Left out in the cold: Ger Farragher recalls the end of his inter-county career

Ger Farragher in action against Cork in the 2011 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship.

At 28, Ger Farragher was cut adrift from the Galway squad.

Surplus to the requirements of a new management, retirement from inter-county life was forced upon him.

He was not alone as new manager Anthony Cunningham quickly set out his stall
in the latter end of 2011. Within a month of his October appointment, he and the new management had released their training panel for the following year’s campaign.

The accompanying statement emphasised, not that it needed to, how the squad was “strongly focused on youth”.

Gone was outgoing captain Damien Joyce, Shane Kavanagh, Donal Barry, Adrian Cullinane, John Lee, Joe Gantley, and Farragher as management embarked “on the development process required to build a Galway team capable of success”.

When Cunningham’s appointment was ratified, Farragher expected to receive a call from the new man. The conversation, mind, did not go as he envisaged. What perplexed Farragher was that his exclusion from the panel followed one of his most productive seasons in county service.

Six league appearances saw him rack up 0-44, finishing second in the spring scoring charts. A knee injury kept him out of their dismal Leinster campaign, but he marked his return with 1-4 from play in a man-of-the-match showing when Galway trounced Clare in Salthill.

Left out in the cold: Ger Farragher recalls the end of his inter-county career

He hit four points against Cork and two during the All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Waterford. Not really compelling evidence to be shown the door.

Even in 2010, the Castlegar man had been among the westerners’ most prominent players hitting 0-44 during the league and he was the side’s primary free taker even after Joe Canning returned following Portumna’s club final defeat.

This paper described his league final performance against Cork as “outstanding”.

In their championship opener against Wexford, he struck 0-13 (11 placed-balls). There was an All-Star nomination at midfield, a position he had asked then manager John McIntyre to trial him in.

There was so much more freedom out there, it’s where I always played with the club. I had a good year in the corner with Galway in 2005 and was left there after that. When Mac came in, I asked him to try me at midfield. He did. I enjoyed hurling out there. I’d say the best years I had were those two years before I was cut,” said Farragher.

It made the decision of the new management all the more difficult to swallow. “I got a call from Anthony to say they were going with the younger lads, but that if I played well in the club championship, he’d keep an eye on me and call me in. It was never to be. Management has their own way of picking teams and their own style of players. Unfortunately, I wasn’t part of it.”

Farragher, at 28, was certain he had more to offer.

I did think I had a couple of years left in me, especially when the two years previous were the best I had played. You expect to be given a chance.

“In fairness to them, they were a puck of a ball from winning an All-Ireland in 2012. He was obviously right in who he went with.”

But for Henry Shefflin’s imperious second-half performance in the drawn game, Liam MacCarthy would have headed west. Farragher didn’t attend either the drawn or replayed final. He couldn’t.

“It was bittersweet that they got there. I played with all the lads up along so I’d be delighted for them to win it. It was just tough. There is no point saying otherwise. You’d feel you have something to give. You think you could be as good as what is out there because you are still the same fitness-wise and you are used to playing at that level.”

And so 2013 rolled around but the door never opened to him. He knew then he’d never again set foot in a Galway dressing-room.

“Anthony told me he’d keep an eye on me, but I knew from talking to different people that once he was there, I wouldn’t be getting in. I accepted it. There is nothing you can do about it.

Weeks like this make you think about what might have been, but not as much as would have been the case back then. It was hard to even watch Galway during those few years.

He spent a decade in the senior set-up, encountering the rough and smooth of Galway hurling along the way. His call-up to the senior ranks followed a glittering minor career where he came within one victory of equalling Jimmy Doyle’s record of three All-Ireland medals. In the 2001 minor decider, which Cork won by 2-10 to 1-8, Farragher hit 1-6. He was arrowing line-cuts between the posts long before it became fashionable.

Still a teenager, he levelled proceedings in the 70th minute of the 2002 All-Ireland senior quarter-final against Clare, a match which they lost by the minimum. A month later, he hit 13 points as Galway marched into the U21 decider. Frustrated by the lack of game-time under Conor Hayes in 2004, he withdrew from the squad in late spring. An invitation to return for the 2005 league was accepted, the man in the yellow and black helmet ending the year as overall top-scorer in both league and championship. A reward came in the form of an All-Star.

The 5-18 to 4-18 semi-final victory over Kilkenny still smoulders in the memory for its sheer madness. In the space of 55 seconds, 22-year old Farragher twice drifted away from James Ryall and beat James McGarry. By the 32nd minute, he had shot 2-7.

“That day was something else,” he recalls. “We had 2-10 got in a flash. All of a sudden, you are going in at half-time and have Kilkenny on the rack. It was one of the best days I ever played with Galway (he finished with 2-9). Those are fond memories.

“Unfortunately, it was a semi-final and not a final. In the final, a lot of players didn’t play as well as we could have.”

Two years later, and with Ger Loughnane now holding the reins, Farragher didn’t see a minute of championship action.

Ger wouldn’t have been a fan of mine.

Though slightly more involved during the Clare man’s second and final season, it wasn’t until McIntyre’s appointment that his inter-county existence was rebooted. “When you are starting out, your aim is to win an All-Ireland medal. Unfortunately for us, we only got to one final and didn’t get over the line.

"When you look back on your career, of course, there are regrets and you wish you had done more. At the same time, it was a privilege to pull on that maroon jersey.”

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