Saturday 21 April 2018

Friday interview: Galway going in right direction, says McGettigan

But Donegal native believes adopted county will have work cut out in qualifier clash

Paul McGettigan played with distinction for both Donegal and Galway as well as winning club titles in both counties
Paul McGettigan played with distinction for both Donegal and Galway as well as winning club titles in both counties

Daragh Small

Paul McGettigan is a Donegal man living in Galway who won an All-Ireland colleges title for a school in Meath, and once played both a minor and senior game for his native county on the same day.

The 57-year-old barrister, who now resides in Salthill in Galway, has experienced everything the GAA has to offer and says this weekend's clash between Galway and Donegal is a win-win situation for him.

The St Eunan's, Letterkenny clubman also lined out for the Tribesmen in his time, while education and work meant for spells with Salthill, St Grellan's Ballinasloe and Corofin in the Galway club championship.

He also guided Corofin to their first All-Ireland win and was involved in the management for six minor titles during their famous nine-in-a-row burst in the 1990s.

But for McGettigan the toughest day was his second game for Donegal against Galway in 1983 All-Ireland semi-final - the first game against the Tribesmen nine years previously had also seen them lose to Galway in the final four.

McGettigan was just off the back of a serious hamstring injury, having played for Galway from 1978 and reached a Connacht final in his first season where they lost to Roscommon.

But when his hamstring began to give him trouble he faced a long injury lay-off and ultimately resumed his Donegal career.

"They disciplined me in 1976 before the first round of the Ulster Championship for reasons to this day that are a mystery. Obviously I must have been play-acting in Galway or something that I didn't know about.

"I was left off the panel despite the fact that I was the only Donegal man playing on the Ulster Railway Cup team. I found that very hard to take and straight away indicated I would never wear a Donegal jersey again because I was so devastated."

But the man who was living and working in Galway returned to help Donegal to their third Ulster crown and his second.

"There was a massive amount of pressure because I was playing against Galway guys that I'd great time and respect for. I'd have known them as well, if not better, than the Donegal lads. That was a very, very difficult situation for me personally - it was just a place I didn't want to be. It wasn't one of my better games either, I played the full game but I was disappointed with my performance. I had two cracked ribs as well but it wasn't just that, it was massive pressure.

"I was marking Brian Talty, he and Richie Lee were guys that I would have played with before. I played Sigerson Cup with Richie and I know both of them very well."

Galway hung on to win by a point but lost the All-Ireland to Dublin and didn't win it again until 1998, the same year McGettigan led Corofin to All-Ireland glory.

He had honed his skills initially at school in Meath where he won an All-Ireland title with Gormanston College in 1973 when they beat St Jarlath's of Tuam in the final.

McGettigan was playing county football for Donegal then and made his debut when he was just 16 against Leitrim in the league at Carrick-on-Shannon.

The following year Donegal beat Down after a replay and that was the first year McGettigan encountered Galway in the All-Ireland series.

He studied Commerce at UCG and fell in love with the project at Salthill GAA, who were a junior club at the time and operated in the shadow of Fr Griffin's in the city. The seasiders went on to grow into a huge club and future All-Ireland champions.

However, when a job in the Western Health Board opened up in Ballinasloe, McGettigan made the move to the east of the county and joined the local club.

At the time St Grellan's, Ballinasloe was blessed with gifted footballers and in his first year with the club they reached the All-Ireland final where they lost to St Finbarr's of Cork. "We won the county, Grellan's hadn't a title for 40 years and we were the first Galway club to go to the All-Ireland club final. We won Galway the following year again and were beaten in the final by a point going for three in a row by Milltown.

In 1983, McGettigan had to relocate to Merlin Park in the city and considered joining up again with Salthill but it didn't materialise and he turned his attentions back to his native club and county.

It meant for a trip back north and a short and fruitful stint with Letterkenny which coincided with his return to the Donegal set-up. He won an Ulster title with them while St Eunan's won the Donegal SFC.

But the amount of travel was a huge burden on McGettigan and after deliberation with the Galway County Board he went to play for Corofin.

His wife Geraldine is from Claremorris in Mayo but her family, the Stephens', were one of the founders of the Corofin club and her brother, Jimmy Duggan, is a decorated former Galway footballer having joined Corofin after moving from Claremorris.

It began a long affinity with the north Galway club and an All-Ireland followed in 1998. Current Galway manager Kevin Walsh was the star of the Galway team that was also crowned All-Ireland champions that year.

McGettigan, who likewise was a midfielder in his day, believes the Killannin clubman can bring Galway back to the top.

"I always anticipated Galway would go in the right direction because Kevin Walsh is a safe pair of hands. He is a guy who has had experience with Sligo at senior level and did remarkably well with them.

"He has been through the mill himself and gets on well with the players and is prepared to listen them."

McGettigan, who worked with Galway forwards Gary Sice and Michael Lundy in Corofin, says Galway shouldn't fear Donegal in Croke Park tomorrow.

"There is nothing to be gained from winning Connacht titles if you don't do the business after that. There is no point in Galway coming out of the province and getting back on the big stage until they are in a position to do so.

"But you can't hold back the tide and Galway are going in the right direction under Walsh.

"But Donegal were sitting ducks from day one in the Ulster Championship because there is so little between the teams and Monaghan were just that little bit fresher.

"Donegal have a lot of positives to take from the final and really should have won that game. Their objective is the All-Ireland, they have their few Ulster titles now and I wouldn't read too much into that loss.

"They are going to be a tough proposition for Galway and whatever way it goes these are the games that Galway want if they are going to progress as a team.

"I wouldn't write Galway off, whether they win or lose this match it will improve them as a team and Rome wasn't built in a day."

Irish Independent

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