The tragic passing of Tony Keady last week, and the outpouring of sympathy it provoked, illustrated yet again the ties that bind the GAA fold.
Fond stories were told about the man and the player on radio and TV, in print and in countless other conversations around the country. Thomas Monaghan found himself sharing a few of his own this week at a press conference.
Monaghan’s father Pat and his uncle Tom played alongside the legendary defender with Killimordaly when the club was pressing for a first ever county senior hurling title.
Final defeats to Castlegar and Turloughmore had to be swallowed before the rubicon was crossed in ‘86 but Pat’s career as a midfielder was over by then, cut short by a bad eye injury the season before at the cruel age of 20.
Tom would soldier beside Keady when they finally crossed the line.
“I’m sure himself, Tony and Tom would have had a great connection on the pitch between the half-back line and midfield,” Monaghan suggested this week ahead of Galway’s All-Ireland U21 hurling semi-final against Limerick in Thurles.
“He was just a fantastic character. Everyone in Galway has their own story about him, everyone knew him and he was such a brilliant hurler. What was just as important about him is that he was a great character off the pitch as well.
“It’s just as important to be that way off the pitch as it was to be on it. He was a tough hurler on the pitch and a gentleman off it.”
Monaghan remembers Keady greeting the senior panel, of which he is part, at the team hotel after Wexford were beaten in the Leinster final earlier this summer.
The Craughwell clubman came on that day in Croke Park but it’s the usual late start for them all at U21 level.
While the Galway County Board, Leinster Council, and Croke Park search for a solution, another collection of the county’s underage players have sat on their hands through the months of June and July, frustration mounting, dust gathering.
“All the U21 players would have loved to have played a match by now. You can see what the introduction of the seniors into Leinster has done for them. It guarantees you more games and teams need games to improve and develop. A move into Leinster for the minors and U21s is needed.”
It is what it is, for now. All they can do is come together as a squad for a first competitive encounter today hoping previous postings with minor or U21 panels, or the few challenge matches and in-house matches they’ve banked, can make up for that inactivity.
Monaghan has played in and around six times this summer between the odd club game and the county seniors but the four senior panellists — himself, Conor Whelan, Sean Loftus and Jack Grealish — are all well-managed by Franny Forde, who trains both panels.
Monaghan may actually know most of the Limerick lads better.
A student in Mary Immaculate College, he played on a Fitzgibbon Cup-winning squad this year with the likes of Thomas Grimes, Aaron
Gillane, and Cian Lynch understand the extent of the challenge facing Galway.
Monaghan is one of those for whom service in these ranks is nothing new. An extra-time win over Dublin in the semi-finals earned the Tribesmen a berth in the 2016 final but they conceded five goals to Waterford on the way to a 16-point defeat.
“It was a disappointing experience. We came up against a very strong Waterford side who had a lot of lads on their senior panel. It was a learning experience. You learn a lot in defeat and you take that forward rather than just looking back on the disappointment with regret.
“You try and improve.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved