Aidan Harte: 'It is all about the memories'
By Cian O’Connell
It was a year when Galway collected medals, but the memories matter just as much. Within minutes of winning the All Ireland Aidan Harte spotted his father, Josie, in the Hogan Stand. An image that will remain with the Gort clubman long after his days in maroon conclude.
Josie Harte has served Galway in a plethora of different roles throughout the decades. Few possess his passion for hurling and desire for the maroon and white.
So Aidan Harte realised it was both significant and sweet. “He was just at the steps of the Hogan and it’s very surreal because we’d be huge hurling people at home,” Harte admits.
“We have a huge hurling community in Galway and I suppose it’s everything you ever did from four or five years of age and you picked your career around it so it was very surreal now.
“It was huge for him and he had a huge bearing on my career and he loves the game and is just as passionate about it as I am.”
The Celtic Cross will be stored safely by Harte. “I’ll keep it alright,” he says. “I’ve won two County Championships with Gort which is brilliant, but I probably don’t even know where they are, but it’s all about the memories and meeting people.”
Harte hasn’t forgotten those who served the Galway cause without receiving the ultimate honour. “Even David Collins, the Liam Mellows captain, has been a great person for Galway hurling and a huge influence for all of us that are still on the panel,” Harte acknowledges. “He set the tone and set standards for years and the rest of us just followed.”
Since 1988 Galway teams have been forced to carry a weight of expectancy. That has been lifted according to Harte.
“Definitely, even coming up here today, I’ve been up in Croke Park before doing different photo things and different launches and preview of games, but when you come up today after winning an All-Ireland you kind of feel you belong here for a change,” Harte says.
“When you were coming before you were thinking ‘I haven’t won one’. It was brilliant in fairness and a great sense of relief that I’m sure everyone saw from the images on the 3rd of September.
“Back again now on the 1 January it’ll be everyone’s ball game again. You even look at certain things like joe’s point against Tipperary, can you train for those things? I don’t know. Hurling is such an instinctive game, we got the rub of the green that day and next year it could fall the other way.”
Reaching three All Ireland Semi-Finals, including two Finals in 2015 and 2017 illustrates that Galway have achieved a pleasing level of performance in recent years.
“We have been consistent which is good and that’s something management always speaks about,” Harte remarks.
“Having a team that supporters are proud of and happy to go and watch give their all. You do really believe that the rub of the green sometimes, but we’ve been lucky the last three years.
“We have been consistent. From the 1st January it’s anyone’s ball game. There are six or seven teams that can beat each other on any given day so we’ll be looking forward to it again next year.”
Important matches will arrive thick and fast in the summer in the revamped Hurling Championship.
“That’s what you want to do,” Harte remarks about playing in critical encounters with the stakes piled high.
“You want more matches and you want to be out there in front of big crowds. It’ll be great for us and it will be great for Galway city with two home games and things like going down to Wexford Park. I think Kilkenny have to come to us and we have to go to Tullamore. It’s great and presents a different challenge so why not look forward to it.”
A packed Pearse Stadium in Salthill will provide a nice backdrop for a clash with Kilkenny.
“Isn’t that great, there is 30,000 in capacity in Pearse Stadium and it could be on a Saturday evening in Galway during the summer or a Sunday afternoon,” Harte beams.
“That’s brilliant, that’s what players want to be at. You want to be out there playing in front of big crowds and it’ll bring a huge thrill.” Galway generated excitement throughout 2017, gathering silverware, injecting a county with pride and hope, providing moments such as the Harte’s Hogan Stand embrace which will linger long in the mind.