It is difficut to survey the last 15 years of County Galway hurling without being impressed with a sense of intense vitality. Almost impossible to define the shared excitement that integrated so many professional skills, people who were the same within the G.A.A. as. outside it. Essential to the county’s regeneration was Frank Fahy, a dynamo of integrity, straight talk and — you guessed it — controversy.
Personification is permissible. One half-century reveals John Dunne. Another period of 40 years was associated with Canon O’Dea. For the 1970’s there was Frank Fahy: the right man for fast-changing times.
As a player his career went back to the late 40’s and early 50’s as a hurler and footballer in St. Mary’s College. At inter-county level he played in the All-Ireland Junior Finals (home) of 1951, ‘55 and ‘57. At club level there were the 1956 and 6-in-a-row county titles with Turlough more.
But there was another side to him as he never abandoned managerial ambitions. As Turloughmore’s Secretary in 1956 and Treasurer throughout the 1960’s, he progressed to being the first County Hurling Board Secretary in 1973. On the executive side, he was County Hurling Team Manager in 1970-75, ‘76 and 77 and Selector in 1972, ‘73 and ‘78. That decade before Galway’s All-Ireland success in 1980 were years of inventiveness.
He is one of those people who have no other reason under the sun to be respected so highly by the hurling contraternity than a memorable track-record, because he has lived in Tuam since 1959. Currently the Chairman of Tuam Stars, he can take some of the credit for masterminding the Senior Football Championship Title of 1984.
He used to cycle from Tuam to Turloughmore for training during his playing days, but Tuam too has its hurlers-on-the-ditch — just so that one doesn’t get notions or the like. Two years ago Tuam Stars began to revive after a period in the doldrums and with Frank Fahy as part of that development reached the County Senior Semi-final. On paper the team was the best there was but on the day were beaten by one point by Corofin. After the match as he walked along the sideline he was the target of this gratuitous remark from a Tuam spectator, blest with a resonant voice: “Frankeen, stick to dancing. You know f--k all about football.” The allusion to dancing (not to hurling, mind you!) referred to his internationally known marquee company.
Frank’s father played some football and one of Frank’s greatest memories is the match in which St. Mary’s College defeated St. Jarlath’s College for the first time in 26 years. Jarlath’s were unbeatable at that time and that day Frank played for Mary’s at right-half back.
What he liked to remember about the Turlough more 6-in-a-row team is the comment of Canon O’Dea after their third victory (1963) Their success is based on their ability to play ground-hurling and on top of that they are fearless.” A lesson he’d learned from their tirst win against Fohenagh who were coasting to victory till the final devastating minutes, was that a match is not over till the final whistle.
On the inter-county level he sees three hurling eras: pre-1960’s, remembered for the wrong reasons
— rough; 1960-70, exact refereeing and direct hurling; 1970-80, a scientific game. The County Minors
of 1970 (including Ciarar Fitzgerald) began to show the fruits of the work of Coisde lomana. There in 1972 the new era of Galway’s excellence got underway with the Under-21 title. Though for the players themselves the spirit of ‘72 was never recaptured, later on Frank’s comment is “Things had begun to go right for Galway.”
As we well know, everything in the garden was not and is not rosy. Succinctly he says: Cork have an inferiority complex regarding Galway at present. It’s high time Kilkenny had one too. l regret Offaly are getting an edge on Galway these last few days.”
Galway have established themselves as a reliable hurling team and there’s good reason for it:
“Higher standards of facilities. hotels, travelling expenses and sliotars have helped, but moneyisn’t the answer,” he replies to the question about spending money on players. As regards the Galway football team he is clear about one thing: “We got to the All-Ireland two years ago and we must be good. We can’t be far behind the top teams. but there is something radically wrong somewhere.” My own regret is that during the interview I didn’t get him to expand on the last sentence. What are his ambitions for Tuam Stars? Last year the Senior Championship players were all from the town. We know every team loves to play Tuam Stars and beat the Stars. We have as fine a Recreation Complex as you’d find, but it is underused. All the time it should be used,” he explains.
Frank’s life is action-packed and surrounded by action. Wherever one looks in his career one finds him very exacting on himself, giving 100% effort, respecting his colleagues for doing their own particular job and not diverted by either set-backs or criticisms. I get the impression that the expanded Croke Park bureaucracy does not match-up with his own grá for the Association. “There are people there with big salaries . Still, for certain schemes they brought in outside agents when they should have done them themselves,” he declares.
The successful County Hurling Board of which he was pilot during those formative years is firmly on course. its saving quality being its penchant for change or, as it was described in the late 1970’s, “mass clean-out. Frank Fahy’s recipe for success is simple: “No man in the G.A.A. should hold any office for more than five years.” That’s his style.
John Fleming Captain of Tuam Vocational School, Galways Connacht Champions and All-Ireland runners-up receives Connacht cup from Anthony Donoghue surrounded by happy fans. The schools captain from Clough Cummer is now cased in the United States - where he follows up his interest in football and the world of horse racing.