Athenry’s Hurling Day of Glory

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The 31st October 2004 will long be remembered among supporters of St Mary’s GAA club, Athenry as one of their greatest days yet.

It was on this day that the club captured its seventh Galway Senior Hurling title in eleven years.

Winning so many titles in recent times would lead one to wonder as to why there was such an outpour of emotion by hurlers, mentors and supporters. However, the stakes were high on this occasion. Having been written off by members of the public and of the media, this team felt that they had something to prove. Add to this the media hype that surrounded recent events and you will begin to imagine the strain that was inflicted on Athenry GAA people coming up to this year’s county final.

The relief from this strain was palpable when the final whistle blew in Pearse Stadium with the scoreboard showing a final score of Athenry 0-15, Portumna, 0-13. The invasion onto the pitch and the sheer joy of supporters had not been seen among Athenry supporters since the club’s first county championship in 1987. This was carried on into the dressing room where players, supporters and mentors celebrated with gusto.

It was a great day for captain Eugene Cloonan who was top scorer in Galway’s championship, beating his nearest rival by over thirty points. Athenry supporters will long remember his speech. In fact, it is surprising that, for such a prodigious talent, this was fact the first cup he ever lifted for his club.

It was a great day, too, for Paul Hardiman, Brian Feeney and Joe Rabbitte who are the proud holders of every county senior medal won by the club. In fact, Paul Hardiman is only player in the club to have started in all county finals having played in the 1987 final at the age of 17.

The highlight of the after-match celebrations would have to be the bonfires that lit up the road from Derrydonnell Cross all the way in to Swangate. Hundreds of people lined the road to welcome home their heroes. There were further celebrations when the team appeared in the square where over 1,000 people welcomed home the panel of players and mentors.

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About this record

Written by Mark Nevin

Published here 29 Dec 2023 and originally published Christmas 2004

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