Geary charts how the game developed in Galway

Michael Geary remains a passionate football follower

On a wet Monday afternoon Michael Geary’s thoughts drift back to a different and dynamic era when junior football dominated conversations in the town.

Geary’s eyes still light up when Brian Delargy is mentioned. “You had so many gifted soccer players at the time, the late Brian Delargy with Galway Hibernians,” Geary says admiringly.

“You wouldn't expect to see a greater player. He was a natural, gifted soccer player. Tragically he died a young man unfortunately, but the memories he left from the games he played, the skill that the man had was unbelievable.”

Stories about Delargy’s footballing ability will always be passed down through the generations. His place in Galway sporting folklore cemented. “Without any shadow of a doubt,” Geary responds.

“You don't have to think about that at all, people from other clubs and people that came along to see the game of soccer at the time - they couldn't get over the skill of a man like that playing in local junior football. It was a great credit to Galway Hibernians to have such a class player on their books at the time.”

In the intervening decades much has changed in the sporting landscape. Geary highlights the emergence of so many progressive clubs in every part of the county as being remarkable. “Back then finance was not a major thing,” he says.

“Most of the clubs were in Galway city. The first clubs you saw coming through then were Tuam Celtic, St Bernard's, clubs like that. Soccer wasn't the number one game in Galway, the GAA was big at the time. Eventually it got big because of the publicity the game got in Galway, that was important.

“The game has developed an awful lot in comparison to when I got involved. It wasn't the most popular game at that time, but it really took off. The main reason it took off was because of the people playing it, their parents started following the game. You had great crowds going to the games at the time which was top class.”

A lifetime spent involved in sport allows Geary to reflect on how things have altered. Opportunities exist, but the trips abroad linger in the memory.

“One of the greatest achievements we had back then was the twinning of the two cities, Galway and Lorient in Brittany, the corporation gave the Galway FA an invitation to bring a team to Lorient,” he recalls.

“Obviously we accepted the invitation and we had a marvellous time. At that particular time years ago there was a major parade. The great and late Brod Trill, Lord rest him, he was chairman of the Galway FA, he carried the flag in the parade.

“It was a parade that lasted the best part of an hour and a half to two hours. It was a great occasion, the manner in which we were treated was first class. It was one of the first times that the great Chieftains got together. For our young lads it was a great occasion.”

The adventures still matter to Geary. That is why going to see Eamonn Deacy feature for Aston Villa counts for so much even to this day. “He was the most unassuming character you'd ever meet,” Geary says.

“He was such a talented player, he played Gaelic Football with St Michael's. Even going to Villa Park we brought a group of young kids to Villa Park. There was one particular time we brought a group of young kids to London.

“After the game Eamonn came on to the bus, you can imagine the enjoyment they got. It was a great occasion. That was Eamonn, he was still the same down to earth character we knew here in Galway.

“The great thing about Eamonn was he was a natural. For Eamonn playing soccer for Aston Villa was a dream come true. If we are being honest that was the great thing about Eamonn, he was such an unassuming character.

“He loved the appreciation he was given, not for himself, but for the game, and the enjoyment the younger people got from going to these games to see him play. That was something special. He did a lot for the game of soccer in Galway.”

A decade after passing away, Deacy’s determination and decency still inspires. The contribution of another true Galwegian, who performed in the English Football League, Peter Casey, is appreciated by Geary.

“We used to go on great trips to Coventry in particular,” Geary says. “Sadly one of the great people we were lucky enough to be able to go over to at the time was the late Peter Casey, who played for Blackburn Rovers. He was from Bohermore, a great soccer player, but more than that he was a wonderful individual.

“He was living in Coventry at the time, the manner that man went out of his way to look after you was something to behold. His pride in what Galway is about and what Galway is was something to behold.”

Gone, but not forgotten.

**Listen to the full interview with Michael Geary on this week’s ‘Cian on Sport’ podcast available on Soundcloud, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.


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