Annual Festival of hurling in honour of Niall McInerney
By Michael O Connor.
350 hurlers will descend on Galway next weekend for the Annual Niall McInerney Connacht GAA academy day at under 16, 17 and minor level. Initially the event was at Under 16 level but in the last number of years the event has expanded.
In Pearse Stadium and the Praire two Galway Under 16 sides will take on the Roscommon, Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim minor sides in the Connacht Under 18 blitz. They will be playing for the Niall McInenrey cup. At Ballyloughnane, home of Liam Mellowes The Liam Mellowes under 17 hurlers will take on the Under 16 county sides of Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo and Leitrim for the Niall McInerney shield. Connacht hurling director Damien Coleman is delighted to once again see the renewal of the Under 16 academy day and how the event is being expanded " The Coaching programme under the management of Connacht GAA sees this weekend the under 16 and minor sides of Leitrim, Sligo, Roscommon and Mayo in action at provincial level and provides invaluable action for this sides before their intercounty competitions later in the season". Coleman"is delighted to welcome Clare under 17 hurlers and management and also further honour the memory of the late lamented Niall McInerney as it give both counties a chance to use two teams each as they work towards the Under 17 intercounty tournament in August" The Connacht hurling director concluded bythanking Liam Mellowes, Clare, the connacht counties, the match officials, Athenry, Liam Mellowes plus Pearse Stadium and the Praire for providing their assistance over the weekend".
This year sees a further expansion to encompass Under 17 level and in the process NUIGalway GAA have come on board to honour the memory of the late Niall McInerneyby donating perpetual cups in honour of the hurling legend. Born in Sixmilebridge, Co Clare McInerney first excelled at hurling in his youth. He made his first impression on the inter-county scene when he joined the Clare minor team, before later linking up with the under-21 team. He made his senior debut during the 1972 championship. McInerney later played a key role with Galway for almost a decade, and won one All Ireland medal and one NHL medal. He was an All-Ireland runner-up on three occasions.
As a member of the Connacht inter-provincial team at various times, McInerney won three Railway cup medals. At club level he was a one-time intermediate championship medallist with Sixmilebridge. McInerney also lined out with Liam Mellowes.
Throughout his career McInerney made a combined total of 26 championship appearances for Clare and Galway. .
McInerney is widely regarded as one of Galway's greatest-ever hurlers. He has often been voted onto teams made up of the sport's greats, including at full-back on the Fitzgibbon Cup Hurling Team of the Century as he part of the famous 1970 UCG Fitzgibbon winning side that initiated a period of consistency for the university as they won two more Fitzgibbon cups and contested a number of finals in the 1970s..
In retirement from playing, McInerney became involved in team management and coaching. At schools level he was involved in coaching the Galway vocational schools' hurlers to a remarkable sixteen All Ireland titles, including a record eight-in-a-row. He also helped Moneenageisha Vocational School to two All Ireland titles. McInerney later served as a selector with the Galway senior team before his untimely death in 2004. NUIGalway GAA Officer Michael O Connor says"NUIGalway are delighted to be associated with the memory of one our greatest players who served the association and the educational sector with great distinction for over 30 years. Under his watch hundreds of young hurlers learned the best in sport and life from a legendary figure who played for Clare, Galway, Sixmilebridge and Liam Mellowes. Niall was extremely proud of his success with NUIGalway and was often seen on the hill in Dangan watching college games"