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In 1948 at the age of fourteen years, I played my first competitive sport, it was minor football with Athenry. It was special as we went on to win the North Board divisional championship beating Corofin in the final by a score of one goal five points to six points, but Ballinasloe defeated us in the county final in a replay.
My sporting interests in all codes was total. I played tennis, and represented Galway and later Connaught in the senior interprovincials. In the Athenry Tennis Club we also had an excellent Table tennis section, and we played in the Galway leagues and championships.
Then I turned my hand to snooker, I reached the county semi-final in 1953 beaten by Fergus Griffin at the Galway Rowing Club, I got to the semi-final again in 1982. Then I won the county doubles in 1983 in tandem with nephew Tom Dempsey. I was elected chairman of the Galway Billiards and Snooker Association, a position I held for many years. During that time, I refereed many county finals, and I also had the honour and privilege of being the referee for two world champions, they were Alex Higgins and Dennis Taylor on the occasions of their visits to Galway.
In 1957 Athenry Hurlers made the break through by annexing the county “A” championships. I played in the back division but won my county medal in goal in the final against Ballindereen as our goalie was injured. Athenry hurling club has been a senior team since those heady days. In that period Athenry footballers won the North Galway Championship in 1960 and again I had the honour of been elected captain of both codes.
Then I discovered the magic of golf and soon regretted that I did not take it much earlier. I did however achieve a five handicap standard, and I won all the honours open to a club golfer, I won a captain’s and president’s prize and two matchplay championships.
I played hockey for Galway Hockey Club for a number of years, and played in the Irish Junior Cup and the Munster Senior League, when the Connaught Cup was revived, I was part of the successful Galway team, and as our standard rose we changed the South eastern Clubs who were masquerading as Connaught and in the test match we again were successful.
I also played rugby with Galwegians R.F.C albeit at Junior level, I have been associated with Ballymena R.F.C since 1962 due to the annual Ballymena V Galwegians game for the Des Dempsey Memorial in memory of my late brother.
In winter time I played Badminton for Athenry and had notable success in the Galway leagues and won the double of Galway and Connaught leagues in 1972. This exercise has been worthwhile to me because through my sporting endeavours or achievements over such long periods, I have made many wonderful friends and many golden memories to make it all so worthwhile.
To sum up I won Galway County Championships in Hurling, Snooker, Golf and Badminton and Connaught Championships in Badminton, Golf and Hockey.
Written by Sean Dempsey
Published here 20 Feb 2023 and originally published December 1997
The Athenry Journal
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