Athenry's long tradition in handball was recalled with pride at the opening of the county's first covered handball court in the town on Lady's Day. The splendid new complex added a new dimension to the game and provided the Handball Club witth badly needed facilities. Complete with public gallery, meeting room and dressing rooms the court was officially opened by Mr. Tom Walshe, President of the Irish Handball Council. Among the prominent G.A.A. officials present at the opening were Mr. Joe Lynch, National Handball Administrator and Mr. Mick Sylver, President of the Galway County Board.
Athenry's Seamus Lynch, Chairman of the Galway Handball Board told the attendance that the Athenry Club were now in a position to host major competitions such as County and Provincial Finals. He referred to the strong tradition of handball in Athenry and stressed that to maintain the interest of the youth the provision of facilities such as these included in the development was vital.
A number of exhibition games were then played on the new court, and among the players taking part was World Champion Pat Kirby who narrowly defeated Peadar McGee in a very entertaining contest.
Attending the opening of Athenry's new Indoor Handball Alley were club officers Seamus Lynch, Ann Barrett and Paddy Corley with County Board officers Mick Sylver and Noel Treacy and Handball Officials.
In a repeat of the '77 County League Final Kiltormer and Athenry again shared the spoils in a top class league game at Carnmore. The commitment of both teams gave supporters plenty to cheer about and showed that both were strong contenders for championship honours. At halftime Athenry after playing with the wind, were on level terms thanks to a good goal by Michael Donnellan just before the break.
The second half produced the best hurling, P.J. Molloy put Athenry ahead with a fine goal from play and a point from a free. Undaunted, Kiltormer fought back with a goal coming from John Goode. It was anybody's game as both sides gave everything they had in a hectic final ten minutes. Goode put Kiltormer ahead with five minutes remaining but Molloy was back to level the scores and narrowly missed what might have been a winner leaving the score Athenry 2-7 Kiltormer 1-10.
With wins, also in the league, over Castlegar and Kinvara and further wins over Killimordaly and Turloughmore in tournament games Athenry faced Carnmore in the first round of the senior championship at Ballindereen in a confident mood. The Athenry side included newcomer Mixie Donoghue making his championship debut for Athenry. In a game, which had all the properties of what is good and bad about the game of hurling, Athenry proved the age-old adage that 'the game is never over until the final whistle.' Inspired by P. J. Molloy, Athenry succeeded in lifting their game in the second half, after trailing by eight points at the break, to necessary heights to snatch the narrowest of victories. Molloy was absolutely brilliant in the last thirty minutes. He tackled, fielded, delivered and scored with monotonous regularity. Mixie Donoghue too proved his worth and lashed in a goal to give Athenry the lead near the end. The final score was 1-15 to 3-8 with Molloy getting twelve points.
After a shaky first half Athenry settled well in the second period with the defence doing particularly well to hold Carnmore to 0-3 in that half.
Team: Mattie Gannon, Jarlath Cloonan, Michael Treacy, Ray Glynn, Luke Glynn, Tom Cloonan, Sean Holian, P. J. Molloy, Gerry Dempsey, Basil Holian, Gerry Holian, Mixie Donoghue, Gerry McDonagh, Steve Cloonan, John Donnellan.
Carnmore objected, claiming that Mixie Donoghue, who had transferred from Pearse's of London earlier in the year, had no qualification to play with Athenry. The objection was upheld by the County Hurling Board disciplinary Committee and the game awarded to Carnmore. Athenry appealed the decision to the County Board, who, after a three-hour debate overruled the Hurling Committee's decision and voted in favour of Athenry.
Athenry's Market Cross gets a facelift.
Castlegar ended Athenry's hopes of championship glory at Pearse Stadium in the quarterfinal winning by 2-5 to 0-7. Playing against a strong wind and drizzle in the first half Athenry only managed to score a single point but were still very much in touch at half time trailing by 1-3 to 0-1. Hopes of an Athenry comeback in the second half appeared to end with a freak Castlegar goal but Athenry kept in contention sending over three points. Castlegar brought John Connolly back to full back and that move proved decisive as the County star, one of six brothers on the Castlegar team, proved his worth as a defender. His side held onto the lead despite strong pressure from Athenry who were very unlucky not to score a goal near the end leaving the final score 2-5 to 0-7.
Castlegar went on to win the County Cup defeating Kinvara in the final and made history by winning the County's first All-Ireland Club title. Their semi-final victory over Cork's Blackrock at Athenry was one of the most exciting and memorable games ever played at that venue.
The Clubs under 21 team relied too much on county player Gerry Dempsey and could not defeat Beagh in their opening game at Ardrahan. Dempsey gave a fine exhibition but goalkeeping errors kept Beagh in touch and they secured a one-point win. The minor team after being runners up in a tournament organised by Mervue Hurling Club went down to Meelick/Eyrecourt in their first round game.
There was, however, hope for the future when the Club's under 14 team provided a major shock defeating a highly fancied Turloughmore side by one point. A splendid goal by Martin Fitzpatrick after halftime proved to be a matchwinner. The under 14 side were also successful against Carnmore but were defeated by a strong Oranmore/Maree fifteen. An understrength under 16 team were well beaten by Castlegar after defeating Abbeyknockmoy in the first round. The only team with a hundred per cent record of wins during the year was the Club's over 30's that were winners of the Athenry Festival Tournament Final defeating Castlegar.
In a sensational victory Galway senior hurlers defeated three-in-a-row All-Ireland champions Cork by 2-14 to 1-13 in the All-Ireland semi-final and shattered Cork's four-in-a-row aspirations. In the All-Ireland Final it was the same old story, Galway failed to master the wet conditions and conceded two soft goals when losing to Kilkenny 2-11 to 1-8.
Gerry Dempsey came on as a substitute for the County under 21 side who defeated Wexford in a tremendously exciting All-Ireland semi-final at Nolan Park, Kilkenny by 1-12 to 2-8 They too were unsuccessful in the final and surrendered their under21 crown to Tipperary losing by 2-12 to 1-9.
Years of frustration in the camogie wilderness ended when the County junior team defeated Cork by 4-3 to 3-2 at Croke Park. That historic victory was a personal triumph for Athenry's Marian Freaney who scored three goals to rescue her side from what seemed to be an inevitable defeat. The team also included Athenry players Ann Poniard, Olive Coady and Una Jordan. It was not surprising that the Galway Captain Marian Freaney received the Galway Sports Star Camogie Award at the end of the year.
There was no doubt but Wolfe Tones had the players capable of winning the County championship. After a poor start to the league with two defeats the team became more settled and had an impressive eight point win over Kilconly. They went on to record further impressive victories in the championship over Killererin by 2-7 to 0-6 and a one point success against Annaghdown in a thrilling game at Corofin. Full forward Tom Cloonan punched the winning point in the closing stages. Another win over Michael Breathneachs by 1-11 to 2-5 put Tones through to the QuarterFinal against Kiltormner.
Fielding without midfielders Stephen Cloonan and John Burke the team was further weakened by injuries to Frank Joyce and Tom Cloonan early in the second period. Still they played very well showing a lot of determination and were very unlucky to loose by two points 1-7 to 0-8.
Kilitormer went on to win the County championship with much larger margins in their remaining games. The Club's under 14's in a group containing Oranmore/Maree, Salthill, Claregalway, Moycullen and Killanin did extremely well in the league to win eight out of a possible ten points. However, they lost to Ballygar in the first round of the championship.
Still the Club continued to promote and coach the juveniles with the Parish and schools league attracting a large number of players. Fr. Charles 0 Malley C.C. continued to guide the young players and it is doubtful if they could have secured a better man. The former Dunmore McHales player was considered an extremely clever forward and one of the strongest players in the game who would almost certainly be an intercounty player were it riot for the ban on clerical students at that time.
Athenry retained the County Senior Club Camogie title for the fifth year in succession defeating Glenamaddy in the County Final.
The northern camogie supremos Portgienone travelled southwards to Kenny Park for the All-Ireland semi-final hoping to avenge the defeats of previous seasons. But Athenry again proved their superiority and were deserving winners by 10-7 to 3-2.
Buffers Alley again proved a stumbling block even at Kenny Park in the All-Ireland Final winning by 2-6 to 1-2. On a terrible day the handful of spectators who turned up-watched without much emotion as the Wexford side picked up the title at the hands of luckless Athenry.
The home side missed several goal-scoring chances in the opening half and this proved to be their downfall. To their credit the Athenry girls battled on until the end and at stages played sparkling bouts of camogie.
Team: Breda Coady, Noreen Treacy, Chris Silke, Anne Duane, Anne Delaney, Madge Hobbins, Olive Coady, Anne Poniard, Marian Freaney, Una Jordan, Anne Morris, Teresa Duane, Subs: Midge Poniard, Mary Daly.