a few years. Works in the family coving business.

23 Brian Silke (Corofin & St Sylvesters, Dublin)

Won an All-Ireland minor medal with Galway in 1986 alongside Kevin Walsh and Tomás Mannion.

Collected county senior medals as team captain with St Sylvesters (Dublin) in 1997, and with Corofin in 2000.

Current Galway senior selector and father of Galway defender Liam Silke.

Chartered accountant by profession.

24 Kevin Fallon (Tuam Stars)

Won a county medal with Tuam in 1994. First cousin of Ja Fallon and a very tidy corner-back. Works as an electrician in NUIG.

Other panel members:

FLASHBACK: The Galway team and officials gather for the post All-Ireland final lunch back in 1998. Picture: Andrew Paton
FLASHBACK: The Galway team and officials gather for the post All-Ireland final lunch back in 1998. Picture: Andrew Paton

Kevin”Terry” McDonagh (Carraroe)

Powerful forward or midfielder. Won a county medal with Carraroe in 1996. Works in medical area.

Michael Cloherty (Carna/Caiseal)

Won a Hogan cup in 1994 on the St Jarlath’s ‘Dream Team’ and played U21 with Galway. Runs the family- owned Carna Bay Hotel in Carna.

Padraig Boyce (Oughterard)

Powerful midfielder who starred at U21 level with Galway. Tremendously positive guy and great man to have in any dressing room. Detective in Dublin.

Micheál Geoghegan (Leitir Móir)

Very good defender who always gave his utmost to the cause. Hugely popular member of the panel who lived in Boston for a good few years. Lives in Killanin now where he coaches underage teams.

Robin Doyle (St James)

Former St Mary’s college player who starred at colleges and underage level. A garda based in Donegal.

Tommy Wilson (Killererin)

Super club and U21 player with Galway. Was a regular on the 1995 and 1996 Galway senior teams.

Management team

Manager John O’Mahony lifts the Sam Maguire after Galway’s victory over Kildare. O’Mahony entered politics and is currently a serving senator.
Manager John O’Mahony lifts the Sam Maguire after Galway’s victory over Kildare. O’Mahony entered politics and is currently a serving senator.

John O’Mahony (Ballaghaderreen, Co Mayo)

‘Johnno’ was a hugely experienced manager when he arrived to Galway in the autumn of 1997 having led Mayo to the All-Ireland final in 1989, and Leitrim to a Connacht title in 1994.

His timing in taking the Galway job was impeccable and he was a key piece in Galway’s successful jigsaw in 1998.

Commanded immediate respect from the Galway squad and got the likes of Ja Fallon and Kevin Walsh — neither of whom had played in the 1997 Connacht championship — back on board, which was a crucial move.

His experience of having been there previously with Mayo was a major positive for Galway in the run-up to the 1998 final.

Was a meticulous planner and put in hours of preparation for each championship game when he was in charge of Galway.

Also managed Galway to the 2001 All-Ireland final win over Meath and stayed in situ until 2004, managing Galway to two more provincial titles in 2002 and 2003.

John returned to manage Mayo subsequently for a season or two.

O’Mahony retired from teaching at St Nathy’s college early, and then served two terms in the Dáil as a Fine Gael TD for Mayo — from 2007 to 2016.

Currently a senator after being nominated by Enda Kenny in 2016.

Johnno is currently involved with the Leitrim football set-up.

Stephen Joyce (Clonbur)

Joyce was a talented forward for Galway in the 1980s, winning a good few Connacht titles and he played in the 1983 All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin.

Is still heavily involved in Galway football and was the Galway minor manager for the past few years. He is retired from Eircom.

Peter Warren (Tuam Stars)

‘Waldo’ was a top club midfielder with the Stars in the 1980s and he added a larger-than-life presence to the management team.

Since he finished as a Galway selector he has managed several clubs in both Galway and Mayo.


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