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Dublin: 10 °C Friday 18 October, 2019

Galway's 29-year wait, local heroes Burke and Cooney, and Tony Keady memories

Anthony Cunningham has returned to join the Galway fans on All-Ireland final day.

Anthony Cunningham with the Galway players before the 2015 All-Ireland final.
Anthony Cunningham with the Galway players before the 2015 All-Ireland final.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IN 2012 AND 2015, Anthony Cunningham was in the thick of the action on All-Ireland final day, patrolling the sideline and willing Galway to get over the line.

They had three attempts – a replay required five years ago – but could not surmount the Kilkenny challenge.

Tomorrow is their latest chance to end that long, exhausting wait to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

A winner as a player and defeated as a manager, now Cunningham will join the masses of Tribesmen fans hoping their barren spell will end.

The unique challenge of Waterford…

“We never played them in championship as player but we met them several times in the league. There was no qualifiers in our time and they hadn’t been at the All-Ireland semi-final stage in all the years I played.

“Then the years I was there as manager underage and senior, we wouldn’t have played them in championship. They didn’t get through or we just didn’t come up against them.

“They baat Galway the year before I came in, a bad day from a Galway point of view. John Mullane ran the show. It’s a pretty frightening statistic that Galway haven’t beaten them in championship.”

Adrian Cullinane and John Mullane John Mullane in action for Waterford against Galway in 2011. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

The difference in build-up in 2017…

“For me now that’s all over, it’s just enjoying it as a fan now. Like anybody whether you’re a club trainer or a teacher, I think that’s the beauty of the GAA that when a county is in an All-Ireland, everyone has an association with the players to some degree.

“When you’re there with the team, you’re working hard with them and when you move on from that, you’re just back following them, buying your ticket the same as any fan and you’re hoping for the win.

“I’m wishing Mícheál Donoghue and his coaches the best, and the players the best. The big thing is hoping the county win the All-Ireland as it’s kind of unreal it’s gone on for so long.”

Remembering Tony Keady…

“Sadly we met as a group there recently with the passing of Tony Keady. Inevitably the talk came around to trying to win the All-Ireland this year. Maybe Tony will be the inspiration to our name being on it this year.

“He was at the Tipp match with his wife and kids. He was holding court outside after as Tony did, he just loved the banter. He was full of life and had booked the weekend for the All-Ireland final.

“It was just so tragic. To get the news was sad and shocking for everyone but especially for his wife and kids.

Pete Finnerty, Tony Keady and Gerry McInerney Tony Keady with former Galway colleagues Pete Finnerty and Gerry McInerney. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“When I was involved with Galway, Tony lived quite close to Athenry in Oranmore, and he’d bring the kids to the training sessions. He’d have a word with you coming off the pitch.

“I got to meet him quite a lot then. He was a brilliant family man. His life was hurling and it’s just so sad.”

Galway’s long wait for glory…

“Galway is crying out for an All-Ireland. The people in clubs really need this to give them vigour and breathe new life into it. That’s why for both counties it’s so important.

“We’re no different to any other county wishing and always hoping. If you said to someone coming out of Croke Park in 1988, that we’d go 29 years without winning it, you’d say you’d want your head examined.

“No one would have believed you. It was in a strong place in Galway but it just didn’t happen for many different reasons.

Immersed in GAA coaching…

“I’ve done a huge amount of it this year. I used to play a bit of golf but fitness now and coaching is a great hobby.

“I’m in business now with Michael Fennelly with CoachFinder. The levels now that club and counties have gone to is huge. Everybody is trying to get ahead. We work in leadership and management with companies as well, who like to attract the sport experience that coaches have had.

Noel Connors and Michael Fennelly Michael Fennelly in action for Kilkenny in July against Waterford. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“I had the idea because I was getting asked a lot to help out or advise about coaching. I knew Michael was lecturing and was very knowledgeable in the area and had gone overseas to Sydney to work in Aussie Rules for a while.

“It was a very good fit and you can definitely see him being heavily involved in coaching in time. We have the same view that guys have to develop physically and mentally. For us it’s a hobby and now a business.

The chance for a St Thomas man to lift the Liam MacCarthy…

“I hurled with David’s father John for years. His parents and family are huge hurling people, tremendous ambassadors in the club. David epitomises everything that’s good in the Burke family. He’s just a gentleman, he’s such a humble guy. He just doesn’t want any limelight but he still has that steel and drive.

David Burke lifts the Bob O'Keeffe Cup with Michael D Higgins David Burke lifts the Bob O'Keeffe Cup after the Leinster final. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“The club are extremely proud of him and Conor Cooney, who’s now a teacher in Peterswell national school. Conor and David are both teachers, and they’re huge role models. I think it’s really something special to see Conor back to the local school we all went to. He’d be the leading light there now.”

* For more information on CoachFinder, see

Source: The42 Podcasts/SoundCloud

‘At the time I was kind of in a happy bubble. Then I got brought down to earth fairly quick’

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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