Galwegian great goes for quieter option
WITH 10 minutes to go, Seán Duggan couldn’t take any more. He reached for his walking stick, shuffled out of his living room and quietly closed the door behind him.
The tension had got the better of Galway’s greatest living hurler and he had to get away from the action on the television.
He patrolled his hallway, until the need to know forced him to open the door half-way and inquire after the score.
Four minutes left and it was a drawn match.
Duggan was torn between the screams from Croke Park and the quiet between the kitchen and his front door.
He forced his 89-year-old frame back into the cauldron and returned to his seat in the corner. He sank deep into the fabric as Kilkenny went a point ahead.
He sat forward as Joe Canning stepped up to a free with just a couple of minutes on the clock, but sank back in desperate disappointment as the ball trailed off to the right of the Kilkenny posts.
The slight shake of the head must have brought back the feelings he had endured in 1953 when Galway had been undone by Cork on the same stage.
Duggan had never won an All-Ireland medal. The National League and Railway Cups for sure – when the Railway Cup was a fierce contest – but never an All-Ireland.
He had no interest in joining the young lads in their Supermac’s jerseys and the young ones draped in their maroon and white flags as they piled into the pubs and big-screen hotels across the county.
With only The Irish Times for company, he had settled down to watch the big match at his family home on College Road, a stone’s throw from Eyre Square and immediately across the road from the Sportsground – the home of Connacht rugby.
“People don’t realise, but we always played hurling in the Sportsground – even inter-county matches in the 40s and 50s,” he recalled.
That was history though. The big match against Kilkenny was all that mattered.
He had read an article earlier in the week about Galway hurling goalkeepers down through the years.
The writer had only started at 1969.
“He must have thought I was dead,” Duggan smiled.
From the high of his pre-match optimism that Galway could take home the McCarthy Cup – sustained by a healthy half-time advantage – it was looking like the gloom of 1953 all over again as the clock ticked into the final minute of added time.
However barely 60 seconds after missing the most crucial of frees, up stepped Canning to strike a point that lit up Duggan’s face. “We deserved a draw, Canning is one of the greats – but we wouldn’t want to be looking at that every day.”
Duggan and his brother Jimmy were honoured for their contribution to the national sport with an honorary degree by NUI Galway in 2008.
A couple of years ago, the shiny new bus station at the foot of College Road was named the Seán Duggan Centre.
And yes, as Duggan suggests, it would be nice if the coach carrying the team home after the replay stopped there.
At least they will know you aren’t dead.