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James Skehill: "Only for them I’d most definitely be abroad."

The man between the posts for Galway is hugely appreciative of the opportunity to line out in Croke Park next Sunday.

Galway's James Skehill at the county's press night last week in Loughrea.
Galway's James Skehill at the county's press night last week in Loughrea.
Image: INPHO/Donall Farmer

A WAVE OF GALWAY supporters will roll into the capital this weekend, hurling followers from the west along with the Tribesmen natives journeying from further afield.

James Skehill will observe the influx and reflect that he could easily have been amongst them. The 24 year-old Galway goalkeeper is a Civil Engineer by profession and toyed with the idea of emigrating a couple of years ago.

A close friend Paul Loughnane, from his home club Cappataggle, who Skehill won an All-Ireland minor medal with in 2005 and an All-Ireland U21 medal with in 2007, had already departed for New York and was selling the idea to Skehill of joining him. But then local assistance helped Skehill stay and pursue his Galway hurling dream.

“From college in Limerick IT I was working with a construction company based in Athenry,” Skehill told TheScore.ie. “Then I went to the company Cyril (Donnellan) was with, Finnerty’s Plant Hire. Then two and a half years ago I got a call from Paul Carey and got this job with Carey Building Contractors. I was lucky enough because at that stage opportunities were drying up.

One of my good friends Paul Loughnane was gone to New York and he was telling me there was work there in abundance. I was seriously contemplating it. You were at the height of the recession and I suppose part of you was thinking, well, in two years we’ll be coming out of the recession. Obviously we’re not and even now, if I were let go from the job, it would be very hard to keep yourself in the country.

“All I can do  is be grateful to Paul Carey for the job, only for him I’d be abroad. We’re working away at the moment at Taylor’s Hill, right beside Pearse Stadium. It’s mixed, private and public contracts. If you had to leave your family, your girlfriend, your friends – you name it – and shoot off abroad. seeing what’s going on here (the All-Ireland final), that would have been an extra level of devastation on top of the homesickness.

“We’re part of history – not too many Galway teams have reached All-Ireland senior finals, I’m part of a select list and that’s a great privilege. This is my first time being at this stage of the championship, I’ve never been hurling in September with Galway so for me personally it’s exciting, for the whole county it’s exciting, we haven’t been in a final for seven years – we’re well overdue this excitement.”

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Aside from employment issues, Skehill is also grateful to have survived the cull that took place in the Galway panel at the end of last year. Several established figures that Skehill had soldiered with lost out and he has huge sympathy for them.

The players I played with, the players I slogged with, as a human being you’d feel sorry for them. That’s human nature. But they’re great professionals to a man. Hopefully we might still hear from them in the future. My own club mate Damien Joyce was captain last year. You’d struggle to find a more professional player in the country, a great servant to Galway.

“He’s fully aware, understands that with every team the evolution that takes place. New faces have to come in and the older generation needs to pass on or whatever. When the new management team was announced last November you were wondering when we’d be going back training.

“But then we got news of who was dropped – big names like Ger Farragher and so on – and you begin to think to yourself, am I going to be next? Thankfully the boys saw something in me they thought they needed for the panel.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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