Galway and The Spirit of ‘88

It's 29 years since Liam McCarthy last journeyed over the Shannon. In the interim the Tribesmen have come close, but the view, especially among the last group of hurlers to win it, is that it is time to pass on the mantle.

In the midst of a period of hurling superiority and what was a golden age for hurling in the county, Galway GAA hurled their way to two All Ireland titles in 1987 and 1988. They could easily have added a couple more titles to their haul. The final of ’89 is the one widely thought to be the one that got away and although there have been appearances in the decider since, Sunday is probably their best chance of Liam since the Glory days in the eighties.

Then Galway hurled with a combination of steel and panache, with the stick work and skill of the likes of Joe Cooney and Hopper McGrath, grafted to the strength and aggression of Lynskey and the no quarter asked or given mentality among their defenders.

The advance of time has been sharpened in recent weeks with the untimely and tragic loss of Tony Keady, the brilliant no. 6 on that last Galway All Ireland winning team in 1988. For the Tribe, it’s now time that Liam came back across the Shannon.

With the current panel featuring sons and relatives of the legends of 1988 it's worth taking another look back at that team.

John Commins [Gort]

Recent years have seen the ‘87/‘88 Keeper assist with Jeffrey Lynskey's minor group.  He told the Examiner in 2015: “the two we won in 87 and 88 we could have lost. I look at 85, 86 and 90 as ones we probably should have won.”

Sylvie Linnane [Gort]

Sylvie was a tough and unapologetic corner back. Since he hung up the hurls he's been involved in coaching in Gort and watching his sons emerge as senior hurlers.

Conor Hayes [Kiltormer]

Last Galway GAA man to lift the Liam McCarthy and with three Celtic crosses in the back pocket Hayes is true Galway legend. His helmet marked him out on the pitch.  Since then has managed the Galway senior team.

Ollie Kilkenny [Kiltormer]

Anything that passed the star studded half back line, Ollie Kilkenny and his two compadres were well able to deal with it. Another tough member of the brotherhood of corner backs.

Pete Finnerty [Mullagh]

One third of one of the best half back lines ever to play the game. Went on to be a knowledgeable pundit on the Sunday Game. Five time All Star and twice All Ireland winner, he admits the wins that they didn’t win haunt him still.

Tony Keady [Killimordaly]

Sadly and tragically lost to us earlier this summer, Tony was a legend of the game, and the respect he was held in was clear to see in recent weeks. A brilliant centre back, anchored the defence and was tough and steely stylist.

Gerry McInerney [Kinvara]

Father of current player Gearoid, his other claims to fame included his famous white boots, which at the time were fairly out there.

Michael Coleman [Abbeyknockmoy]

One former teammate described him thus: "Going up there like a helicopter, swinging legs, arms, hurleys, coming down with the ball and then only one way forward, no fancy sidesteps, just direct hurling.”

Pat Malone [Oranmore Maree]

All Star winner in 1993 and two time All Ireland winner, Pat made the Galway no.9 jersey his own, holding the midfield together with his own understated efficiency. Involved as part of Anthony Cunningham’s management team he is one of Galway’s greatest players.

Anthony Cunningham [St Thomas]

Until recently manager of the Galway hurlers and has an impressive football coaching CV. As a player he captained the Galway to minor and u21 hurling All Irelands and won two senior medals.

Brendan Lynskey [Meelick Eyrecourt]

Tough uncompromising old school no11. Took a wrecking ball to opposition defences and struck fear into any young players sent in his direction.  A Galway man to the core he acrid his team’s success to a sense of team: “When we put on a county jersey, we forgot about our rivalries, we forgot about our differences.”

Martin Naughton [Turloughmore]

Speed and scoring accuracy from the rampaging wingman were the hallmark of Galway’s attacking play. Described at the time as ‘pacy and effervescent’ with his side-stepping movements, change of pace and running off the ball, with Ryan he was an exhilarating threat scoring 1-18 from play in the ‘88 campaign.

Michael ‘Hopper’McGrath [Sarsfields]

Two All stars, two All Irelands and two club All Irelands with Sarsfields. A main stay of the team, and now involved in coaching, Hopper’s daughters Orlaith, Clodagh, Niamh and Siobhán have established themselves with Galway and Sarsfields camogie.

Joe Cooney [Sarsfields]

Five time All Star, two All Ireland medals, fifth highest Galway scorer of all time. Pulled on the Galway senior jersey from 1983 to 2001. Two club All Irelands with Sarsfields. One of the greats.

Éanna Ryan [Killimordaly]

Ryan was another lively threat in the corner combining speed and skill and picking up vital scores. Suffered a shocking head injury whilst hurling that threatened to end his career in 1990 but he made it back on to the field of play a number of years later.


Noel Lane [Ballindereen]

Tony Kilkenny [Kiltormer]

Gerry Burke [Turloughmore]