Galway reached the final by beating Kilkenny in a memorable game. Joe Salmon was injured and unable to play, and with six minutes tot go, things were looking grim as we were six points in arrears. Then Mogan Duggan sent a beautiful pass to John Killeen and he buried the ball in the back of the net. A few minutes later, these two repeated this trick, and suddenly the teams were level. The tension must have been fierce as Galway got a close in free, and up stepped Josie Gallagher, who would normally point these chances with his eyes closed. He fluffed this one, however, but the ball went to Hubert Gordon, who pointed it. Galway were ahead, then the ball went to the far end of the pitch, and Kilkenny were awarded a 21-yard free. Up stepped Jim Langton (who was just as lethal as Josie Gallagher) and wonder of wonders....he missed it. The ball was cleared and we were in the final against Cork, a game that is chiefly remembered for the way Christy Ring removed Mickey Burke's teeth, and how Galway were robbed.
Our photograph today shows the Galway Hurling Team that played against Cork in the 1953 All-Ireland Final. They are, front row, left to right, Josie Gallagher ; Jimmy Duggan ; Joe Salmon ; Mickey Burke ; Billy Duffy ; Padraic Nolan ; Miko McInerney and Jimmy Brophy. The back row are Mick Brennan (army masseur) ; Mick Sylver; John Killeen ; Ned Quinn ; Paddy (Mogan) Duggan , who was the first sub ; Hubert Gordon ;John Molloy; Billy O'Neill ; Sean Duggan ; Colm Corless and Matt Hackett (selector).
Sadly, two members of that Galway team, John Killeen and Billy Duffy passed away recently. John played all of his hurling with his native Tynagh. He was very strong and played mostly at midfield, and occasionally in the half forward line. His older brother James also played for the County, and another brother, Michael was a fine hurler. John eventually married and moved to Portlaoise, where he went into land reclamation and the construction business. The name on his house was "Tynagh", and a son of his played for Laois. John was the "Sports Star of the Week" in the Irish Independent after the Kilkenny game.
Billy Duffy was from Eyrecourt, and has been described by many experts as "The greatest minor ever to play the game", a man in a boy's world. He played in the half back line and midfield, and was also a strong player. He used to wear a kind of beret on the pitch and Micheal O'Hehir often described him as "Playing with the cap on the Kildare side of his head".He scored the first point ever in Pearse Stadium in a game against Tipperary on the opening day. Many still remember his strong defence of his clubmate, Tommy Kelly in the semi-final against Waterford in 1957. He subsequently went to New York, and hurled for them in Croke Park in the Brendan Cup. He then went to London, with whom he won two Junior All-Ireland medals he was in the construction business, and was a great help to many Irish people going to London for the first time, especially if they were from Galway.
So as we head for Croke Park this weekend (hopefully to see a repeat of the '53 semi-final result) it is fitting that we remember our heroes of the past, and especially those who have gone to God.
Solas na bhFlaitheas dá n-anam dhilis.
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