TUAM STARS may be underdogs for today's Galway senior football decider but one glance at their roll of honour should leave their young side totally free of inhibition.
Recent years have not been kind to the Stars but the record books have them sitting defiantly at the top of Galway football with an impressive 25 titles, leaving a host of household names in tow like Seán Purcell, Frank Stockwell and Ja Fallon. Ballinasloe have 17 titles, Dunmore 15 and today's opponents Corofin have 13 championships to their name.
"Tradition always counts and we're hoping it might be worth a couple of points to us this afternoon," says club stalwart Alan Talty. It's been a massive plus to revisit the biggest stage of Galway football for the first time since 1995. Tuam Stars were once High Kings of the club scene, winning seven county crowns in a row between 1954 and 1960 and jostling with Dublin's St Vincent's as top club team in the land.
As time passed, however, they found it difficult to keep the pedals turning and the emergence of Annaghdown in the 1980s and Corofin over the next two decades left them in the chasing pack. Indeed, the last time they made the final they lost to Corofin.
This season very few would have envisaged Alan Flynn's young side being in contention but it's a fast, mobile team he has gathered for today's joust at Tuam Stadium.
And while Tuam lost track of the pacesetters in recent years, locals still kept the flame burning by investing in a new state-of-the-art club complex, which cost in the region of €600,000 five years back, €200,000 of which they raised themselves. They now stand proudly debt-free.
"It was important to keep standards up and develop the club," adds Talty, their former chairman and PRO, who now serves as assistant treasurer. "We've been there or thereabouts at underage in the 'A' sections even if there were quiet years at senior. There have been challenges too, of course. We don't supply as many players to Galway teams as we once did and when the London county final was on a couple of weeks ago, two of our players David Shalloe and John Boyce were involved with their respective teams, Fulham Irish and Parnells. Equally, we have three players, Cormac O'Dea, David Lally and Christy Devaney in Australia and they are all playing well down there. We'll be thinking of those lads today but that's the way the economy is.
"One key factor this afternoon is we have played five weeks on the trot while Corofin haven't played for five at all."
Secretary Ian Ryan says 'tiredness will not be an excuse' and adds there is no sign of weariness even after four hard Sundays of action, including a 1-8 to 0-9 replay win over Salthill-Knocknacarra.
If anything, they look more resolute and disciplined with each outing -- the rigorous marking of All Ireland under 21 winner Aonghus Tierney has been a feature as was their ability to starve the Salthill full-forward line of supply last weekend. Meanwhile, the pace and work-rate of Tony Costello, Noel Henry, Jamie Murphy and Conor Doherty will give them every chance.
It's the first meeting of these two teams in a county final for 16 years so inevitably there's a swell of anticipation around north Galway as a hungry-again club pits its wits against a team that has notched up seven titles in the intervening years.
Corofin remain favourites. They boast many quality defenders and will look to team captain Kieran Fitzgerald, Alan Burke and Mickey Comer to stop Tuam's attack. Brian Silke's side enjoyed strong wins over Killererin and Milltown.
It will spell something of a disaster if the teams are deadlocked, however, for the replay is fixed for tomorrow, Bank Holiday Monday. That would give both sets of players just 24 hours to adjust. It's a scenario that both camps agreed on just to get on with it -- the alternative was playing a possible replay the day before the winners played the Mayo champions.
An unfortunate state of affairs. Still, Tuam Stars are glad to have that potential headache.
IN last week's paper, we gave the incorrect address for the GAA's employment initiative. The correct website is www.jobbridge.gaa.ie
Sunday Indo Sport