By Niamh Prendergast
It’s the first Sunday of September, where else would you rather be? Croke park, Hogan stand, Section 331, Row G, Seat 14. Surely, nowhere else, or perhaps the hill? But, only one other place in the whole world may measure, and that is, of course, on the famous pitch itself.
For some talented young NUI Galway students that was just where they happened to find themselves, on a warm Sunday afternoon, in the first week in September, warming up for what was to be one of the most memorable occasions of their live’s. And now? They have to do it all again!
Now, with the under twenty one all Ireland final just creeping up around the corner next weekend, the reality is for many of these Clare hurlers, that they will play three All-Ireland finals this September! Clare are the odds on favourites to win the Cadbury’s under twenty one championship against Antrim in Semple Stadium this Saturday and Clare will get a chance to re-battle the rebels when the replay of the Senior hurling All-Ireland has been scheduled to an un-traditional Saturday, on 28 September.
NUI Galway are again, like last years All Ireland final with the likes of Niall Burke playing for Galway, very well represented in this year’s hurling All Ireland too. This year, the University is represented by Clare, not surprising, considering the average age of the Clare team is twenty three, with players both past and present.
NUI Galway students and alumni representing the Banner County are Pat Kelly, Cian Dillon, John Conlon, Colin Ryan, Conor McGrath, Liam Markham, Aaron Cunningham, Fergal Lynch, Donal Touhy, Colm Galvin, Seadna Morey and last minute hero, corner back Domhnall O Donovan.
In the hurling quarter-finals, Clare proved too strong for a Galway side, which included current NUI Galway students Joseph Cooney and Niall Burke, whilst the semi-final success over Limerick guaranteed Clare their place in the final.
Dr Pat Morgan, Vice-President for the Student Experience at NUI Galway, said: “I am delighted that our students continue to excel, both on and off the field of play, and we wish them the best in their quest to bring the McCarthy Cup back to Clare.”
Galway, also featured in this year’s minor All-Ireland final, and being a Waterford woman myself who attends University in Galway, I shall say no more! NUI Galway are also well represented in the Senior Camogie All-Ireland finals this weekend, with players like Aisling Dunphy for Kilkenny and past pupil superstar Niamh Kilkenny lines out mid-field for Galway, when Galway meet Kilkenny for the first time in an All-Ireland final. Galway manager, Tony Ward, is also the current manager of The NUI Galway Ashbourne team. We wish all NUI Galway students and alumni involved in all match’s the very best of luck! Hopefully, the experience our students gain in these big games will contribute to our Universities efforts in the upcoming years Fitzgibbon and Ashbourne cups respectively!