Joe Connolly: ‘It’s been demeaning for our manliness to be questioned’
Former Galway captain relieved class of 2017 have finally emulated team of the 80s
Joe Connolly: “It’s mad that it’s been that length of time for a start but it’s great that it has come around at long last.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Not since delivering his own All-Ireland-winning speech has Joe Connolly sounded this passionate, or indeed pleased, about Galway hurling.
Because whatever about the 29-year wait, what Sunday’s victory ended more than anything else was the sense of failure and embarrassment Connolly has been feeling in times since.
“Question our location, question our structures, question our skills, but our character and our manliness? That’s the one that got us, that got me.
“It’s embarrassing like. Your heart is in your county, pride in your county and what pundits have said about us over the years, it’s demeaning for our manliness to be questioned.
“Whatever about our ability, it absolutely grates that people question that when you pull this maroon jersey down over your head like, that you’re not at a mental state like the big counties or the other counties. That’s what bugs me more than anything and I hope to God that after Sunday’s performance, there might be a new breed of Galway hurler coming through.”
Strong words yes, but coming straight from the heart.
For Galway’s 1980 All-Ireland-winning captain, an All Star centre forward that same year, this then was a victory not a long time coming but coming not soon enough. Typical of Connolly, he holds court with a natural air of grace, speaking impromptu in the lobby of the team hotel a CityWest.
“The stats since we won the last senior in 1988 that we had won 10 minors and six U-21s and 12 All-Ireland club championships. That’s mad stuff without winning an All-Ireland to back it up. It’s mad that it’s been that length of time for a start but it’s great that it has come around at long last.
“It’s our own fault in Galway. We have sat back and taken it. We have sleep-walked through about 30 years in Galway, I believe. We haven’t been at the races as regards preparation and whatever like that.
“We had to make a statement. We as past players would so gladly hand the laurels back to these. Galway Bay FM had a programme last Wednesday and there were five of us on it and Noel Lane was one of them. He made the comment that, ‘look who is up here; Joe Connolly, Conor Hayes, Cyril Farrell, Pete Finnerty, Noel Lane’... we’re fed up of being the spokesmen for Galway hurling. We should be the teams that people longingly look back on in the past and say, ‘wasn’t it great’.
“We don’t want to be at the fore of talk about Galway hurling. It’s for new generations to take over the mantle. When you finish your career, all you have are the teams you’ve played with. It’s hurt greatly for the last decades to see the failures and good lads.
“We haven’t been ambitious enough, we haven’t been hungry enough in Galway. We’re a rich county, there’s plenty of employment in Galway, there’s two third-level institutions. We have superb structures in clubs. We have a quarter of a million of a population. We shouldn’t be picking up All-Irelands every 30 years and the reason we haven’t is that it’s our own fault.
“I was at an IRUPA dinner in Dublin a couple of years ago, the Irish Rugby Professionals like, and there were 10 people at the table, Dublin professionals, and four of them came down during the night and said, ‘Joe, what’s wrong with Galway hurling?’ I would walk out with my head down, that that’s the perception that’s out there.
“We’re a proud county. The West’s Awake, that song is about Munster and Leinster coming together in the 13th century to fight against Connacht and we ran ye, through Curlew’s Pass and Ardrahan. We ran the Normans, which was ye lads from Munster and Leinster. It isn’t ‘croppy lie down’ as regards Galway and I’m bloody glad that that manifested itself this year at Croke Park.”