January 13, 1995
Tribseman Willie Joyce
Won Eleven Connacht Medals In Total
The good engine analogy, long since flagged to death by soccer commentators in these islands, was invented for G.A.A. players like Willie Joyce of Killerein. In his hey-day the erstwhile ace midfielder could run all day, leap skywards till the cows come home and catch footballs for fun. Good engines, how are ya!
The troubles in the six counties are said to have begun in earnest twenty-five years ago but as far as Willie Joyce's football days are really took off. Specifically a Gael Linn match against Mayo in 1969 signalled the beginning of Willie's intercounty career with his native Galway. It was a winning start too and for the strapping five feet ten inch, twelve and a half stone player, the winning was to become a fairly regular occupation.
A powerful fielder of the ball, a veritable workaholic on the field of play for club and county. Over the course of his career, he has experienced his fair share of highs and lows but like most mortals he is inclined to remember the highs most of all and in this respect he reflects back on Killererins Connacht Club Championship title triumphs in 1976 and '78.
"We had won the county Junior Championship title in 1968 but we never passed the first round of the Senior Championship until '76 which made our provincial club victory in '76 all the more amazing. In hindsight the turnaround was that we were lucky in that all the young, talented lads came together at the one time which is unusual for any club. We never looked back".
Despite the fact that Killererin is only a small area of no more than three hundred houses in the archdiocese of Tuam, the home club of Willie Joyce and many other notables over the years could call on the mercurial talents of up and coming young stars such as Morgan Hughes and Jarlath Burke back in '75. At least eight others, team mates of the said Hughes and Burke on the '75 Under 21 team, helped themselves to places on the Killererin Senior team in '76, a team which was managed by Paddy Rooney assisted by selectors Morgan Hughes. Jim Burke and Willie himself with Gerry Coen as trainer.
"Our win in '76 was our first ever Senior Championship title win. I remember I was one of the smallest men on the team. It was a very good footballing team, very strong and with plenty of big men in the right positions. A lot of the fellas came through the ranks from being together at Jarlath's College Tuam and they blended together very well with the experienced members of the team".
Before Willie Joyce ever came to prominence with his native club, his elder brothers Paddy and Tom were noted players with the Killererin outfit. In fact, if the truth be known a plethora of players, Willies peers, made their faces known to the local club coaches before our man popped his head up out of the trenches. Even more interesting is the fact that Willie feels his lack of underage competition action didn't stymie his capability to complete with the best in later years.
"It may be difficult to understand but I had no interest in playing football when I was a Minor. I didn't feel it did me any harm either. I think underage football is okay as long as it's not too competitive at too young an age, as long as there's no trophies at stake. There can be a danger of players becoming stale and in hindsight, not playing at Minor level probably benefited me".
It was the Down All-Ireland winning teams of 1960 and '61 that eventually inspired the young Joyce to put on boots in earnest consideration of fulfilling his innate potential. "The Down forwards were really exciting to watch and bought a whole new style of play into vogue. I kept all the newspaper cuttings of the Down team and admired Jarlath Carey when he played at midfield", recalled the Galway veteran.
A graduate of Barnaderg National School and Tuam Christian Brothers, Willie Joyce first only really kicked a size five ball in anger in 1967. When finding themselves with only fourteen players, the Killererin Junior team management invited young Willie to tog out. This he did and from the full forwars berth and promptly blasted in four goals!
Following his sensational debut performance Joyce went on to shine for Killererin in the 1968 County Junior Championship final as a fiery midfielder. "It made a big difference to the club even though it was a big step up the ladder to play Senior football especially as we hadn't got past the first round of the Championship for the last seven years".
Despite a push by the local parish priest of Kilererin, at the 1874 Annual General Meeting, to get the club to regrade to Junior status, the intervention and insistence by Willie that such a move should be scuttled at source was taken on board by the body of the club and how wise a decision that proved to be.
Within two years of the aforementioned aborted move to step down a grade, Killererin sallied to a momentous Senior County Championship title victory, their first ever. Another similar triumph came on stream two years later but as Willie acknowledges there should have been more trophies collected.
"From 1976 'till '80 Killererin was one of the best clubs in Connacht but we were unlucky enough to meet a great Ballerin Derry side in '76. They had a lot of stars, players such as Sean O'Connell. Peter Stephenson, Malachi and James McAfee and were too strong a combination for us unfortunately".
Manager if the Galway Junior team which won the All-Ireland title in '85 (a team which included Killererin stalwart Tom McHugh) Willie later had another taste of the business of county team management when he became the Galway Senior team supremo from November 1986 to June '89. As manager of the county's premier gaelic football team, Willie enjoyed the distinction of training and coaching the Tribesmen to a Connacht title in '87, the last time in fact that Galway lifted the Nestor Cup. Unfortunately for Willie and all concerned way out west, the Rebels of Cork proved their masters in the subsequent All-Ireland semi final, albeit after a piece if magic from Larry Tompkins in the replay.
"We were good enough to at lest get through to the final that year. We had them on he rack in the first game and should have really have killed them off but we didn't and then didn't get the rub of the green in the second game. I'm sure that there hasn't been as good a Galway team around since", the boss of Joyce Frozen Foods, Barnaderg, Tuam distributors of all types of frozen foods explained.
Reflecting on the issue of just why Galway have failed to go to the front of the class for seven years now, the veteran player 'cum manager is unambiguous in his summary. "Management is a lot more difficult now. Players don't toe the line so easily nowadays. When I started out with Galway Seniors in '69, Tull Dunne was the team manager and if he said it was Sunday, it was Sunday and that's the way it was until he retired in '73. After he quit there was no continuity in Galway and there must have been fourteen different managers in fifteen years. Club delegates just demanded instant success and weren't prepared to give people a chance".
Three years in the hot seat, losing to Roscommon and Mayo in the provincial finals of '88 and '89 respectively. Willie Joyce looks back on his career on and odd the sideline and confesses to having benefited from the "craic and the comraderie even though at times I may have been disillusioned by the standard of refereeing which left a lot to be desired".
Presently manager of the Killererin Senior football team and previously coach of the Pearses hurling side which won the Galway Intermediate Championship title three years ago, Willie Joyce sports a managerial pedigree which comes close to his track record as a player. Apart from playing four All-Ireland finals (sadly losing finals in '71 versus Offaly, '73 versus Cork, '74 versus Dublin and '83 versus Dublin again), Willie's fifteen year stint as an inspirational midfielder saw him win eight Senior Connacht Championship medals, two Senior Conncaht club medals and a Connacht Junior medal in '79. Some C.V.!
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
13th January, 1995
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