When the chips were down, Pat McDonagh stood behind the Tribesmen, writes John Fallon.
Pat McDonagh first sponsored the Galway hurlers in 1989, the year after they had won their second All-Ireland hurling title in a row. Little did he think that he would be still backing them nearly three decades later and that the Tribesmen would still be looking for their fifth ever Liam MacCarthy triumph.
It was a natural development for McDonagh to get behind the Galway hurlers in ’89. By then, the Supermac’s fast-food business he had founded with his wife Una in Ballinasloe in 1978 had started to really develop and expand. Sponsor’s names were not on the front of jerseys then, that only happened a couple of years later, but McDonagh’s backing for his
Sponsor’s names were not on the front of jerseys then, that only happened a couple of years later, but McDonagh’s backing for his county has never wavered, despite a litany of disappointments, including six All-Ireland senior defeats. Indeed, his backing for Galway has increased and now all GAA teams in the county, including football, camogie, and ladies football, all bear the Supermac’s logo.
Also, with over 100 outlets countrywide, the logo is on dozens of club, school and college jerseys, but the maroon of Galway is, unsurprisingly, the only one at inter-county level.
“Part of it you do as a fan and part of it is commercial. It has, of course, become more and more commercial over the years, but we have always wanted to be involved at community level.
“We have had many, many great days involved with Galway. You don’t get involved expecting success, but of course it would be great if we were to win it on Sunday. They say you have to lose one to win one, but at this stage we have lost more than our fair share,” said McDonagh.
Supermac’s restaurants throughout Galway city and county are bedecked in the county colours. Local radio station Galway Bay FM has been broadcasting previews from various Supermac’s locations all week, while the restaurants have been running competitions.
However, there are also Supermac’s outlets in Waterford and, inevitably, they are also building towards Sunday’s All-Ireland.
“I have been staying away from those two places this week,” said McDonagh. “They will do their own thing, but this is also a huge occasion for Waterford and we acknowledge that.”
He will head up to Dublin on Saturday with his family, will have a word with the team and will sit back and watching the Galway minors and seniors bid for glory on Sunday.
It will, though, be an occasion tinged with sadness. He’s from Killimordaly, the club which produced Tony Keady and the sudden death of the former hurler of the year days after the thrilling semi-final win over Tipp has left people still in a state of shock.
“I last met him at the Plaza [the Supermac’s outlet on the M6 near Loughrea] coming back from the Leinster final. He was with Margaret and the children and he was full of optimism, but, then, that was Tony all over. He thrived on the big occasion and could sense that in this team. He was really hoping this would be the year.”
McDonagh hurled underage with Killimordaly, but football took over when he went to boarding school at Carmelite College in Moate. At the time, Malcolm Macdonald was the hotshot of English soccer and McDonagh’s exploits on the field in Westmeath earned him the ‘Supermac’ moniker.
On Sunday, nearly three decades after he first put his hand in his pocket, he is hoping his logo will be on the steps of the Hogan Stand when GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghaill hands over the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
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