HURLING HEROES Tooreen’s Willie Lyons, Joe Freyne, David Kenny and Seán Regan are pictured after Sunday’s Connacht Intermediate club hurling championship final win over Ballinderreen. Pic: Ciara Buckley/MemoriesThruALens
“THERE hasn’t been that many people congregated in the middle of the village for a very long time,” was how Cathal Freeman described the scenes in the small East Mayo hamlet when the Tooreen hurlers returned home with the Connacht Intermediate championship trophy last Sunday night.
In fairness, judging by some Snapchat ‘stories’ of the celebrations seen by The Mayo News, the most famous hurling village in Mayo has probably never experienced anything like it before.
Sunday’s Connacht club title success was a once-in-a-lifetime achievement for so many people, and for the last 60 years something that had always been outside Tooreen’s grasp.
But not anymore, and an area known far and wide for its old dancehall and its love of hurling is now back in the headlines again after earning their just reward for their tireless (and often thankless) efforts.
“People struggle to find where Tooreen is on the map,” smiled Cathal Freeman. “As Dad once said to me: ‘Tooreen is not really on the way to anywhere or from anywhere.
“You wouldn’t have any reason to go through Tooreen, unless you were going there.”
But the successes of Tooreen Hurling Club put the East Mayo village on the map many years ago, and now their name will go down on the Connacht GAA roll of honour as ‘Intermediate champions’.
For an area hit hard by emigration, it stands as an incredible achievement.
Whether or not Tooreen manager Paul Hunt, his captain Stephen Coyne, and this band of hurling warriors can keep this fairytale going into the All-Ireland series in 2018 remains to be seen. But their story so far is the ultimate tale of the underdog biting back, and encapsulates what a combination of determination, pride in the parish, passion, and talent can deliver.
Social media extraordinare, Buff Egan, was quick to sing Tooreen’s praises on various social media platforms (which are followed by over 100,000 people) on Sunday night too.
After recently travelling to Tooreen’s county final victory over Ballyhaunis, he described them as having a ‘real passion, real love of hurling and [being] a real hurling stronghold’.
That’s serious praise from a man who travels the length and breath of the country watching hurling. As he’d say himself, you can ‘Believe that!’