Liam Mellows stand up for the city in Galway hurling final

Football legend Liam Sammon was on the last Mellows team to win the title in 1970

Aidan Harte: the Gort player is the only member of Galway’s starting All-Ireland winning team to be taking part in the county final. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho

Aidan Harte: the Gort player is the only member of Galway’s starting All-Ireland winning team to be taking part in the county final. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho

 

There are a couple of peculiarities about Sunday’s Galway hurling final.

It’s the last one of the year and it also features surprisingly few of the county’s All-Ireland winners from last September – of the two teams only Gort’s Aidan Harte featured in the defeat of Waterford – but within the county there is further significance.

Liam Mellows will attempt to become the first club from Galway city to win the title since Castlegar 33 years ago. Mellows themselves haven’t reached this stage since winning their last title all of 47 years ago.

A perhaps surprising name on that 1970 team-sheet is All-Ireland winning footballer and twice All Star Liam Sammon. He recalls that the drive to take advantage of the county’s 1956 football All-Ireland also led to the promotion of hurling in the city.

“It was amazing the number that wanted to play and could play hurling,” he says. “When I went to national school the only game we played in an organised way was hurling, at the Patrician Brothers, St Pat’s. The city leagues started in 1957. They were set up to capitalise on the interest built up by winning the football All-Ireland the year before.

“City teams started winning titles in football and hurling, initially St Michael’s and then St Augustine’s, the team I’m talking about.”

As a young, emerging talent he won a place on the last of Galway’s legendary three-in-a-row side of 1964-66 but during this time he managed to line out for both his football club Fr Griffins as well as Liam Mellows. Just about.

“I did. That was a real juggling feat. You were only playing really when you were able to play,” he recalls.

He feels that the rise of Galway hurling in the 1970s and in particular the growing prominence of club teams from the county, who have an outstanding record in the All-Ireland – led by Castlegar the first club from the county to win the trophy – eventually stifled efforts in the city to maintain the early progress.

“There’s no easy explanation for that [why hurling in the city has fallen away]. I think hurling progressed very much within the county after that and took on a new life with some very strong clubs. Look at all the club All-Irelands won by Galway teams. The standard has been very high and making another breakthrough hasn’t been that easy.”

As for Sunday, he accepts that Mellows are long shots against a Gort side that has recently won titles in 2011 and ’14 but he remains optimistic.

“We’re hopeful that we can play to our best ability and if we do, we’ll have a chance. It would be good to see it go around. It certainly would be good to see a city club coming through. You have a very strong intermediate club in Newcastle-Rahoon, who are close to getting up senior and if you had two strong clubs in the city that would be very good for the game.”

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