Terrific Tooreen tale continues
By Cian O’Connell
“Without a doubt,” Tooreen chairperson Dom Greally instantly responds when asked whether there is an acceptance that this is a particularly exciting era in the history of the proud Mayo hurling outfit.
Another AIB Connacht Club IHC Final appearance beckons against Killimor at Athleague on Sunday afternoon.
“We don't take it for granted, we do realise - and every club team is the same way - you have your good years and your lean years,” he adds.
“It is important that when you're having your good years that you make the most of it. I think the lads really appreciate the opportunity they have.
“The club as a whole it is just fantastic for Tooreen, our underage is benefitting from it, that is going very well. It is important to keep it all going, but we do realise that it is a very special time. How long it lasts nobody knows so we hope to make the best of it.”
Tooreen have won five of the last six Mayo titles enabling them to make an impact in the Intermediate club championship on the provincial and national stages, claiming three Connacht crowns.
Greally is simply grateful that the format has offered Tooreen opportunities to demonstrate their ability. “I've said it before, whoever came up with the idea of the junior and intermediate championships came up with a great idea because it offers clubs in every county a chance to get to Croke Park,” he states.
“It gives them the chance to progress, in years gone by we would have won county titles, but realistically we weren't going to go any further or get out of Connacht. For a lot of clubs like ourselves it has given us great hope.”
Eager to evolve, Tooreen have never been afraid to seek assistance too. Ray Larkin, a former Kilnadeema-Leitrim hurler in Galway, joined Toorren as a player and continues to give service as manager now.
“When you mention Ray regarding this weekend he is from a neighbouring club to Killimor so he would know a lot of the lads,” Greally says.
“Ray has added an awful lot as a player, as a selector before this, and now as manager. He has a great knowledge of the game, he is a great guy, and the lads really get on well with him and Nigel Shaughnessy. Nigel has been coaching us for a number of years too, off and on. They have added an awful lot to the squad.”
Outside figures have helped to improve Tooreen’s fortunes. “Exactly, they look at things differently than we would have looked,” Greally replies.
“Some players you know well, they'd look at them differently, and more honestly maybe. They see not maybe has happened over the last number of years, but they see what is happening now.
“The lads respect that. They're not afraid to make the calls and the lads respect that too. Maybe a local manager and selectors might find it harder to drop some lads or leave lads off. It has made a big difference to us.”
In recent years the emergence and development of the Táin and Cú Chulainn leagues has been beneficial too according to Greally. “The big difference that it has made for us is that it has given us more games,” Greally says.
“It has given us more games at adult and underage level in the club. That was always our problem - just trying to get games. We don't have an awful lot of clubs in Mayo, a lot of clubs have dual players so fixtures mightn't always happen.
"So what we found with those leagues was they ran off when they were supposed to run, we got plenty of game time. That is the big thing.”
Greally has given distinguished service to Tooreen throughout the decades. There is still joy in the journey. “Playing is the ultimate, I think we'd all give anything to be part and parcel of the team that goes out the next day on the field,” he says.
“When you can't and you've given your time it is great to be involved. For a small club like Tooreen with the massive support we have to see what will happen the next day in Athleague, win or lose, for a small club it is a fantastic achievement. It is just wonderful to be part of it in whatever way we can.”
Tooreen have become accustomed to dealing with important and high stakes winter matches. “That is true, it is a great position to be in, as a club and as a team we have really relished the challenge,” Greally acknowledges.
“We don't take it for granted, though, we appreciate where we are, and how we got to where we are. It just didn't happen this year, it is over a number of years. We are really looking forward to this final too.”
Tooreen’s passion for hurling endures.