October 02, 2009
The fair-haired corner forward from Padraig Pearses, Marty Barrett, was part of a bright new generation of Galway hurlers who restored pride to the maroon jersey after decades of frustration for the glory days of the 1980s.
Barrett, who died after a long illness will always have a place in the county's hurling folklore as he was part of the All-Ireland winning U21 side who brought an end to a barren 20 year spell at all grades when Galway beat Dublin by 2-9 to 1-10 in the 1972 final. After contesting the Intermediate final that year, the Ballymacward native became a regular on the county's senior sides for the following five years and scored 2-2 in the National Hurling League final triumph over Tipperary in 1975. Bonfires blazed throughout the county for the homecoming from Limerick that night as Barrett returned to the Pearses club as a hero.
He had the honour of playing for Galway in that year's All-Ireland Final at Croke Park, on a day when he was marked by current Kilkenny manager Brian Cody in a 2-22 to 2-10 defeat. The Tribesmen may have lost that day, but that defeat was the making of future legends such as Niall McInerney (RIP), PJ Molloy, John Connolly and Sean Silke who brought an end to the county's 57 year senior famine amid emotion scenes five years later.
Born in 1951, Barrett had a passion for sport, and excelled at gaelic football, handball, basketball and golf as well as his beloved hurling. He developed a great passion for horse racing and was part of the syndicate which won the Galway Hurdle with Mystical City in 1996.
He was a key member of the highly regarded Garbally College side which won the Connacht Colleges title in 1968, featuring Silke, Joe and Iggy Clarke, Andy Fenton and future Irish rugby captain, Ciaran Fitzgerald.
How ironic it was that this team lost the All-Ireland semi-final to St. Peter's College, Wexford, the school where Barrett was to enjoy a 26 year career as an Agricultural Science teacher and hurling coach up to his retirement two years ago.
He played Fitzgibbon Cup hurling with both UCG and UCD, winning the title with the Dublin college in '72, the year in which the U21s sparked off the renaissance in Galway hurling. He counted John Connolly and Joe Cooney among his hurling heroes, along with John Callanan (Clare) and Matt Ruth (Kilkenny).
Barrett won a Dublin senior title with St. Brendan's in 1978, but treasured his visits back to Ballymacward and was the fledgling Pearses brightest talent following the amalgamation of the Ballymacward and Gurteen clubs in the late 1950s.
A year before his transfer to the capital he was on the Pearses side which lost the Co Intermediate final to Rahoon-Newcastle in 1977 and, ironically, those two clubs are set to clash in the championship again this weekend. Later, he hurled with Faythe Harriers in Wexford Town.
Although he had been living away from Ballymacward for the best part of three decades, Barrett treasured his visits home and the local club formed a joint Guard of Honour with the 1975 NHL winning Galway team at the Church of St. Peter and Paul's.
"Marty Barrett lit up the lives of our community with his heroics on the hurling fields in the 1970s," said Deputy Noel Treacy TD who gave a graveside oration. "There were great celebrations when he came back to the parish following the '72 and '75 victories with Galway and he will always be a hero in our minds.'
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