November 30, 2004
The Late Niall McInerney
A mere eight months after the sudden, untimely death if legendary Gaelic football star Enda Colleran the G.A.A. in County Galway has lost another of its favourite sons with the death, at the age of 55, of hurling hero Niall McInerney.
Co. Clare-born, in the famous hurling village of Sixmilebridge, Niall came to Galway in the early 1970s to study at U.C.G. (now N.U.I.G) and he lived ever since in his adopted city.
As a Liam Mellows clubman and a stalwart, highly-decorated county player, he totally immersed himself in the hurling life of the city and county and he was regarded as a true, proud Galwegian.
A Science graduate, he joined the staff of Moneenageisha Vocational School, now a large community college, where he was acclaimed as a fine teacher; his principal subjects were Maths and Science, and he also spent many hours on the sportsfields, inculcating in his students a love of sport, especially hurling.
At county level, Niall quickly established himself as a tough, skillful, utterly dependable defender, mostly at right full-back in 1980 when the famous 'breakthrough" All-Ireland was won.
On that epic occasion, when Galway ended a 57-year famine, Niall had a rousing, fiercely competitive, uncompromising man-to-man duel with the great Limerick full-forward Joe McKenna.
His then wife Mary (formerly Dr Mary Gilmore from Moylough) was the Galway team doctor.
It was also, of course, the day Joe Connolly of Castlegar made his famous captain's speech entirely tré Gaeilge, and the victorious Galway team got an emotional homecoming, the memory of which still brings a lump to Galway people's throats.
He won two All-Star awards, in 1975 and 1980. The father of three sons, Shane, Daragh and Niall jnr., the great defender had made close, enduring friendships playing Fitzgibbon Cup hurling for U.C.G. and he later became very friendly with forwards he played against on some of inter-county hurling's biggest days.
Yet, away from the spotlight of stardom, he dedicated much of his life over the past thirty years to the promotion of Vocational Schools hurling, which is stronger in Galway than in any other county.
Along with John Fahy of St. Kilian's V.S., New Inn, Niall McInerney was involved in coaching the county Voc. hurlers to a remarkable 16 All-Ireland titles, including a record 8-in-a-row in the 1980s.
Niall brought the same infectious enthusiasm to his club involvement. Liam Mellows happily acknowledges a deep debt of gratitude to him for tireless application as a player, coach and motivator, and exemplary dedication to club ideals and aspirations.
He was also blessed with a bright, lively personality; he was articulate and authoritative on a wide range of subjects - not confined to the sporting sphere - and he was immensely liked and admired by all who knew him.
His closest friends, in whose orbit he was rightly, if modestly, an inspirational focus, are heartbroken and will long mourn the loss of a beloved friend and colleague.
Niall died after a short illness. The burial ceremony took place afterwards at Bohermore Cemetery, following Requiem Mass at the Holy Family Church, Mervue.
Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Courtesy of the Tuam Herald, November, 2004.
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