- John Connolly (hurler)
Infobox GAA player
sport = Hurling
name = John Connolly
irish = Seán Ó Conghaile
fullname = John Connolly
placeofbirth = Castlegar
county = Galway
province = Connacht
club = Castlegar
clposition = Forward
counties = Galway
icposition = Forward
icyears = 1970s-1980s
icprovince = 0
icallireland = 1
nhl = 1
allstars = 2
icupdate = John Connolly (born 1948 in Castlegar,
County Galway) is a retired Irish sportsperson. He played hurlingwith his local club Castlegar and with the Galway senior inter-county team in the 1970s and 1980s. Connolly is regarded as one of Galway’s greatest-ever players.
John Connolly was born in
Leiter Moir, Connemara, County Galwayin 1948. From his early years he showed outstanding promise as a fine all-round sportsman. His family moved to the city while he was still a young boy and he was educated in St. Mary’s College in the city. By the mid 1960s Connolly was coming to the notice of the public as a hurler, Gaelic footballer and as a boxer. In 1965 he was crowned Connachtjunior champion at light-welterweight, however, Connolly later turned his attention to Gaelic games.
Connolly played his club hurling with his local club in Castlegar and, together with his brothers Pádraic, Joe, Gerry, Michael, Tom and Murth, enjoyed much success. He won his first county title in 1967 and added a second in 1969. Three years later in 1972 Connolly added a third county medal to his collection. This was later converted into a Connacht club title, however, Castlegar were defeated by a mighty Glen Rovers team in the subsequent All-Ireland semi-final. Connolly captured another brace of county and provincial titles in 1973, however, Rathnure got the better of Castlegar in the All-Ireland semi-final. It would be 1979 before Connolly won his fifth county championship title. He later collected his third Connacht club hurling title before lining out in his first All-Ireland club final. Castlegar took on Ballycastle on that occasion, with victory going to the Galway men on a score line of 1-11 to 1-8. It was Connolly’s first and only All-Ireland club medal. In 1985 he won a sixth county medal and a fourth Connacht club medal. He later lined out in a second All-Ireland club final, however, St. Martin’s of
Kilkennytook the title after a replay.
Connolly first came to prominence on the inter-county scene with the Galway at under-age levels. He had little success with either the minor or under-21 teams and was subsequently called up to the Galway senior panel. Galway were in the doldrums at the time after having an unsuccessful eleven season spell participating in the Munster Championship.
In 1971 Connolly was a member of the team as Galway trounced Antrim in the All-Ireland quarter-final before losing to Tipperary in an exciting All-Ireland semi-final. In spite of this loss Connolly was later presented with a coveted All-Star award. It was the inaugural year of the awards scheme and Connolly became the first amn from Galway to be presented with the award.
Connolly first tasted major success in 1975. That year he was captain as Galway captured the
National Hurling Leaguetitle. It was a sign of things to come for the team. Later that summer Connolly’s side trounced Westmeath and shocked Cork to book their place in the All-Ireland final. Kilkenny, the reigning champions, provided the opposition on that occasion. Galway got off to a good start and took a 0-9 to 1-3 lead at half-time. Kilkenny, inspired by marvelous displays by Eddie Keherand Liam O’Brien, powered on to win by 2-22 to 2-10.
Galway faced a series of defeats at the penultimate stage of the championship for the next few seasons. In 1979 Connolly’s side shocked Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final for the second time of the decade. Once again the All-Ireland final saw Galway play Kilkenny. In one of the least exciting finals of the decade Galway continued their losing streak and capitulated to ‘the Cats’ by 2-12 to 1-8. In spite of this Connolly was still presented with a second All-Star award.
In 1980 Galway defeated Kildare and Offaly to reach a second consecutive All-Ireland final. On that occasion Limerick provided the opposition. Galway got off to a good start with two goals and led by 2-7 to 1-5 at the interval. Limerick fought back in the second-half; however, Galway secured the victory by 2-15 to 3-9. It was Connolly’s first All-Ireland medal and Galway’s first since 1923. The celebrations at
Croke Parkon that occasion surpassed anything that had ever been seen before.
In 1981 both Galway and Limerick met in the All-Ireland semi-final, however, it took a replay to find a winner. Galway emerged to take part in their third All-Ireland final in-a-row. Offaly, a team that Connolly’s side defeated on the way to the championship the previous year now provided the opposition. In another close encounter Galway looked set to make history as they took a six point lead after the interval. The team, however, failed to score for the last twenty-three minutes and Offaly took their first All-Ireland title.
The next three seasons saw Galway defeated at the All-Ireland semi-final stage. Connolly retired from inter-county hurling shortly afterwards.
Connolly also lined out with Connacht in the inter-provincial hurling competition. He captured his sole
Railway Cuptitle in 1980 as Connacht defeated Munster.
* Corry, Eoghan, "The GAA Book of Lists" (Hodder Headline Ireland, 2005).
* [http://www.hoganstand.com/Galway/Profile.aspx Galway GAA honours]
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