No-one in Galway gives St Michael’s a prayer but...

We have a lot of belief and we are going to give it our very best shot.

Tomorrow in Tuam Stadium will be an historic day in Galway club football, the first time in St Michaels 58-year history that they’ll contest a county senior final.

The fact the club has not had their own pitch to play on for the past four years due to a budget over-run by Galway Corporation a few years ago when building a road, only makes their story of getting to this occasion even more remarkable.

At the start of this season they found themselves using the overflow lighting from hockey training in Dangan (NUIG’s campus) and preparing on gravel because they had no field of their own.

Thankfully their own new state-of-the-art pitch and clubhouse is due to be back up and running by early 2015.

The city-based club, formed in 1956, has no real set boundaries as regards its catchment area, but it ties in areas such as Shantalla, Westside, Rahoon, Bushypark and Corcullen and is a very close knit club.

Team captain and inspirational full-forward Eddie Hoare, who played three championship games with Galway this summer, explains how the club which contested the 2009 All-Ireland Intermediate final now finds itself in a county senior final.

“Hard work is the key really. And we are trying to make incremental progress every year. The club won two county minor A titles in 2001 and 2004 and mentors like current team manager John Kenny, John Ruane, Peter Curran, Pat Regan and many others have worked incredibly hard over the past few decades to make this day possible. Their contribution has been immense.

“Perhaps, the real acorn for a lot of our success came from a Community Games team in 1992. That team won the All-Ireland in Mosney that year and men like Tony Burke did a lot of good work back then to create a bit of a buzz and the club also won the Féile (U-14) in Galway in 2001. Those wins have all added up to help push us on.”

Hoare is a chartered accountant with DHKN in Galway city and has had a tough and long road to get to this stage and to play at the level he has for the past two years — including a trip to the Harvard Medical school in Boston.

Six years ago the former St. Mary’s colleges star was fearful he would never be able to play high level competitive sport again due to bulging discs in his back.

He took three separate epidurals in the 2008 season to help his club win the county Intermediate final, and he was also on the Galway senior panel with Liam Sammon that won that year’s Connacht title.

In hindsight those injections took their toll, and he missed the entire season the following year.

“I was desperate to play and those injections were only a short-term solution. It was my decision to take those injections, but that is what young guys will do to try to be match fit.

I did not want to have surgery on my back and the following year was just a merry-go-round of specialists and all sorts of alleged back expects. Thankfully James O’Toole from Sports Med West who was working in NUIG at the time, had a few connections in the States, and he set up an appointment for me at the Harvard Medical centre in Boston with a consultant and I travelled over there for an appointment.

“They gave me a high dose of anti-inflamatories and put me on an 8 to 12 week programme of strengthening the muscles, with core and mobility exercises that really did the trick. The 27-year-old’s injury problems did not stop there though, and after one league game back fit with his club he missed the rest of that entire season with a dislocated shoulder.

Despite extensive rehab on the shoulder in 2010, it popped out again in 2011 and he was forced to have surgery to get it back to full working order.

In effect, Hoare missed out on three years of championship football and he did not get back into top form until 2012, when Tomás Ó Flatharta called him back into the county panel.

He admits those were tough years. “It was difficult to stay positive to be honest.

Thankfully the perseverance paid off and I was delighted to get a few championship games with Galway this summer and now to be in a county final.

“The club is trying to make steady progress at the club and we believe we are doing that, although Sunday will be a colossal test for us.”

Corofin are raging hot favourites at 1/12 on and Mulhollands have gone so far as to give St. Michael’s an 11 point handicap on the day at 10/11, or 8/1 to win.

Hoare smiles: “Corofin have been the benchmark in Galway for the past 20 years and we are in no doubt about the challenge we face. Corofin have lads like Kieran Fitzgerald, Alan Burke and Kieran McGrath who have six or seven county medals already so we really are the minnows.

“But we’re going to Tuam to give it a right lash. We have a load of players who have emigrated in the past few years, guys like Conor Hoctor, Patrick Regan and Cian McClafferty who helped to bring us up senior and are now away.

“We had 35 lads on our panel in 2009 for the All-Ireland club final, and we have only eleven of those left on our panel now which shows how many of our lads have either retired or emigrated. We know that very few people give us any chance of winning. We have a lot of belief in our squad and we are going to try to produce the best possible performance we can.”


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