Galway hurling captain Joe Connolly raises the McCarthy Cup at Croke Park
Fifty-seven years of frustration and failure were wiped well and truly away from the memories of Galway hurling followers on the first Sunday in September. Playing with grit and determination Galway senior hurlers raised their game to new heights to defeat Munster champions Limerick and win the County's second All-Ireland Senior Hurling title.
Apart from being one of the best and most thrilling finals it also triggered off the greatest celebratory outburst that the County ever witnessed. There was unrestrained joy as Galway at last won the McCarthy Cup. No County it seemed had waited so long or had been so close so often to winning the All-Ireland Crown. The preserve of the privileged few in the previous decades could not this time elude a superb Galway team that defeated the Munster champions by 2-15 to 3-9.
Galway got a dream start when Bernie Forde kicked the ball to the net and a point followed this from a free by Joe Connolly. Limerick four points down suffered a further shock when P. J. Molloy showing remarkable determination to reach a pass from Michael Connolly, wrong footed a couple of defenders to get to the square where he was brought down. As everybody waited for the referees whistle the Athenryman, when most others would be pleading for a penalty, regained his feet and slammed the ball to the net. The score bore Molloy's particular stamp and was a typical piece of opportunism.
Galway were on their way to a magnificent victory. The 'West was Awake' when Noel 0 Donoghue sounded the final whistle and some of the greatest moments in sport followed. Joe Connolly's ad-lib speech in Irish as the crowd erupts and the response from his listeners left grown men and women in tears; the appearance of Iggy Clarke and Joe McDonaghs' rendering of 'The West's Awake' were romantic moments in the story of Galway hurling.
It was a wonderful day for Galway and P. J. Molloy, the Athenryman was one of the heroes of a game that will live in the memory of all who saw it. Unprecedented scenes of celebration gripped the County as the team returned with the McCarthy Cup. The County's new folk heroes came home to a welcome unequalled in the County's sporting history.
When the All-Ireland champions visited Athenry on the following Saturday they received a tumultuous welcome from hundreds of fans despite heavy rain. They paraded from Kenny Park, their training ground, to the square led by local school bands.
Joe Connolly introduced the players individually to the crowd assembled at the square to tremendous applause. The loudest cheers of all were for the local hero P. J. Molloy and the 'king' himself John Connolly. The victorious Captain then thanked the people for the great reception, the Club for the presentations made and also paid tribute to Frank Kilkelly, caretaker of Kenny Park, who had been so helpful and obliging during the weeks of training before the final.
Galway 1980 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Champions
Front Row (left to right) Niall McInerney, Seamus Coen, Jimmy Cooney, Joe Connolly (Capt.), Sylvie Linnane, P. J. Molloy, Bernie Forde. Back Row (left to right) Conor Hayes, Steve Mahon, John Connolly, Michael Connolly, Michael Conneely, Frank Burke, Noel Lane and Sean Silke.
All-Ireland Final hero P. J. Molloy is carried shoulder high off the field after the game.
Donoghue's Bus driven by Miko that brought the Galway Team and McCarthy Cup back to the county.
For the first time since its inauguration in Thurles in 1971, Feile na nGael was staged in Galway and proved an outstanding success. While the basic aim of the Feile is to promote hurling, this original concept has been abandoned down the years making it into a festival of youth that cannot fail to impress all those who take part in it. It was a heartening sight to watch more than 2,000 youngsters from all 32 counties, immaculately garbed in their club colours, parade from St. Mary's College - where they had attended open air Mass - through Salthill to Pearse Stadium on the final day of Feile.
The weekend activities had commenced at Duggan Park, Ballinasloe on the Friday evening, where there was a special welcoming ceremony for the visiting teams. Athenry hosted the O'Donovan Rossa Club from Belfast and Club officials met their guests at Ballinasloe.
On Saturday morning the preliminary rounds got under way with Athenry defeating the northern side in a cracking game by one point2-3 to 1-5 at Kenny Park. There were many stars on the Athenry side, particularly full back Michael Maloney who had a fine game. The midfield pair of Joe Morrissey and Niall Cullinane were also outstanding with forwards Gerry Rabbitte and Declan Higgins showing their class.
Athenry went on to defeat Craughwell in the next round and qualified for the semi-final. Dungarvan ended Athenry's challenge for a place in the final, winning by two points, 1-5 to 1-3.
Team: Michael Doherty, Barry Kearns, Michael Moloney, Sean McGovern, Niall Cullinane, Anthony JenningsAll, Michael Canavan, Joe Morrissey, Gerry Rabbitte, Tony Ruane, Francis Flaherty, John Hardiman, Declan Higgins Gerard Mulkerrins, Martin Fitzpatrick. Subs: Noel Murphy, Joe Maloney, Andrew Rynne, Gerard McNamara, Tommy Lane.
The county championship was changed in 1980 from a knockout to a league system. Short several regulars, the Club's senior hurlers were hammered by Gort at Pearse Stadium in the first round by 1-1 0 to 0-2. But in their next game they pipped Liam Mellows in a hard fought game at Ballindereen by 2-11 to 2-8.
Victory over Kilbeacanty in their next game put Athenry back in contention for a quarterfinal spot. Leading by 1-6 to 1-5 at the interval, Athenry came under severe pressure after the break. However, a tonic goal by P. J. Molloy turned the tide against the South Galwaymen. Even the return of Josie Harte from the U.S.A ' was not enough to lift Kilbeacanty with Athenry winning by 2-8 to 1-7. Anyone who doubted Athenry's ability in their first outing against Gort got their answer when a well drilled side defeated St. Thomas's at Kinvara to qualify for the quarter-finals in a lively game. Athenry had improved immeasurably since that initial defeat and joined Thomas' in the knockout stages at the expense of Gort, Kilbeacanty and Liam Mellowes.
St. Thomas' led by a goal and a point after five minutes but by the twentieth minute the winners had taken the lead, and at half time were ahead 1 5 to 1-4. After the break Athenry improved c onsiderably and held the upperhand until the end winning by 1-12 to 1-5. Against Meelick/Eyrecourt in the quarterfinal at Loughrea Athenry really had no luck. On three occasions their forwards hit the woodwork while at the other end of the field three 'soft' goals were enough to give Meelick/Eyrecourt the advantage.
Trailing by 1-5 to 3-3 at the interval Athenry restarted with Gerry Holian in attack and he quickly made his presence felt as the gap was narrowed to two points. A glorious save by Gay Lyons from a rasping shot by Holian kept the East Galway side ahead and they countered with a scrambled goal to put the game out of Athenry's reach again. Points from Noel 'Pop' Ryan who scored 2-7 cancelled splendid points from John Burke and Gerry Dempsey. At the end Athenry were well beaten 4-9 to 1-11 with the three easy first half goals making the difference between the sides. Eyrecourt reached the County Final but lost to Sarsfields.
Team: Mark Donnellan, Sean Holian, Michael Treacy, Mattie Gannon, Luke Glynn, John Donnellan, Dermot Monaghan, Gerry Dempsey, John Burke, P. J. Molloy, Mixie Donoghue, Pascal Healy, Michael Donnellan, Steve Cloonan, Basil Holian, Sub. Gerry Holian.
The Clubs under 21 team were well beaten by Loughrea while the minor team in a second replay lost to Craughwell at Clarinbridge. After a fine win over Castlegar at Craughwell the junior team defeated Pearses by one point in a thrilling game at Carnmore. With a number of young players on the side they held onto a small lead in the closing stages for a well deserved win.
After a play-off in the group games Wolfe Tones qualified for the championship knockout stages but went out to Monivea by one point at Tuam Stadium. The lack of preparation and commitment showed in the closing stages by the failure to avail of several scoring chances.
The Club also fielded under 14 and under 16 teams. The under 14's had a convincing win over Caherlistrane in the first round of the championship but then lost to Ballygar. The under 16's failed to impress and lost their three games.
Joe Connolly makes his memorable and never to be forgotten acceptance speech following the All-Ireland Hurling Final
P. J Molloy crashes home his first half goal in the All-Ireland Final against Limerick
The Athenry man is carried off by supporters including Brian Hardiman after the Final
John Connolly with supporters and the McCarthy Cup at Eyre Square
Cheering in the rain - Athenry suppoerters pack the Square to greet the All-Ireland Champions
The 1980 Galway All-Ireland Winning Panel with coach Cyril Farrell in the USA
Front Row: (left to right) Noel Lane, Michael Mulkerrins, Jackie Dervan, Sylvie Linnane, Padraic Connolly. Middle Row: (left to right) Seamus Coen, Finbar Gantley, Jimmy Cooney, P.J. Molloy, Sean Silke, Pascal Ryan, Bernie Forde, Niall McInerney, John Ryan. Back Row: (left to right) Iggy Clarke, Gerry Glynn, Jack Lucas, Michael Connolly, Michael King, Michael Conneely, Gerry Curtin, Joe McDonagh, Steve Mahon, Joe Connolly and Cyril Farrell.