At this years Connacht GAA Championship Finals the Galway All Ireland winning three in a row team were the special guests of honour.
The following is an article penned by Jim Carney on this remarkable team.
Golden Jubilee honour for Galway Three-in-a-Row heroes
By Jim Carney (Tuam Herald)
GALWAY’S All-Ireland football champions of 1964, ’65 and ’66 are guests of honour at the 2015 Connacht senior and minor finals. For their Golden Jubilee tribute to that legendary team’s three provincial titles of those years, the Connacht GAA Council decided to do it this year, which marks the 50th anniversary of Galway’s three-point victory over Sligo in the 1965 Connacht final, by 1-12 to 2-6.
That final was played at Tuam Stadium and it’s fascinating to think that it was Galway’s only game in that provincial Championship. They had flown to the USA as ‘home’ National League champions, with a two-leg League final ‘proper’ to be played against New York on June 27th and July 4th. Galway, boosted by the Connacht Council giving them a bye to the provincial final, were crowned NFL champions in New York on an aggregate score from the two games against the Exiles of 4-12 to 0-17.
It was surely not in the script for the visitors to clinch the series with a 3-8 to 0-9 win on American Independence Day!
Sligo were well prepared for their battle with Galway in Tuam on August 1st. They had a big win over Leitrim first time out, 4-12 to 0-6, at Carrick-on-Shannon, and next they knocked out Mayo at O’Hara Park, Charlestown, 2-11 to 2-8.
Many followers of Connacht football in the 1960s were of the opinion that Mayo were the second best team in the country in ’66 and were unlucky to lose to Galway in a tight finish to that year’s provincial final at Castlebar. It should also be said that Sligo weren’t far behind Galway and Mayo in those years; only a goal separted Galway and Sligo in 1964 at Markievicz Park (2-12 to 1-12) and three points in ’65 after Sligo led by five at half-time. Interestingly too, Sligo held Mayo to a draw in 1966 and lost the replay, at Castlebar, by only one goal in a high-scoring thriller which Mayo won by 4-7 to 3-7.
That was a Sligo team with four players who helped Connacht win the Railway Cup in 1969: goalkeeper Peter James Brennan, left half-back Liam Caffrey, who has lived in Tuam for many years; centre half-forward Jim Colleary and beside him at No. 12 the incomparable Mícheál Kearins, one of the all-time ‘greats’ of Gaelic football.
Against Galway in the 1965 Connacht final, Sligo also had such well-known players as Cathal Cawley who was at centre half-back, Brendan McCauley and Bill Shannon at midfield, Danny McHugh at centre half-forward and Joe Hannon and Mickey Durkan in the full-forward line. They led at half-time by 2-3 to 1-2 but Galway asserted their superiority in the second half with John Donnellan outstanding in the half-back line, and others to excel when the need was greatest were Mattie McDonagh, Christy Tyrrell and John Keenan.
The All-Ireland semi-final vs Ulster champions Down was played at Croke Park on August 22nd. There was great excitement in the build-up, for Down had emerged as a sensational new force with their back-to-back victories in the All-Ireland finals of 1960 and ’61, playing with an unusually high level of self-confidence. It wasn’t arrogance but you could see that those Down men did not have any low self-esteem issues!
Galway won by 0-10 to 0-7, without playing particularly well as a team but captain Enda Colleran played the game of his life and Mattie McDonagh, Pat Donnellan and the wonderfully consistent Cyril Dunne also excelled, especially late in the game after Down had missed a series of great scoring chances. Goalkeeper Johnny Geraghty, who had been outstanding in the two American games, was also a key figure as indeed he was a hero all through that golden era, without having to do much in finals! That was amazing, and a tribute to the men in front of him, especially on the big days. There was always a solid, powerful ‘feel’ from reading out the four names on the teamsheet from numbers 1 to 4 – Johnny Geraghty, Enda Colleran, Noel Tierney, Bosco McDermott.
Looking back on it now, I cannot help thinking how that splendid Galway team played their best football in finals while, on the other hand, in 1975, ’79, ’81, ’85, ’86, ’90, ’93, 2001 and ’05 our hurlers gave their best, most dynamic displays in All-Ireland semi-finals and came up short next time out in all those years.
When Galway footballers defeated Kerry in the 1965 final, there was huge satisfaction in matching the back-to-back achievements of Roscommon in the 1940s and Mayo in 1950 and ’51.
Johnny Geraghty kept his net intact in the three finals won by Galway in the mid-60s. Mattie McDonagh scored the only goal in those three finals, against Meath in ’66. The winning score against Kerry in ’65 was 0-12 to 0-9. Galway played only three games to win the Sam Maguire Cup that year: against Sligo, Down and Kerry, and they won all three by three points.
Remarkably, when John O’Mahony and Galway won the 2001 All-Ireland SFC they had to play eight games, against Leitrim, Roscommon (twice), Wicklow, Armagh, Cork, Derry and, in the final, Meath.
* The 1960s will be fondly remembered by Galway people at home and all over the world for the glory of the Three-in-a-Row, and for other wonderful achievements in those halcyon days: Galway won the 1960 All-Ireland Minor Football Championship and the 1965 All-Ireland Junior Football Championship; UCG dominated the Sigerson Cup in the early 1960s; St Jarlath’s College, Tuam were leaders of the Hogan Cup Roll of Honour with victories in 1960, ’61, ’64 and ’66, and Galway twice won the All-Ireland Vocational Schools’ Championship, in 1964 and ’65.
GALWAY, All-Ireland Senior Football champions, 1965. At back, from left: Séamus Leydon (Dunmore MacHales), Noel Tierney (Milltown), Bosco McDermott (Williamstown/Dunmore MacHales), Tom Sands (Ballygar/Fr Griffin’s), Seán Meade (Ballinasloe), Mattie McDonagh (Ballygar, now St Brendan’s), Mick Garrett (Tuam Stars), Mick Reynolds (Tuam Stars), Jimmy Glynn (Corofin), John Keenan (Dunmore MacHales). In front: Greg Higgins (Tuam Stars), Martin Newell (Fr Griffin’s), John Donnellan (Dunmore MacHales), Seán Cleary (Ballygar), Cyril Dunne (Ballinasloe), Christy Tyrrell (Kilkerrin/Mountbellew), Enda Colleran, captain (Mountbellew-Moylough), Brian Geraghty (Oughterard), Tommy Keenan (Dunmore MacHales), Johnny Geraghty (Kilkerrin/Mountbellew), Pat Donnellan (Dunmore MacHales). Team management: John Dunne, Brendan Nestor, Frank Stockwell.