Some blue in a sea of maroon as Galway tries to temper expectations
‘Nobody is filling the glasses yet,’ says ‘Horse’ Regan
Naomi and Ciaran Flynn with their daughters Ella and Amy and son Dara at their home in Knocknacarra. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy.
Bravery comes in many forms, and not least for those flying exotic white and blue kites in Galway over the last few days.
Co Waterford native Ciaran Flynn has not been run out of town, or even out of his own home. His perfectly co-ordinated BMW sports a blue and white “Déise” flag on one wing, and maroon and white “Gaillimh” on the other as his wife, Naomi, is from Salthill.
“I’ve had a few shouts, but nothing serious,” Mr Flynn, from Kilmacthomas, laughs.
Out in the county there is an intensity of expectation that transcends laughter. “Holy god, I haven’t slept a wink,”confessed GAA supporter Christy Murphy in Loughrea. “It got all so much for me that I went for a swim today – only to find the red flags were up on the beaches in town because of an algal bloom. At least the water was green, though, not blue!”
“Nobody is filling the glasses yet because Waterford is a serious team,” says Tony “Horse” Regan.
Mr Regan, nicknamed “Horse” from his younger days when he ran around the race track in his native Roscommon, knows a thing or three about Sunday’s game. “Horse” has trained teams in both hurling and football, has played football for his own county, and was head of sport at NUI Galway for 40 years.
“The fact that we have Galway in the senior and minor hurling finals and Mayo in the football final means the west is certainly wide awake,” he says. “But there is a conservatism to the excitement, tempered by experience of being here so many times before.
“I haven’t missed a final since the 1960s, but this present group is both realistic and has a lot of experience of the pressure on the big day. Waterford is hungry, plays with conviction, and so it will probably be decided in the last few minutes. Nothing like a good rip-roaring game.”
City and county businesses keen to make the most of the occasion have been doing their best to let rip and roar, with the so-called “Latin Quarter” merchants hosting a street party in Mainguard Street on Thursday evening.
The promise of two tickets for the best hat design attracted a good-humoured crowd. Ballygar resident Philip Coleman’s head piece – in memory of late All-Ireland medal winner Tony Keady – secured him the lucrative prize.
Some supporters have expressed a quiet relief at not having tickets – with the option of a big screen in Eyre Square from 1pm, and no long trek back west on Sunday night.
Connacht rugby supporters also have a date with Glasgow for the start of this season’s Pro 14 championship in the Sportsground on Saturday evening.
Out in Tobar Pheadair or Peterswell, near Thoor Ballylee in the south of the county, there has been no lid big enough to contain the jitters all week.
Brid O’Donnell, principal of St Thomas’s National School, has 78 pupils and a star-turn of teachers. Among them is former pupil Conor Cooney, on the senior hurling panel and part of the team that won the county title.
Even if they really love Monday mornings, his students in fourth, fifth and sixth class have every reason to will him to play...and to win.